*This post was written in June of 2018. (My next post will be an update on where I am now.)
Yesterday was the last day of school. Not just for my kids. For me too. I spent the past 7 weeks working as a teacher’s aide in our local elementary school. How did this happen?
In the months since my “awakening” my health has continuously improved. It appears that I had to hit bottom and look deeply inward in order for my illness to lift. This feels different from past periods of remission. I don’t see myself becoming chronically ill again (though I know it will always be a possibility). I caught the flu this winter but recovered. My immune system is able to do its job again. Just last year a virus could put me in bed for months. Recently friends and family started telling me that they could see my essence again, that the sparkle in my eyes and my natural enthusiasm for life had returned. I have the resources to put energy out into the world again. I am able to offer more support to friends now that I have recovered my energy and my emotional reserves. I have been spending my time hiking, singing, dancing, making plans and sticking to them. Getting involved in LIFE again.
But it took awhile for me to trust that my health had truly stabilized. In April I finally felt ready to start saying YES to as much as possible after having spent years saying NO to experiences because of my illness. And I wanted to contribute to life beyond myself and my family. I had a yearning to be useful is some larger way. I found myself filled with angst over how to make the right choice(s) when it came to my future. I allowed that devil on my shoulder to tell me that I needed to figure out the answers to the big questions. But then I remembered something my beloved writer and activist Glennon Doyle wrote about how she figures out what to do with herself at any given moment. She tells herself to just do the next right thing, then the next right thing after that, and so on. That felt like sound advice. I decided to do the same.
As I considered how I could utilize some of my time and newfound energy I was somewhat surprised to discover that I liked the idea of working in a classroom again. When I became a mother 15 years ago I put teaching into the category of something I had enjoyed but that no longer fit into my life. At first it was because I couldn’t imagine working with 20+ students all day and then coming home with any energy left to devote to my own tiny children. I didn’t think I could handle both, and I really wanted to be available to my kids. After a while I convinced myself that teaching just wasn’t something I was interested in anymore. So when I became antsy after several years of being a stay-at-home mom I didn’t seriously consider going back to the classroom. Instead I followed my interest in nutrition until I became sick. But recently I found myself becoming curious about working with children again. I remembered how engaged, enthusiastic and inspired I felt when I first became a teacher. I knew that diving back into a full-time teaching position would be too much of a shock to my system (and probably more than my delicate state of health could sustain), so I explored the possibility of becoming an aide in our local school district. I had planned to look for a position starting in the fall but heard that a kindergarten teacher had just lost her aide and needed someone to help her finish out the school year. I jumped at the opportunity, contacted the district, wrote my first resumé in 15 years, and got the job. It was part-time work with an age group I have always loved. A perfect way for me to dip my toe back into the teaching waters. And from that first day in the classroom I have felt purposeful, energized, and truly alive. It feels like I’ve been given a new lease on life, and I am so grateful.