I have never been a “go with the flow” kind of person. Stubborn, opinionated, passionate: yes. Flexible, not so much. I’m a type A personality, a creature of habit and routine, major life changes rock my world and not in a good way. When my parents told us they were separating I spent almost two days mostly in my bed. Change causes my moderately well managed anxiety and depression to go through the roof. I can always deal with the changes eventually, but the way I process them in my anxious brain is not ideal. I recently read an article by Bustle entitled: “5 Things That Might Not Look Like Depression But Are.” Nothing in the article was new to me. I exhibit most of the behaviors at any given time, but reading it in the midst of all my chaos was a bit of a wake up call.
This summer has brought with it the uncomfortable reality of many changes at once. Two of my close friends moved to the West Coast in July. My co-teacher of 3 years is leaving to try teaching in public school and my classroom underwent construction and thus a total layout change. My new co-teacher moves to the area in August and of course we will have a new class of students to get to know. I completely re-worked my teaching schedule, was applying for a teaching certification program and running two camps by myself. As my circle of friends begins to shrink I feel like maybe I am missing out by not having a significant other, someone who is required, as it were, to spend time with me.
Every summer I struggle to find balance without the structure of my regimented school year schedule. But this summer many nights I found myself awake at 4am panicking about where to have the students store their folders, where to move that one piece of furniture or something else I needed to add to my to do list. This summer has been different. I have been on edge since having to box up the classroom the first week of June. I realized at the end of June I hadn’t been to the pool once. I hardly had a minute of time to spare even on my week off in between camps. I hadn’t finished one “fun” book.
“Thing 4” in the article is “Work, Work, Work:” “Sometimes the people struggling the most are the ones who look like they have it all together. Keeping yourself extremely busy with work and other commitments can be an attempt to avoid dealing with your feelings, especially if the behavior is out of character for you.”
Funny how since about March I have been so mentally and physically exhausted by Friday I spend most weekends hiding out in my bed or at the gym. My therapist has over the years pointed out how good I can be at compartmentalizing my feelings. Apparently I am also good at avoiding them too. It wasn’t much of a shock to realize I had been attempting to avoid the sadness of missing friends and the relationships we had built that could no longer be the same. By spending hours obsessing over my classroom layout and set up I could attempt to exert some control on a situation that still feels somewhat out of my hands.
What I’ve realized in reflecting this week is that I am more open to change when (of course) I can instigate it. Taking on the challenge of changing my approach to nutrition and my eating habits was something I felt compelled to do. I was frustrated, I felt stuck, I knew I needed something different. My competitive side took over, it was a challenge I could “win.”
There is no real competition in making new friends, building new work partnerships, searching for that next relationship. Certainly I can seek out these people and put in the work it takes to become close to someone, but it feels harder when you know you have to start from square one. It sometimes can feel like an insurmountable obstacle to take that first step. I have jokingly said my theme song of the summer is “No New Friends” by DJ Khaled. One may Google the lyrics, much like all my workout music it is far from clean.
As you get older it gets harder, but from each person who is part of your life, each change as painful as it may be, comes some sort of information a lesson, a way to grow or improve. I realized that the lyrics I glued into an album for one friend who moved, were meant for me too.
“I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return” – “For Good,” Wicked
And as I searched for one of my favorite education quotations for my certification application I stumbled across this one:
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” – Carl Jung
So as I come to grips with the fact that July is more than half over, and my time to relax is dwindling I think I ought to pay attention to those words that stood out to me and to the magnet that has been on my fridge for the last 4 years which I glance at but I rarely think about:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Hellen Keller
I need to sit with my feelings, be a bit uncomfortable and realize there is work ahead of me but I am certainly capable of taking it on, however I must take care of myself. And that starts with setting aside the to do list’s and reading a book at the pool. Any phase change in science requires energy, so if I am to embrace the coming change, I’ll need the energy to take it on.