Dear Teacher: You’re Not Wrong For Going Home

I know you’re finishing up your lesson plan in your classroom right now at six o’clock in the evening drinking whatever stale coffee you have left in your morning mug—I’ve been there.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from staying late at work, it’s that whatever I was working on could have been done the next day or the next week.

As teachers, we’re always trying to get ahead. We always feel like we can give more, do more, be more. But I’ll bet if you’re reading this, you already are.

The thing is, work will always be there. So go home. Go home to your family, your spouse, your children, or whomever your loved ones are at home and be with them.

Truly be with them; make memories and stop working. Yes, I have to swallow this pill every time I leave work and hope that it does its job on the road home. My husband reminds me of this every time I pick up my laptop to start writing IEP’s or my next lesson plan. Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in completing deadlines, but everything else can wait.

Statistics say teachers work an average 50 hours a week and we keep working over 400 hours of overtime a year. At the beginning of the school year, I stayed late at work for almost four months and kept working until nine o’clock at home. The time I was missing with my husband grew on me especially the weight I took home. My go-to spot on the couch was no longer my unwinding place with a glass of wine snuggling up to my husband, but one where I’d snack on a PB & J while my laptop kept my legs warm.

Doing this inordinately drained me. I had no spirit to give my eighteen non-biological kids day after day. This became a chronic problem because my students deserve first class and I wasn’t giving them that. I needed to take care of myself by giving time to all the wonderful things that once nourished me. I needed to feel my husbands hugs and hear the laughter that springs from family gatherings again. I needed to taste the goodness that comes from a fresh glass of wine while soaking myself in a hot lavender bath. I needed to be in nature and feel the sun’s kiss on my skin and see the beauty that comes from blooming trees. I needed to be with my friends and catch up on life. I needed to pray and be OK with not doing anything.

I need to do my life; all that it is when I’m not teaching. I absolutely love my students and what I do as a teacher, but it is not my whole life—so I choose not to give my work all of my time. I choose balance; giving myself to all the different things I love in life.

I realized the work I stayed late to do wasn’t due the next day. I had made up my own rules to make myself feel better in the moment not sensing the taxing impact it was having on my loved ones or myself.

So, my dear teacher friend, you’re not a crummy teacher because you don’t stay late at work. We have one of the largest professions in the country with more than 3.1 million teachers, which means that much more people have your back on that. So go home and sip your cup of evening tea on your front porch and feel the warmth of sunset before dusk hits. It’s OK to choose home and be with your crazy humans before the moon rises. You see, we give our best to our students by giving them a well-rested healthy us—not we got three hours of sleep and ate a PB & J before bed us.

You deserve to go home and truly be home. Your people at home deserve it—and the on average 3,000 students you’ll affect in your career life do too.

You’re already an amazing teacher. It’s time to take care of yourself.

image by Rustic Vegan @ therusticvegan.com

When You’re Homesick For All That You Were Before Depression

My fifth attempt.

This is my fifth attempt at writing this piece only to erase what I’ve written to prove to myself that maybe, just maybe I’m not in this.

Stare at blank page.

Resume latest episode of “This Is Us.”

Tears birth that have nothing to do with the show.

Close laptop.

I can’t wrap my mind around the place I’m at very well and so writing about it seems absurd — silly, even. You could say it’s all of life’s major disappointments all piling up. Or you might say it’s living with an incurable disease, but then I’d tell you I’d choose my physical pain over depression any day.

Maybe it’s people’s disappointments one after the other.

The timing of it all.

It pains me that I no longer feel like a broken plate of glass, salvageable because it’s only cracked in three pieces. Maybe some people can cement their broken parts with green tea matcha and essential oils or whatever the earthy healing trend is today, but that doesn’t cut it for me.

I feel crushed. Shattered in ashes.

Dust-like.

Homesick for all I was before depression met me.

The home of my heart is vacant; every blow of life only churns the ashes round and round in my heart.

If you’re going through depression, I know you feel heavy. You make a list of different reasons to tell your friends why you can’t make the outing so they sound different each time. Maybe you have a good family, a loving spouse, even a furry friend to take away your Sunday blues, but you still feel alone. It’s not that you’re not grateful — you’re heartbroken, hopeless at the thought you’re alive and yet no matter how hard you keep trying, you can’t seem to be present.

I have a reoccurring memory of my husband stopping me in our hallway to dance with me. I started to cry, croaking, “I don’t feel like dancing.” My husband’s reply was everything when he said, “Well then, we’re gonna dance.” Though my husband was holding me, I couldn’t seem to feel him. I only felt his hands holding mine and the warmth his neck brought to my freezing nose. My tears could fill a stream. No, it’s not that I’m not grateful. I’m desperate — frantic for just a moment not to feel miles and miles away from everything and everyone I love.

Depression feels like you’re waiting for something that’s never going to happen. I don’t know how to encourage you in my pain except to tell you a short story.

In early October of this year, I got a tattoo of an olive branch. Its meaning goes deep in my veins: Olive trees surprisingly thrive in deserts and rocky soil and when these trees are pressed, they produce something called beaten oil of the highest quality.

Olive oil was used to light household lamps in the past — the very thing that came once the fruit was picked and crushed, became the thing that gave new light.

Two months later, I walked into a Christian book store and saw a book titled, “100 Things God Loves About You.”

I opened the book and landed on #22:

God loves your ashes.

Tears filled my eyes and the words became a blur. I realized my dust doesn’t have to mean the end to anything. God loves my ashes because He will use them to make something new, like He did in the beginning.

But dust was essential, you see. This heartache has a purpose. And like other seasons of my life, this will be something I’ll look back on and know exactly why it had to happen this way.

Whether it starts out as a small flicker like the day I opened that book, the household lamp of my heart will turn on.

My light is coming.

Originally published on The Mighty