“ Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.” Sue Bender
Drink another cup of coffee, yes more coffee that will fix everything. That’s what I kept telling my tired body, and while I drank A LOT of coffee , it seemed like my weariness was deeper than what the caffeine could reach, and so I had to push back the voice that just kept saying, why not try a stronger cup of coffee , why not drink the one labeled dark magic , and instead listen to the one saying, stop.
Over the last year I pushed and pushed fighting to get out of a position that was shrinking my soul and reaching for freedom. During the fight for freedom, I taught full time while teaching online part time, running a gallery, and picking up occasional photography jobs. Sold a house, bought and renovated a house ( this part is still in progress). I quit a job, and got a new one, through all of this , never skipping a beat.
In our culture we celebrate hard work, never taking the time to acknowledge that in order to work hard , and work hard well, we also need to rest hard.
I walked out of my classroom where I’d taught for 8 years. It was a bittersweet departure, because I love teaching, but so strongly disagree with the public school system that I felt I had no other choice than to walk away. For so long my identity was tied to my profession, teacher, and without knowing it, as I handed in my resignation letter, I felt like I was also handing in my identity, and no one was standing behind me handing out a new one.
When I say that I didn’t give myself time to grieve, I mean that I walked out of my classroom and drove straight to the moving truck rental shop, drove home, packed the truck, and moved to a new a town, where I started a new job the following day.
While all of the above is exhausting in and of itself, what really got me, was the emotional toll. I was so busy making plans, moving forward and checking things off of my to-do list, that I wasn’t taking time to process my feelings. I convinced myself that everything that I was doing was “normal”, and didn’t need any special attention.
Then there were conversations, where I told others what was going on in my life, they looked at me, seemingly in awe that my clothes matched, and I was able to put one foot in front of the other. During these conversations, I began to understand that the tiredness that I was feeling couldn’t be fixed with any amount of sleep or coffee. It could only be fixed with slowing down, processing, and grieving the life that I left behind.
What I’ve learned , is that one way or another, our body, will break. The only choice that we have, is will we choose to take the time to make the space for it to break, or will we fight it until seemingly out of the blue we fall apart, we lose our energy,motivation, and lose control.
After flooding a bathroom, because I forget to turn the sink off, leaving the stove burner on for hours, and laying in bed laughing at absolutely nothing, I slowed down. I forgave myself for not being productive at all times, allowed myself to watch far too many episodes of Graceland on Netflix in a row, and I began to write about how I was feeling. I allowed myself to be scared, tired, and sad, knowing that I had to go through this valley if I was ever going to get to the other side. I realized that I was/am on a journey to rediscovering myself, and it’s going to be a steeper hill to climb than I’d first imagined.
“ We arrive in this world with birthright gifts- then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.” Parker J. Palmer
While working for the school system I knew that I was losing myself, but had no idea just how much until the day that I walked away. I didn’t realize it fully because it happened slowly, almost behind my back.
Over the years, I became afraid, gave up, and lost my voice. I was programmed and threatened into keeping my mouth shut. I grew to doubt to myself, my ideas, and my actions. Walking away from the system that made me feel this way, didn’t mean that all of the brokenness would suddenly fall away. ( that’s what I hoped would happen) Instead it meant that I had a lot of work to do, of rebuilding, reopening, and rediscovering.
Have you lost yourself, your voice, your vision? It’s time to take it back!
“Life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment.” —Tom Spanbauer