My first year teaching was by far one of the hardest ever. Not only because it was my first time doing everything, but because before I got hired I had already made plans to go on vacation in October for my grandmas 90th birthday. I felt so guilty to take the time off that I only requested two days off and I flew to Peru for the weekend!!! I spent about the same amount of time on planes than with my family in Lima. Shortly after, I had to go back during Thanksgiving to take care of my grandma who had been diagnosed with cancer and who was too old to survive a biopsy to determine if we should do something about the cancer. It was a lot more complicated than that, but we chose to take turns flying to Peru to take care of her - almost all of my family lives outside Peru - so I went back on Thanksgiving and I decided I would go again on the last day of school before Christmas break. I traveled to Peru three times in three months.... it was exhausting and I still don't know how I pulled that off... ohhhh, by the way, at the time I was also finishing my master's in Spanish Literature, so my plate was already full and this pushed me even more.
This was as unpredictable as life is... and I was not prepared for it.. but who is? We are not prepared for life, so we make choices and those choices either make us feel better or worse. I always choose whatever will make me feel better, because in the long run, acting in alignment to my values is always rewarding and I don't regret any of my decisions, even the ones I consider were mistakes.
So I apply this same concept when I decide if I should grade over break or not... what will make me feel better now and what will make me feel better in the long run?
This year I was stressed, burnt out, anxious and exhausted at the beginning of December; I knew these were consequences from putting aside my meditation and yoga practices and other routines that help me find balance in my day to day life. I had forgotten to take care of myself for the last few weeks, and because of it I had no more energy to give; so I chose to ignore the piles of paper and take it slow. I finished the semester feeling tired, but I didn't have a complete breakdown; I was very aware of my needs and I was able to take care of them when we finished school on December 16th. I knew if I tried to do any grading, lesson planning, prepping for the first week back I would have a complete breakdown and I chose the alternative. I chose to work for a couple of hours during my vacation time, and do it without jeopardizing my time alone or my time with family and friends.
The year my grandmother passed away, the day before I was supposed to arrive in Lima to take care of her one more time, I realized that finding balance between work and life is not black and white. The overwhelming chaos of my life those months was not unbearable... it was hard... really f*** hard, but I did it! Somehow I realized that teaching is part of my life.. and as unpredictable as life is, so is teaching. We adjust our lives for our personal needs, and teaching is part of my life so it's just another factor to consider when finding balance. It is a job, but it's a job that is part of who I am. It is part of my purpose and as long as I understand that is one piece of the puzzle I can move that around until it fits in my life schedule... not necessarily my work schedule.
This year, I decided to leave work at 4pm everyday because I want to spend time at home, but if I need to or want to I can stay longer. I can also choose to take work home if that will bring me peace of mind the next day. I can also choose to grade on the plane, if I'm traveling, because I know I won't have any distractions. I can also choose to ignore all the grading and planning and get to school and wing it, because maybe that is what I needed that day. Life is so unpredictable, that we have to adapt every single day... and creating a rule that will fix it all is not the answer.
I love structure and I love organizing my day every day the night before... I love a plan of action, but I also understand that we have to honor our energy and our needs. Being able to recognize that is the hardest part, and choosing based on what is best for us is really hard when we are surrounded by noise - especially noise in the form of social media. I hope we can all get to know ourselves better - body, mind, soul - so we can choose based on us.
I know this post was really long.. thank you for letting me share part of my story with you. ILY!!!