Reluctant Routine

Sunday, January 26, 2020

I guess I left things off on a sour note. I haven’t been very active with my writing. I haven’t been very active in general. Aside from the occasional weekend outing, I have stuck to a consistent routine. The routine that I follow helps relieve stress but does little for depression. Most of my day consists of working and preparing for work the following day. It is not glamorous, but it beats being underprepared. I have a few hours of free time every night that I spend reading or watching movies. Sometimes I spend that time grocery shopping or preparing food. Either way, those few hours represent a brief window when my time belongs to me. I value that time immensely. Therefore, the routine must continue.

I’m better adjusted to my job at this point. I am more confident in what I am doing, and the stress is taking less of a toll on me. I know that this relief is only temporary. Standardized testing is looming on the horizon, which is an uncomfortable time for teachers and students alike. Although I disagree with the practice wholeheartedly, I will now be responsible for proctoring this intrusive exam. Preparation for the exam will begin early, and students will have time taken away from rigorous learning to hone the skills deemed necessary by the state of Texas. I will try to make the best of the situation, but I can predict that it will be a stressful occasion.

I’ve made a habit out of checking my calendar every day. I count down the days until the weekend, the weeks until my next break, and the months until the school year is over. It is difficult to conceal that I am just as eager as my students for this year to be over. I have several plans for the summer, but I am still uncertain of what comes after this year. I would like to try teaching at a different grade level before I decide upon it for a career. Yet, I am reluctant to start this cycle all over again. I will have a better grasp of my goals once I complete this year.

Aside from obligatory family time over the holidays, I have not spent much time socializing. I interact with so many people at work that I feel drained by the time that I get home. I often turn down invitations to socialize so that I may rest and prepare. I tend to make excuses for not going out, but the reality is that I don’t want to break the routine. I value my time in isolation too much; this is something that I am hoping to overcome but have no idea where to begin. I spend time with my roommates and occasionally see a friend on a weekday, but I have no compulsion to interact with people that are not conveniently close to me. Justifications like this make me question whether I have time to dedicate to relationships at all. Maybe I am too selfish with my time. Perhaps I need to be more willing to share it with others.

As it is, I feel like I am barely keeping it together. I can keep up with the bills, laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, washing, checking, prepping, planning, and paying to some extent. But I feel perpetually behind on my ever-growing to-do list.

The joys of adulthood.

I’m doing my best to be responsible and accountable, but I do find myself yearning for simpler times. I miss having an inconsequential job. I worked in the service industry for nearly ten years before signing this contract. The whole time that I was working those jobs, I was always looking for a way out. I finally got away from those meaningless jobs, and I am now nostalgic for the old routine. The pay was insignificant, the work was often stressful and unfulfilling, but the stakes were much lower. I planned on working a service job over the summer as a form of supplementary income. Service jobs also provide a friendly social atmosphere. I am apprehensive about working a job like that now. I’m concerned that I will become too comfortable and that I will stop pushing myself to be better. I need to be careful about how I approach a summer job opportunity.

There are several opportunities for me to use my teaching certification outside of the realm of public schooling. Although they will not come with equal pay or comparable benefits, they do come with some autonomy. Choice is something that I have been desperately craving as I grind out my daily routine. I will likely explore those routes when I have more time to think about it. Until then, I need to stay focused on the tasks at hand. I can’t afford to look too far ahead; I could lose sight of what is right in front of me.

I’m going to try to add writing back into my routine. At a certain point, writing felt like a chore. It felt like another box to check off on my to-do list. It was nice to break away for a while, but it is so much sweeter to return to it. I had moments during my hiatus when I was inspired to write but did not have the time or means to. I will try to start journaling my thoughts on topics so that my writing is less bland and repetitive. There is much more that I want to share in good time.

-Nobody

Thoughts on Therapy

Teaching has mostly consumed my life. I started writing a post about my anticipation for the upcoming Thanksgiving break but found myself disinterested with the conversation I was having with the page. Honestly, If I am going to enjoy writing, I need to separate it from my work. Writing about teaching helps me process my goals and expectations. However, I feel that the job has already enveloped most of my social and personal life. I would hate to see it consume my hobbies and passions. So today, I’m not going to write about teaching. In fact, I won’t even mention the “T” word for the remainder of this post.

My creative pursuits have been on the backburner for the last few weeks. I am finding less time to dedicate to band practice or writing. Although I wish I could invest more time into my passions, I simply can’t always make room for it. Rather than feeling guilty for my declining post frequency, I need to acknowledge that I will never be able to meet all of my own expectations. Accepting that I am a flawed human being is necessary to resist falling into a self-critical, depressive slump. Even with my efforts to circumvent depression, It still seeps through the cracks in my mind.

I watched the latest installment in the miniseries, “The End of the F***ing World,” with great amusement. The musical arrangement for the show captured the emotional displays of the scenes to significant effect. I can’t explain why, but something about the series resurfaced a lot of repressed memories and trauma. After finishing the show over the weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with the characters and the overall themes. I identified with the teenage apathy, the escapism, and the confusion of young relationships. It stirred up some unprocessed feelings of past relationships and hardships. I remembered what it felt like to feel utterly alone. I spent some time reflecting on those memories and still feel as though closure will never be attainable.

It’s easy to shelve your trauma, to tuck it away somewhere high and out of sight, to neglect it. Until one day, it falls to the ground and shatters into dusty shards. Leaving you to pick up the sharp broken pieces. I guess a therapist would be a broom or a dustpan in this metaphor, but I currently don’t have a therapist. So here I am, carefully cleaning up the shame of my past, cutting myself of the shards of tattered memories of monumental mistakes. I must resist the urge to sweep it under the rug, lest I be painfully reminded when I gash my foot at a later time. I suppose that getting help seems more feasible with my current health plan. In my previous job, mental health was a luxury that I couldn’t afford.

Perhaps it is time to give therapy another chance. I took advantage of the counseling while I attended university, but the sessions were infrequent and limited. Finding a therapist that will work for me is a task that will require some time and effort. I want to develop healthy coping mechanisms, but I have already ingrained some bad habits. I should prioritize this over my upcoming break so that I can begin the painstaking process of finding the right therapist. I don’t believe that therapy will solve all my problems, but I am willing to try anything to gain some perspective on just what exactly I am experiencing.

I have never been fond of prescription medication. In the past, I was prescribed Prozac when I was severely depressed, and I had a very adverse reaction to it. Somehow the pill had the opposite effect and amplified my cynicism and suicidal thoughts. I also believe that I should be capable of dealing with my mental illness without changing my brain chemistry. I’m sure a psychologist would say be screaming at the notion that I want to learn how to deal with these things on my own. After all, a significant portion of adults are medicated for various mental illnesses, and sometimes they achieve great relief. If I was offered a pill that would cure my depression but also numb the part of my brain that processes shame, guilt, and empathy, I would decline it. I have accepted that my mental illness is part of who I am, it is not something that I want to remove from my personality.

 It’s not a bug, It’s a feature.

After all, masking the symptoms of an underlying mental illness is no different than putting it high on a shelf. A place where It will gather dust and be forgotten. Until one day, it crashes down, peppering the floor with shards of fragmented memories that I will be ill-equipped to sweep away.

 -Nobody

Curricular Commitments

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

Cautious Optimism

Preserving my spirit for darker days ahead.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

I’ve been debating on whether or not to write tonight; I figured since I am ahead of my work, I might as well. I’ve noticed a shift in my general disposition about the future as of late. I was cautiously optimistic about making something more out of myself. I want to think that I was grounded and being realistic, but lately, I’ve found myself lost in delusions of grandeur. It’s like the barrier that has blocked my highest ambitions has eroded. Now I am dreaming larger than I ever have before. Perhaps this is a set up for my inevitable crash back to earth, but as of now, I am soaring.

Am I catching an updraft with lead wings?

I’m looking at the world through a new lens; I now see potential and opportunity in things that I have brazenly overlooked in the past. I can envision myself exceeding my expectations, which was something that I have struggled with for most of my life. Despite the anxiety associated with this mental shift, I can finally see potential in myself. I neglected to give myself credit for my achievements, always thinking that I should have done more. The more that I think about it, I realize that I have laid a foundation for a fulfilling life. Not only is my current job gratifying, but I am now applying the diverse skills that I have acquired over the last decade. I have been practicing music with an actual band, not just toiling in my room alone, trying to learn songs that some girl I’d been pining after would recognize. I’ve finally started writing again, and that has promoted positivity in the way that I process my thoughts. I feel like I have been gathering materials for ten years, and I’m finally ready to start building my future.

I am the architect of my life; let’s build this damn thing.

 I feel like my depression has been less prominent over the last few months, and I’m not sure what to make of it. My obvious concern is that I am in a perpetual manic state that will eventually descend into a depressive episode. At this point, I can’t help but wonder if I am released from the neurodivergent confines of my chemical imbalance. Either way, I have developed healthy ways to cope, when or if my depression resurfaces. I now recognize the unwavering support of friends and family members that have propped up my fragile ego. I used to fixate on what I didn’t have, which led to disappointment and a sense of inadequacy. I am now learning to appreciate the network of people who’ve been supporting me all along. Maybe this emotional overload is a symptom of some deluge of serotonin that had been dammed up somewhere in my skull. Perhaps this is just supposed to happen when you’re approaching 30. Either way, I hope that I can channel this energy into something productive.

It seems like wishful thinking, but what’s wrong with that?

I still intend to enjoy my old fall routine, as I have learned to do over the years. Watching depressing movies and reading in my comfortable sheets. I am looking forward to the early sunsets and cold nights. Somewhere along the way, I learned to see the beauty in some of the dreariest moments. I revel in those cold winter walks with barren trees and overcast skies. The aesthetic of a dormant city, waiting to spring back to life when sunny days return. I am particularly fond of the warm and inviting atmosphere of an artificially heated home. People gathered indoors to celebrate cheerful occasions, illuminating the rigid darkness outside through chilled glass windows. The enticing smell of baked goods, wafting through the gloomy, frigid air. The weight of my heavy coat as I plunge my arms into the padded, insulated sleeves. Just thinking about it now makes my heart swell. 

Does seasonal affective disorder apply to brutal summers?

I wonder how I will experience fall and winter through my new rose-colored lenses. I find it funny that we use that colloquialism because when you wear rose-colored glasses, your eyes adapt to them, and your vision resembles what it did before putting them on, but with more vibrancy and clarity. When you remove rose-colored lenses after your eyes have adapted, the world looks much bluer and more somber. Isn’t it strange that we encourage optimism and hopefulness, but we reserve this phrase to put down anyone who escapes the confines of our relentlessly restrictive reality? I would rather help people to see the good in things than to see how dark and twisted this world can get.

If you have rose-colored lenses on, keep them on.

Nobody