Something that has been a huge relief to me in my professional life is the realization that humans always have the ability to improve and grow. It’s like we never truly have a limit to improvement. At first, I didn’t realize this, and I quickly grew overwhelmed with my job.
I am a high school English teacher. When I first started in the field I thought that meant I would be teaching students to love reading and writing. It turns out that would be way too easy. My first year of teaching I quickly found more and more responsibilities being thrown on me. You have a kid who sucks at organization? Well, guess what, now you’re in charge of keeping his materials for him! That’s right, now you don’t only need to keep your things organized but also multiple students who can’t stay organized for themselves.
That’s just one example. And maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but I have around 150 students per day. I already have a lot to organize and keep track of. At one point in my career, it seemed almost impossible to think I’d also be able to manage personally keeping track of a bunch of kids’ work and materials for them. Now, somehow, I do it easily without even thinking about it. Currently, I’m in my fourth year of teaching, and it seems every year there are new things that I think, “There’s no way I can do this. It’s just too much.” But by the start of the next school year, I’m always seamlessly doing those very things that the year before I thought were impossible to master.
Part of me finds this reality comforting. To know I can always get better, that somehow there is always more capacity in my brain and body to take on more. It helps me from getting completely overwhelmed and shutting down. But I do think there is a dark side to this great human ability as well.
See, I am not the only person who realizes this cool ability that humans have. My boss realizes it, and so does my boss’s boss. And a lot of other people in positions of power too. My boss is a nice guy, but he also has a boss (and his boss is probably a nice guy too, but I don’t know for sure because I don’t know him), and bosses have a lot of pressure on them, just as much as us people lower on the totem pole do. That pressure all comes because the thing about most jobs and careers and our society in general is the push to be efficient as possible. To get the most out of what we have. And sometimes, wrongly, the people in charge start viewing the people below them as things. We become reduced down to an object; we are resources to be used and drained. At least this is how it feels in education.
Most days I feel tired. I feel like my bones are tired, like my soul is tired. I go home most nights with nothing left to give, but that doesn’t work because my job doesn’t stop when I walk out the doors of the school building. I still have parents to contact, emails to respond to, papers to grade, classes to prepare for, and more. The 90 minutes I get to do these things in a school day are never enough.
Plus, I have a family; I have a husband and two dogs, and I think it’s wrong to go home everyday with nothing left to give to them. They are my whole heart. They deserve the most, and yet so often they get the least.
I’ve been trying to find ways to energize myself, so I don’t keep going home with nothing left. I know that there are no quick fixes, and I know that eventually something big will have to change, but for now it’s about maintaining and sustaining myself.
One small way I’ve been doing this is through taking pictures of all the small things that bring me joy throughout my week. I did not come up with this. I started doing it after someone I follow on Instagram shared the idea (I don’t remember who. If I did I would share the handle).
So today I leave you with these: Some of the things that have brought me happiness in these last few weeks.
Breakfast food is definitely a love language of mine. I’ve been making this cinnamon roll coffee cake recipe for the last couple weeks and it’s the best part of every morning. It’s been an easy enough way to show myself some love.
This blurry, sunny picture of Eric and Tallulah. These two have been there for me so much in these last two and a half years I can’t even begin to tell you it all in this small caption. They will forever be my heart.
We got Clementine in part just because we wanted another dog, but we also got her because we wanted a friend for Tallulah. I also secretly (or not so secretly) wanted a dog who would cuddle endlessly with me. Tallulah likes her personal space and I can appreciate that. To my pleasant surprise Clementine loves to cuddle, and I’m actually her preferred cuddle buddy. Every day she curls up on my lap like this, I am just filled with radiating beams of contentment.
This one worked in a couple of different ways. 1. Self-care in the form of giving myself time to do something as simple as use a skin mask, and 2. Try a new beauty product, which I love to do. This was so fun, and I enjoyed it so much. Sometimes it makes me wonder why I don’t make time for me to do it more often.
And finally, my garden. It took forever to see anything bloom in my garden this year. The weather was not what the plants needed, and I saw so much of my hard work from the spring go to waste. It was discouraging to say the least. But this is the silver lining! See, I still have flowers in October! And even better, this past week, those flowers were covered in butterflies, because (get this!!!) it’s butterfly migration season. My time in my backyard has been extra beautiful lately.
Okay, that’s all I have for now, but let me tell you this simple trick works. Taking these photos and looking back on them really does remind me of all the wonderful things I’m constantly surrounded by and that in itself helps to re-energize me.