By Karen Bracco, teacher-mentor
“I think there’s something wrong with me.” I heard these words come out of my own mouth. Not in anguish or pain. Not with a tone of desperation. Quite the opposite. Dull, monotone, devoid of any feeling or expression.
I was sitting crossed legged in my chair, computer on my lap after having just finished a full day of remote teaching. Then, there I was, making plans for next week, grading papers, referencing last year’s lesson plans, surfing the web for videos to support my math lessons. That’s when I heard it. And that’s when I realized I was drowning.
I’d spent the last eight months in remote teaching. Most teachers have. Most of us have spent the last eight months in what we would describe as the worst time of our lives. Spouses, children, friends have lost jobs that may never come back. We’ve watched family and friends become sick with a disease that seems to have no rules. Some of us have even been touched by it personally, with no clue as to when the side effects will subside. Some of us have lost loved ones without the chance to say goodbye. We have been stripped of our ability to be carefree. We now realize the simple beauty of lingering over lunch with friends, talking and laughing, our mouths not tethered to keep each other safe. We’ve been robbed of the effortless act of being able to hug our students when they need it or share a whisper.
These past months have been treacherous in ways too cruel and painful to rehash. And what has living through this done to us? For some, like me, it puts us on a sort of autopilot. Don’t think about anything too deep. Focus on what you have control over. That’s what I thought I was doing when I realized that I was drowning myself with work, that I didn’t know if I was controlling my workload or if it was controlling me.
So now, as we come to the end of this year, I propose it’s time to look forward. The other morning I was watching TV and saw a commercial for Disney World, beckoning visitors to make plans to come to Disney. My first thought was “Are they crazy?” But then I thought, wait, we don’t know what’s ahead of us. None of us do. We don’t know how soon or how long it may be before we can get “back to normal.” But, what would be wrong with looking forward to a new normal? One that we can control. One that gives us a purpose. One that puts us first. To quote Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
And so I propose that it’s time to put ourselves first. To take care of ourselves. To make time for ourselves. It’s not selfish, it’s essential. In failing to do so, we are merely surviving. It is time for YOU to thrive.
For me, I plan to start small. Add five minutes into my day to meditate. Clear my head, work on my soul. For some of us the idea of being quiet is uncomfortable, but what are we running from? The guilt associated with making time for ourselves? I think it’s time we look forward to spending time with ourselves, to show that we deserve our undivided attention.
Breaking old habits and patterns
As teachers, we’ve neglected ourselves and our interests for so long that it may be difficult to let go of habits that have helped us survive. But think of this: how many recipes have you pinned on Pinterest and never made? How many new books do you have stacked up, just waiting for you? How many travel shows have you watched and said, “Someday”? Why not plan for someday? In a couple of weeks, we’ll all buy 2021 calendars, happily disposing of our 2020 ones. Why not take the time to look forward and plan for yourself? Pencil in that recipe, pencil in a phone call to a friend you’ve been out of touch with. Pencil in that “someday” trip, even if it’s a many months off. Pencil in that exercise class you’ve been interested in taking, that book you’ve been waiting to read. It’s time to let go of what has passed and look forward.
None of us knows what the future holds. We never have. And yet, it’s happened, time passes. And things will, for good or bad, continue their path. But, as we get ready to turn the page on this year, look forward. Look forward with hope, with a plan – even if it’s a small one. Look forward with the focus on you. It’s time for you to take a page out of Maya Angelou’s book, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.