As teachers, we have some of the most peculiar and most wonderful things happen to us, often in the same hour. I’ve had students poop down their pants and leave it for us to find on the floor. I’ve had more kisses and hugs than I can count, and not always in the most appropriate of places. I’ve had chairs thrown at me. I’ve had “I love you” and “I hate you” notes from the same child within 5 minutes. I’ve had insect attacks in our classroom. I’ve had tricks played on me and I’ve played tricks on kids. We’ve had laughter, tears, pain, and anger. But most of all, we’ve learned and grown together.
There are times when I feel like I nailed it…you know, said exactly the right thing at the right moment. Man, those moments feel good. There are other times when I screwed it up. I reacted without thinking first, let my impatience show, or simply said the wrong thing. How I wish I could go back and fix those moments. But then along comes an instance when I realize how rewarding this job is and how it is worth all the time, energy, stress, frustration, and regrettable moments.
One day this week, we were at closing circle and sharing the best part of our day. Students are not required to share, but since we’ve started it, it’s been amazing hearing what they enjoyed the most and really reaffirms my decision to be a teacher. Even if 40-50% of the time, they say recess! J One of my more difficult children raised his hand and in his broken English where he repeats “I me” a lot, he went on to say that he hearts his school…he hearts his friends….he just hearts everyone and everything. It was not related to a best part of the day at all, and I started to redirect him, but then realized how impassioned he was and just let him talk. As he continued to go on, I gave our “me too” silent signal and so did many other students. It just warmed my heart. It made me smile. It made me laugh. Especially since he literally said “I heart _____” rather than “I love”. And If I’m being honest, I got a little teary-eyed.
As I went home that afternoon with emotions still running high and thinking about what it is that “I heart”, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience thus far in relation to the culture shock continuum I posted 7 months ago.
At about 6 months, you finally get to the At Home phase. I’ve definitely felt all of the above emotions, though it hasn’t been such a smooth down and back up…rather, it’s more of constant ups and downs like a roller coaster, but I feel that it’s typically been higher than lower. I can’t explain where I am right now because it’s not on the continuum. I feel at home here, but what’s more is that I feel HAPPY. Even when I was “at home” in Indianapolis, I didn’t feel happy. Working 60-80 hours a week and having zero time to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially doesn’t allow room for happiness. Now I’m only occasionally taking work home or doing it on the weekends (except this weekend because I’m behind). I go to the gym. I go to salsa classes. I go to tumbling classes. I watch a TV show when my internet is working. I practice a new language. I cook. I go to the pool sometimes. I read books, though fitting in time for adult books is still hard. I travel to new places (Bogota last weekend. The coast for Spring Break is booked. Hopefully Peru and Bolivia this summer.) I spend time with friends. I do things on the weekend. All of this was unimaginable for me when I was home. Is this what makes me happy? Activities? Time to do what I enjoy? I don’t know…probably.
People say to me, “Oh, you’re living the dream.” Not quite. Remember that most people only post the positive things, myself included. Shit still hits the fan here. Work is still stressful. Drama still exists. Miscommunications happen frequently. I’ve cried, yelled, and felt crazy. Problems of all sorts still occur. But let me be cliché for a moment…what I’ve come to learn is that it truly IS how you respond to the situation. It’s all about your mindset. A few quotes that echo what I’m trying to say…
And my favorite, which used to be my phone background as a reminder to keep growing, keep taking chances, keep challenging myself…
So many people get stuck where they are because they’re AFRAID. Stepping outside your comfort zone is terrifying. Believe me, I know. The night before I left for Colombia, I was physically ill and couldn’t sleep. The unknown is scary. But you know what’s scarier, at least in my opinion? Settling for a life without ever trying to figure out what really challenges you and what fills your heart. Living your entire life with a “what if”.
Now, I’m not saying traveling and living internationally is for everyone. Not at all. Even for me, this is what makes me happy at the moment, but come 3 years, I might be singing a different tune. What I’m trying to say is that you need to be responsive to what you are feeling at this point in your life and not try to sweep it under the rug. If you feel a yearning, check it out. Big or small. Go for it. You’ll never know how it turns out until you TRY. Figure out what it is that you “heart.” And really, can the result be so much worse than living a life full of “what ifs”?