After submitting my third (and hopefully my final) draft of my dissertation, I am exhausted, yet energized. In two weeks, I will defend the last three years of my studies and work. They don’t tell you the two hardest parts of writing a dissertation is writing the dedication and formatting the table of contents. The latter being the most frustrating and mind-numbing part. The former being the most emotion-filled, yet rewarding part (besides hitting “Send”, of course).
As I sat at my desk yesterday trying to find the right words to thank everyone who has supported me along the way, I found myself and my vocabulary inept. And I wept. For the emotion swirling inside me, and also for my inability to properly acknowledge the people in my life for their sacrifice in helping me get to the end. Make no mistake, people have sacrificed for me to be here, mostly their time and patience. Nevertheless, it is done, and I am proud and humbled at the same time.
In May of this year, all at once, my husband and I decided to move into his childhood home, sell our home by owner, have a baby (well, that was decided approximately 9.5 months prior…), and find a new job for me. For quite some time, I had been feeling despair at my previous school, a despair that grew in size, and one I could no longer ignore. There are myriad reasons why I was unhappy at that job, and it was time for a change. In all honestly, I was questioning my future in teaching. Not many people will say this out loud because it is scary to admit, and risky at the same time. But, I was unhappy. I knew that other schools and districts struggle with similar issues, but it had to be better somewhere else, even just a little bit. I haven’t written about this yet because I was not sure how to articulate it. This is not meant to disparage my previous employer, but to express and make sense of how a teacher’s workplace profoundly affects every other aspect of her life.
I did not realize how my professional life as a teacher, and my unhappiness, was impacting my own mental well being, until I started in my new position across town. I want to come to school everyday– I abhor having to take a sick day and miss class. I feel respected and supported. I feel included. I want to come in early and stay late. But all of those I noticed right away. The biggest change I have noticed (and I just noticed this yesterday), is that I care about how I physically appear to others.
Now, I’m not one to put much thought and care into my looks on a philosophical level, but I do care about how I feel. I wake up in the morning and care that I look professional. Before, I wouldn’t even look at myself in the mirror before leaving for work because I knew it didn’t matter, to my supervisors, and myself. I hope I am expressing this in a way that helps others understand. This matters to me, and it makes me somewhat sad that I didn’t understand, nor recognize this until just now. I suppose what I’m saying comes down to this: It is important– nay, necessary– to take notice of ourselves as whole individuals and recognize when we need to take care of ourselves.