My entire life for the past several years has been an exercise in letting go. Letting go of my need for physical health, letting go of certain dreams, goals and attachments, letting go of the way I saw myself, letting go of ego.
A few weeks ago I made the tough decision to step away from my job as a kindergarten teacher’s aide as my health was becoming too compromised by all of the germs I was exposed to every day. Within the first few weeks of school I caught a virus that lasted for 14 days. Last year I caught virus after virus for months, but I was so committed to my goal of becoming a head teacher again that I found a way to muddle my way through the year. This time I saw where I was headed and couldn’t do that again. I don’t have the same ambitions that I did a year ago, and it became clear that I couldn’t prioritize a part-time, practically unpaid job over my health or my family. No matter how much joy those little nuggets brought me when I arrived in the classroom each day and saw their smiling faces.
Before the school year even started I was already run down due to the stress of my family member’s recent hospitalizations. Once I went back to work I was completely exhausted. My routine of getting myself and the kids ready for school, going to work, running a few errands, picking up the kids and taking them to their gazillion after school activities and appointments, and trying to come up with something for dinner left me achy and frazzled. While many people seem able to manage this much daily activity, my immune system can’t currently support it.
And with all of the juggling I was doing, I didn’t have much time or energy for things that I know are essential to my long-term health and well-being (and that of my family): regular exercise, healthful food, time in nature, space to connect with Harlan, non-negotiable periods of relaxation, outings with friends, energy for singing, or time to write.
My job became the tipping point in my attempts to manage my health and happiness, and in the end it had to go. I knew it was the right thing to do, but I still experienced sadness at not being able to work with kids right now and regret at letting down teachers who were already strapped for aide time. I had to let go of the idea that I needed this job in order to feel a sense of self. Thankfully, after allowing the sadness to do its thing I was left with relief that I won’t be juggling so much, comfort that I can be there for my kids and Harlan to the degrees that they need me, pride that I made a decision to put my health and the well-being of my family first, and excitement about having more space to pursue the creative endeavors that I love.