Monday, December 27, 2010

Being New: What's in the Balance

When I started my new teaching job this fall, I told myself that it wouldn't be like being a new teacher again. Those six years of experience would provide a kind of lifejacket to keep me safely afloat above the treacherous waters of Being New. As it turns out, Being New is Being New -- experienced or not. Once again, grading and lesson planning are eating up all of my personal time, and my job extends well beyond the 40 hours per week allotted for it. I rarely spend meaningful time with my husband, and I squeeze in a quick visit with my parents once a week if I'm lucky, in spite of the fact that that they live only a few short miles from my new school. I know that next year will be easier, and the year after that will be easier still, but this year is very, very hard.

This year, I am Scrooge, locked away in my office, hard at work while the world is out to rejoice in the splendor of the Christmas season and the three feet of snow that have effectively shut down our normally busy city. So, as it has been for the previous 4+ years, my New Year's resolution is to create more balance in my life, to make more time. But, just when I thought that I might actually be coming close to making strides toward that end in my old life in San Diego, we decided to uproot our lives and start all over again in a new life that feels very far away. In other words, back to the energy-sucking chaos of Square One.

Like most dedicated teachers, I battle feelings of guilt and inadequacy even on my best of days, so on the days (weeks, months, years...) when I feel overwhelmed, those feelings become amplified. On these occasions, I seriously long for a new line of work, one that I can actually master. Sometimes I envy the administrative assistants with the perfectly organized files and the mail carriers with their down-pat systems for distributing their letters and packages. I don't mean to suggest that either of these positions are in any way easier than my own; I'm certain that they come with their own sets of challenges and frustrations, but I envy the way in which they lend themselves to systematizing. I will never have teaching "down cold;" I will never master it or learn it or develop it to the point that it becomes routine, and, thus, I will always be striving. Inherent within striving is a feeling of failure, or, at the very least, a feeling of being incomplete or unfinished. I think, sometimes, that I am just too Type A to be able to live in this kind of work with any degree of comfort.

Of course, I know from experience that my teaching life will get easier as I become more familiar with the curriculum, the standards, the expectations. But, becoming familiar with these things requires patience, and patience is just what I feel short on these days. Starting over is hard, and starting over in every aspect of one's life, as moving necessitates, is draining. The holidays inspire talk of slowing down, appreciating life's small blessings, and I feel like a Scrooge for not being able to put on the brakes and just rest and enjoy, especially since so many of those Scrooge-esque tales are about those silly fools who don't realize that work is less important than family. But what if your work is about caring for and building up children, giving them the best of yourself? How to put it in perspective then?

Balance, I know for sure, is the key. But it's so much easier to tell tales exalting its virtue than it is to create balance in the real world of so many worthy ways to spend one's time. And so I will strive, for yet another year, to locate that place where things are in equilibrium, where life swings pleasantly from side to side, allowing us enough time in each place to find at least a small bit of that ever-elusive thing called fulfillment.

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