Being absent for a day can feel great and rejuvenating. I love the feeling of staying home when there’s supposed to be work, even though I know it might feel bad and unproductive as well. However, being absent on a day that might be extra stressful can fill me with joy. I love the opportunity to sit at home and do nothing, as it can be incredibly rejuvenating and helpful to my mental health. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself, and I feel like there’s always room for more.
I mention all this because, as I write this, one of the co-teachers for R&P is absent today, and I have to teach his class at the end of the day. I’m fine doing that, but it’s the other side of absences; when someone is out, another person has to fill that space or spot. It’s not enough to just expect a completely calm day when you’re absent. Things on the other side are difficult for the people who require you to be there. Being absent means someone else has to fill the void, and even though you’re having fun staying home, not everyone has the same luxury afforded to them when they’re free for the day. Some people have kids and have to take care of them, or they only are able to take sick days when their kids are sick. I know a few teachers who save their personal time specifically so they can take care of their kids, for example, and I can’t imagine having to do that. Like it makes sense, of course, but on the same token, I feel like I need that time for myself, too. What would I do without it?
That’s all for absences today. Hopefully this all makes sense and doesn’t just come off as me rambling about how much I love not being at work. Sometimes it’s really a mixture of everything, and I just need to relax.
Being distracted is easy. I’m distracted right now, as I’ve decided to spend time writing personal blogs rather than doing something productive, like preparing for tomorrow’s day of work. Distractions are nice, though; productivity isn’t everything, and you have to balance your workload with fun in order to survive. No one wants to live a life of complete work forever, otherwise what are you living for? Just to wake up, work, and come home too exhausted to enjoy your free time, only to fall asleep again and repeat the cycle? There’s so much to life and living: places to see, travels to undertake, people to enjoy the company of.
Distractions are everything, which is why I decided to write about them today. It’s not enough to just live plainly. But being distracted is often considered a weakness or a struggle to overcome, a deficiency. As someone living with ADD, my attention wavers depending on the subject. It’s hard to stay focused when your mind is thinking of other things and wants you to move with it. I’ve lived with this deficiency for years, and even with the help and support of my primary physician, you still feel the same feelings, just with a reduced potency. The lack of focus persists. I hyperfixate on small things and interests that stick out to me, and my mind never seems to be able to focus for very long if it’s not so fixated.
I’m not complaining, though. All of this is what makes me who I am. I’m not sure I would be the same person without my ADD. And like I said at the beginning, being distracted makes life worth living. So I’m not bummed or anything by the cards I was dealt. If anything, I’m grateful for being able to have such a unique living experience.
Not everyone gets the chance to restart, to begin anew, to refresh one’s life completely. To do things over again.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, and deliberately not thinking, about what to write for this blog post, but I finally feel capable of getting some of my thought process down on this page.
There’s a famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote that I often return to, one that I have hanging up in our apartment as a reminder to myself. Here it is:
“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
For what it’s worth… Not everyone has the opportunity to start all over again. Some people lack the financial resources to just upend their lives and begin wholly anew. It’s certainly not an easy trial to undergo. I remember feeling overwhelmed, busy, and completely distraught over my decision to leave my first teaching job, full of regrets and future visions. If only I knew what the next few months would hold for me. I regretted spending time treading water, doing nothing while saying I was doing something. “I hope you make the best of it” is all that matters. Try and try again, and eventually your attempts will bear fruit. You just have the make the best of the hand you’ve been dealt.
In continuing my trend of discussing personal issues, such as my health, I’ll today be discussing mental health and what it was like last year, when I decided to take better care of my mental health.
When I used to work in Milford, I would make sure to take time off for my mental health. Little did I know that working in that place would actually deteriorate my mental health to the point of an actual breakdown and collapse of sanity, but I’m sure my decision to take mental health days contributed to the preservation of my sanity in a temporary sense. Taking mental health days helped me stay afloat, basically.
I highly recommend you make the decision to take mental health days for yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and for some reason we only equate sick days with being physically ill. If someone is mentally ill and is in need of immediate help, then taking a day for yourself is a great way of getting back on track and resetting things. Not just for yourself, but for the good of others, too. If you’re mentally ready for things, the people at work will benefit from your aptness. If you’re not mentally ready, you risk alienating and making things worse for yourself and others. Think of it the same way you think of physical health!
I’ve tried to convince Alex to take more days for herself, similarly to what I did, but it hasn’t been super successful yet. It’s still a work in progress for sure.
Plus, above all, I get to spend days with Angus, my best friend and greatest companion of all. Nothing compares to the benefit of mental health bestowed by being with a dog companion.
Stress. We all experience it, one way or another. Stress over work, stress over school, stress over relationships. It’s normal to be stressed, unfortunately, despite it being so toxic and corrosive to our mental health. There’s always been talk about how stress and challenges are essential to learning, that in order to be truly engaged or challenged in a task, there has to be some degree of urgency associated with it.
In some ways, I agree completely. How can I ever expect to learn how to handle stress, for example, without having experienced it in a more constructive, educational way in school? School is and has always been a reflection of life after school, but with handlebars and the bumpers up. Teachers are dictators, at least according to kids, and counselors are helpful, guiding friends. School has the makings of a microcosm of life itself, and the lessons learned in school help students in that they can apply those lessons when they reach adulthood. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. I don’t claim that this is what everyone’s school experience was like, or even mine for that matter, but I hope I can convey a sense of idealism, not realism, in this.
So, looping back to stress and the factors that go into it. I am somehow who gets stressed easily, and the second a student says one thing that’s slightly disrespectful, I am taken aback and reeling all the way home. My mind absorbs all the emotions and energy of the room around me, internalizing it all. That’s the life of an anxious mind. But in order to overcome stress, I like to think some advil and World of Warcraft does the trick. (That’s partially a joke; I do play WoW to unwind, though.)
Nothing wrong with a little
concern, a couple Q’s
about life and work,
excuse my inquisitive side
I say, breaking down is like
watching a horror movie in
uncontrollable dramatic irony
steps into view and
watches you slowly until
you open the closet
I say, forgive me
for not reaching out when
I was at my lowest,
my deepest regrets are more
debilitating than I thought
and I forgot to say “Hello”
I had some troubles
last year, summer to
fall to winter to now,
you don’t think during a
breakdown, no one thinks
Inevitably, time attracts rust. Nothing avoids it, except for ample preparation and productivity. Yet not everyone has access to those traits. Let’s talk about how corrosive unemployment can be, how it eats away at your mind and leaves you with a relic of what you once were, so that when you do inevitably return to work, you are a shade of your former working self. It takes time to rebuild habits and routines, rinsing and repeating. It takes time to make yourself a worker again, to build yourself back up after months of tearing down your self-esteem and happiness. Once a mountain erodes, it takes centuries to reform.
Being unemployed means you are always searching for a way out of being unemployed. At no point during my unemployment did I think, “I would rather stay this way than work again.” I had fun memories with friends that I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise, but reliving my college summer vacation schedule while no one else is “on break” is not as fun as it seems. Every hour I was scrolling through and resetting my inbox to see if another application got back to me, or to hear back on an interview. There’s patience and madness in expecting an email that never comes. There’s doom and gloom in never receiving the validation you need. Being unemployed takes persistence, and it takes heart, and it takes your mind away, bit by bit. Slowly but surely. Sand castles build in your head, and they disintegrate upon close inspection; when you zoom in on any preexisting mental structure, its foundations appear shakier than they initially seem.
And yet there is always rust. After being away from work for months, actual months, is there any surprise that work can feel alien? Anxious minds gravitate toward worst-possible outcomes, as a natural way of things, and so prior to restarting work, I felt anxious that I wasn’t ready to go back, that I needed more time to prepare myself, without realizing that the longer I wait, the more rust that will build up around me. Rust from not working, from not being a 7-3 guy every day, from experiencing deep sleep and waking up whenever you feel like it, from going to CVS during the day and traveling to White Plains to get my prescription in the afternoon. So many things no longer possible, but thankfully, that phase of my life is behind me. It is time to move on, and the best way to move on is by releasing inhibitions and anxieties and just pushing forward. Pushing and pushing until something breaks.
You read it right. Anthony’s a newly-employed man. After a couple months of job searching, and a previous few months of deliberation and summer vacation, it feels surreal to say that I’ll be returning to work again on Monday. To put things in perspective: I went to a conference and workshop over the summer of 2018 and even attended a few curriculum development meetings, too, but for the most part, my summer was barren of work. Then, a day after school resumed session in August, I took a sick day to see my therapist, spent another few days adjusting to my head and new medications, saw family and updated them on my status, and signed up for an FMLA. That first day rocked me to my core, and put me in complete collapse. A month and a half later, I decided to resign from my job, knowing fully well that I would be saying goodbye to that world I was briefly a part of in Milford. There was sadness attached to my resignation, and I would feel, in the coming weeks, overwhelming guilt, regret, and nostalgia towards that job. It’s impossible to replace the feeling of being a teacher; even through all the negatives, the positives still found ways to be front and center in my head. The more I failed in my job search, the more I returned to happy memories from the very same job that put me in a mental health crisis in the first place. It didn’t make sense, obviously, to beat myself up so much over a decision I made for my health, but when it comes down to it, we do what we have to to survive.
Now, I begin work at a new school, in a new role, fulfilling the duty of a Literacy Interventionist. It is a responsibility I feel ready for, and I hope that I have the same success here that I did in North Haven.