Struggling with the demands of a fulfilling career.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The rush of the cold October air has brought some challenges along with it. Getting up in the morning seems more difficult when I am sleeping comfortably in my cozy sheets. My mind is struggling to adapt to the shorter days and longer nights, leaving me feeling exhausted after work and restless in the evenings. I have fallen into a routine that accommodates most of my desires and needs.

Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t have much time to dedicate to writing last week. The attraction was there, the words were dancing around in my skull, but my energy could not match my ambitions.

I am beginning to feel the full weight of my job, the responsibilities, and expectations that come along with it. I feel like there is little room for deviation, and failure would be catastrophic. Having dozens of colleagues and over a hundred young minds depending on me means that retreating is not an option. I bit off more than I can chew. I can either keep grinding my teeth, swallowing small portions of my responsibilities piece by piece, or thrash around choking on my own commitments. 

I’d prefer the former.

My motivation has sunk over the last few weeks. I am required to balance out my demanding career with my own mental health and dwindling social life. Companies always talk about a work-life balance but do very little to support it. My depression has been resurfacing, and I am finding myself disillusioned with my work. I compare myself to my colleagues and feel inadequate. This is a self-inflected critique, and I should probably lower my expectations for myself. I am resolved to dedicating this year to learning and growing to uphold the demands of this critical job. At the very least, if I fail, I will have developed some experience and a greater understanding of my own capabilities and limitations. 

I can still be a better version of myself.

I have done some reflecting on previous career choices and personal interests. Anyone who knows me can attest to my sporadic aspirations. When I wanted to learn to play an instrument, I changed paths frequently. Starting with drums, then moving to guitar, bass, and piano. I have developed some useful skills with each but mastered none. My career choices mirror my musical ambitions, scattered and independent. I have learned several skills but changed my focus so many times that I have mastered very few. I suppose that’s fitting for my personality. I keep taking on new projects in hopes that my passion will propel me through the tedium and steep learning curves, opting to switch careers or hobbies when they become dull or challenging. This may be one of my most significant flaws. With the contract that I signed, shifting my focus onto another career would be a great disservice to my colleagues and students. I should find a way to cope with my necessary routine and focus on mastering the skills that are required to progress in my field. 

Easier said than done.

Other teachers have consoled me that these feelings are not exclusive to my own plight. They mention how the first year of teaching is all about survival. The conventional explanation is that things do improve significantly throughout the year. Teachers hit rough patches in the long months with seldom breaks from the environment and routine. However, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. A massive chunk of leisure time is waiting for me around the holiday season and summer vacation. The demanding atmosphere, coupled with high expectations and a personal commitment, leaves many people feeling drained and inefficient. I can only hope that my own incompetence is not damaging the future of some of these developing minds, but that unnecessary guilt seems familiar amongst educators.

The students don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about me as I do about them.

My anxiety has started to interfere with my productivity. Working a job that requires so much preparation is also a contributing factor to my current mental decline. I often find myself spending several hours working outside of school to maintain some semblance of organization and structure. These efforts are not in vain, I’m sure there have been many other potential educators who have collapsed under the weight of the professional demands. I refuse to let my apprehension guide my decision making, and I am now personally invested in this cause. I have formed some genuine relationships with some of these students and would feel immense guilt if I were somehow unable to contribute to their education and development. I’ve reached the point where I feel like these are my kids now, and I am feeling the responsibility and frustration that every parent must experience at some point. I am resolved to complete this year, I will do my best for these students because they deserve so much more than I can begin to offer. I will sacrifice my comfort and sanity for the betterment of this small group of human beings.

Because I said, I would…

Lastly, I feel like one of my greatest strengths is also one of my largest foils. I empathize with these children too much. I am so dedicated to their development and struggles that I am draining all my social energy into engaging with them. This could yield remarkable results in the long term but currently leaves me feeling weary and depleted. This, combined with my artistic endeavors, leaves very little room for deviation from my routine. I am not fond of living according to this routine, but I am also not fond of thrashing around, choking on my own commitments.

-Nobody

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