I am in my 20th year in education, and although I’m not in a classroom, my work involves me in education daily. Over the past 20 years, here are a few things that I have struggled with.
Not wrapping my identity up in my job.
I am proud of what I do and what I have done. The issue always surfaced when I was wrapped up in my identity as an educator for too long. I didn’t give myself time to be anything else. Early in my career, I wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, so it was easy to let my job consume me. As I progressed, I struggled. After I had my daughter, I really had to shift my priorities. During her first year of life, I only worked a 75% schedule. We made many financial decisions at the time to allow for it, but I couldn’t handle having to put in the hours I was before her birth. That year transitioned me into a mom/wife first, then a teacher. After that, I always put my child before my work. However, I still struggled with putting myself in there. In 2013, two years after my child was born, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At this point, I had to put myself first. If I didn’t, there were dire consequences, including not having the energy to be a mom or do my job. It balanced out after that, with time and energy management ebbing and flowing. I usually catch it when I overly wrap my identity up in my job. And when I go too far? I give myself grace and start again.
Letting others drain my emotional energy
Look, education is draining as it is. My issue was I often allowed others to drain my emotional energy, so by the time I reached the end of my day, I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry.
I started slowly letting things go. Doesn’t affect me? I don’t care. I can’t change it? Ok, whatever. I also learned to not take things so personally. When people were rude to me, as much as I wanted to clap back, sometimes I’d just ask what they saw as the resolution to the problem we were having or if we needed to reconvene.
I also forgot a lot. I always told my students I don’t stay mad because I can’t hold that in my brain. Every day was a fresh start, even for me. I wasn’t perfect and had days in the classroom that was not at my best. Wiping the slate clean felt good. It wasn’t always easy, and some people tested that patience, but I would ask myself: is this worth the emotional energy?
Not knowing what I want to do with the second half of my career
By today’s standards, I am a mid-career worker. Although I love education, I don’t know what that will look like for the next 20 years. I’m actively taking classes to learn new skills and open doors for myself. I’m also in a place of waiting, and honestly, I feel ok with that. Our daughter is in her last year of elementary school, so we have six years to enjoy her before she heads off to her next adventure (I’m secretly hoping it’s ASU, so she’s close). I’ve always been a learner and a researcher, and I’m open to new experiences. I’m hoping to get that doctoral degree someday, but for now, I will keep learning and growing as a person.