Sprinting. As teachers, that’s what we do 70% of our days. But at what cost?
This weekend, I stumbled upon my reflection not in a mirror but in a New York Times article. What were these words of wisdom that sent my brain into overdrive?
“He noticed that when I was anxious about something, I had a habit of throwing myself single-mindedly into tasks in which I felt responsible to others…A few days later, my mentor [sent] me an article [about] ‘compensatory conviction,’ anxiety in one domain motivates people to dive into passionate pursuit in another.”
Yep, that’s me. During the first few months of school, I was anxious — about school, and about my life. To deal with it, I moved at a sprint. Rather than thinking about missing my family, I thought about management techniques. Rather than setting up my budget, I set up data trackers. Rather than dealing with the tension of becoming an adult, I dove into teaching. “Meg” disappeared into “Ms. Barnett,” and soon enough, I barely remembered what it was like to have a personal life.
At a certain point, my coping techniques took on a new texture. I carved out some non-teaching time, but I was still sprinting. Rather than rushing from teacher task to teacher task, I rushed from teacher task to fun. When I left my classroom, I went to Taco Tuesday, or a poetry slam, or to the gym. “Meg” existed, but she hadn’t matured a day since college. I had a personal life, but my stress levels were still high.
Only recently, in the past weeks, have I come to see an important distinction: pursuing fun isn’t the same thing as pursuing happiness. Rushing around — to work on teaching or to be with my friends — is a coping mechanism, not a life strategy. The real solution to easing my stress — and maybe the hardest technique — is to slow down.
So, this weekend, I have tried to become an adult. I have slowed down to let myself feel tired, to make dinner, and to let my life sink into me. I have started to manage my adult life — (finally) replacing my flat tire, paying off my credit card bill, and making phone calls to friends & family back home.
It’s a valid question, and one we don’t ask too often: what are we avoiding when we’re immersing ourselves in our teacher lives?