A Big Piece of the Puzzle

Recently, I was talking to an old friend on the phone.  As usual, we were catching up and sharing bits of our lives.  The conversation turned to me, and I began to reflect upon the big changes that were happening in my life.

In February, I realized just how unhappy I was with the direction my life was going, particularly in the area of my chosen career.  Many people called it burnout insisting that all I would need to do is change school districts.  Good point, I would say.  Quite right.  I was definitely teaching in one of the worst and poorly managed school districts in the state of California.  But I knew there was something deeper.  Truth be told, I genuinely felt unhappy and uninspired with my chosen field.  I really didn’t think that changing locations would make a huge difference for me in the long run.  Changing districts would be a temporary fix, yes, and that would certainly make things better for a while, but there was a deeper sense of irritability and dissatisfaction that I couldn’t shake away.  I knew I was good at teaching and I enjoyed the kids, but there just seemed to be something missing.  And so, I began to take a step back and ask myself the challenging question, ‘If not this, then what’?  Yet, every time I forced myself to face this inquiry, the same thing always happened.  I drew a blank.  There was nothing. Nada.

This went on for a while, probably two years, until that fateful day when my head exploded, the edges cracked, and I lost my sanity for a moment or two. Okay, it was longer than that, but at least I didn’t do anything too crazy, except tell everyone I was quitting. Which I didn’t.  Instead, I took a much-needed leave of absence.  This proved to be a great decision because it gave me much-needed time to take care of myself and think about what else I wanted to do with my life.  At the same time, it proved to be challenging because I was wracked with guilt about leaving my students behind.  I felt a great sense of responsibility for their education which would be compromised during my leave of absence.  However, I knew that my current state of stress would not lend itself toward quality instruction.  Taking some time away was the best move.  Over the course of a week or more, the depression and insomnia I had been experiencing for months quickly dissipated.

And take some time I did.  Two months to be exact and I still have one month left before my return. Since then, my life has quickly spiraled into one big change after another.  Let me review these real quick.  I’m leaving my job of six years, packing up an entire classroom, going back to school, taking out student loans, moving out of the apartment I’ve been living in for nearly seven years, and moving into a house with my boyfriend.  Am I scared? Damn straight!  I frequently remind myself that doubt is a devilish function.  What I need is courage.

But I digress…..

Going back to the phone conversation with my friend.   At one point, while discussing my fears and concerns, my friend interjected to say that part of my issue was that I didn’t trust other people.  Then it hit me.  It wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust other people.  No. It was much bigger than that.  My problem was that I didn’t trust myself.  In that moment a huge piece of the puzzle fell into place, and I realized that creating true happiness in my life started with trusting myself.  I quickly understood this as an essential ingredient.  Without trust in myself, I would continually look to other people to help me make important decisions in life.  That’s partly how I got myself into this whole mess in the first place.  As I write this I realize how insane it sounds, but it’s something I think people (I know I’ve done it quite often) do frequently.  It seems only natural to turn toward close family and friends for guidance when times get tough or when we are faced with a huge and potentially life changing decision.  But in the end, does it really matter what other people think?  For me it’s usually a sure-fire way to instill a bit of crazy making into my mind.  One person thinks this while another person thinks that, and everyone has an opinion.  In the end, it’s really just background noise.  We have to quiet the mind, maintain trust in ourselves to know what’s best, and take a leap of faith.

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