Moving On

Two years ago I wrote a post with the very same title as this one. Although the content between this post and that are vastly different, the theme, however, is the same – change. As over the next few weeks and months, things will change for me in a number of different ways. I am not only moving house, I am also moving for work and to be in the same country and city with my partner of 18 months.

As I sit and write this post I am sat on my sofa occasionally glancing up from the laptop screen to take stock of the four walls around me. Above the TV on the opposite wall, there used to be a large map where I had placed stickers of the various countries that I have visited. Around this I had stuck photos and postcards from some of these travel destinations; some were of landscapes, and many contained images of family and friends.

Looking at it now the bare wall reminds me that I the life I currently lead is, and always has been temporary.

As I write those words, I feel a wave of sadness wash over me as if to encourage me to hide away, to try and pretend that things aren’t changing around me. But if there is one thing that I have learnt over the past three years it is this, although we may not have control over a lot of things that may happen, we do have some power over how we respond to the change. And at least for now, I want to face this change that conjures anxiety and uncertainty and try to embrace it.

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THE COMPARISON GAME

It’s that time of year again.

Study leave for examination students.

During this summer term I have been in the fortunate position of having a lighter teaching timetable and so it has meant that I have been able to get on with some planning for my new position that begins this summer, as well as have a general tidy up of existing planning and resources. Due to my management position also, I have been required to organise relevant documentation in order to pass onto ‘the new me’, so apart from a few slightly extended lunches since we returned to work after the Easter break I have been productive with my gained time.

However, not everyone in my school is happy with a section of the teaching body getting ‘all this free time’ with the majority of grumbles coming from the primary section. Unlike the schools, I worked at in the UK where primary and secondary schools are predominately separate in terms of geography, in the two international schools I have worked in so far their primary and secondary schools have been located on the same site.

A close friend made these familiar-sounding grumbles recently where, during dinner with a group after work, she proceeded to compare her working hours as a primary teacher to that of an ‘average secondary teacher’. I tried to maintain a cool and calm exterior whilst she berated the ‘average secondary teacher’, arguing that our work was easy in comparison, particularly at this time of year. Perhaps understandably I felt myself become defensive in response to some of her remarks. Of course whilst there will always be some teachers who kick back during this time, they are in the minority. It is in fact during this time when most secondary teachers are catching up on planning and resourcing for new courses or updating what currently exists, and that’s if they don’t still have a heavy teaching timetable (for instance with KS3) or, if they are working in a school that doesn’t offer their students study leave.

But at the time I didn’t say any of this out loud at the time, as we would have ended up going around in circles as well as probably ending the evening by falling out. Plus, I have heard it all before, from her in particular and when I have tried to provide some balance it has fallen on deaf ears. It’s like comparing apples and oranges I reminded myself and that there are some comparison games that are simply pointless in playing.

But what would be nice is that rather than working against one another and seeing ourselves in a perpetual state of competition over our hours, our tasks and even our status within teaching, couldn’t we try and be a little bit more supportive?

LIFTING THE FOG

I have found it difficult to write over the past few months.

Although I don’t want to link it entirely to my mental health, I feel as though it has been a significant contributing factor in the steady reduction in the quantity and quality of my writing. Any writing for that matter.

These are some of the words I wrote in my diary only two weeks ago:

It’s Sunday and I have woken up early and I feel that familiar heavy feeling inside. A multitude of emotions are consuming me that should be oh so recognisable that I shouldn’t question their presence as I have grown so used to them over the years, but that doesn’t help. I am sluggish, teary, and angry at myself. I thought that by now, I would have some gotten my shit together and have some fucking strategies in place: is this the best I’ve got? To spend the day alone? Again?

That was it before I spent the rest of the day driving myself insane (and experiencing a mild anxiety attack in the process) as a result of intense self-loathing.

During this time, work had been all-consuming to a degree that I couldn’t manage in a healthy way and therefore I felt myself slip into some familiar and unhealthy routines in my personal and professional life: excessive rumination, shutting myself away from others, skipping the gym, eating one too many takeaways, and just generally being the cause of my own frustration. My gremlins and the cloak of fog that they pull down over me took hold of my shoulder a little over a month ago, though I know they’ve been lingering in the background for longer than this, and despite my best efforts, they are real fuckers at letting go. But also, I was also feeling incredibly lonely. The ‘work’ I am working on and hoping to move on from next year, but the loneliness is a whole different animal. I knew that at the time there were people I could turn to when I go through this, but when I have decent to some of the lower depths of my mind, I truly can’t see this.

So I really was ready desperate for a break.

Some time out has done something remarkable in a short space of time (despite gaining a cold almost as soon as landing in the UK), I already feel re-energised. Quality sleep, good food, fresh air, exercise and seeing family and friends are all helping with lifting the fog.

In contrast, yesterday I spent practically the entire day writing when I wasn’t with family. It was heaven.

A CHRISTMAS POST

I feel like I am a child again, it’s Christmas morning and I am awake early. Some years ago if I was awake before my parents (which in most cases I was… by some hours), I would open a small selection of gifts that would have been left at the foot of my bed. There’d always be a book, some chocolate coins (which I would immediately start eating), usually an orange (usually left until after dinner) and a card from my parents. Now as I reach my mid-thirties and having travelled back to the UK to stay with my family during the festive season, I don’t wake up to find gifts at the foot of my bed but those memories as a child remain firmly with me, and the early start is more to do with jet lag.

Growing up, Christmas was run like a well-oiled machine. In my much younger years, the festivities were held at my grandparents where everyone would contribute to the dinner table. My mum would make the starters of smoked salmon and prawn cocktail, my Nan would do the turkey, the world’s best gravy and an awesome apple pie, whilst my uncle and aunts would generally sort the trimmings and bring the booze. As my grandparents got older, Christmas went on tour and my mum began to hold it at our house with pretty much the same format as above. Selfishly, this suited me fine, as hell, it meant that I got to play with the gifts that I had been given, which as a young teen was vital to my general satisfaction with the day. As the years rolled on, my mum’s younger sister took over the reins of delivering Christmas so we would travel the hour or so journey to her house where we were greeted once again with an amazing feast.

Then for two years I didn’t make it back home. In 2012, I moved abroad for work and although I returned for the first year the two years subsequently (2013-2014), I entertained myself with what Christmas could offer me outside of the UK.

Turns out, I deeply missed Christmas with the family.

Both years out of the UK were also spent with my ex-boyfriend, which added a degree of romance to the festive period but I couldn’t quite get over the feeling that I was missing out somehow. I wanted to be there sat at the table with my parents, brother and relatives. I wanted to sit around the tree taking turns to open gifts. Perhaps my ‘missing’ of Christmas with family whilst I was away stemmed from the fact that in part, Christmas allows me to regress to a child-like state in some ways. The traditions are cut and dry to a large extent and that brings familiarity and comfort.

So for the past two years, I have travelled back to the UK to spend Christmas with my family and also importantly catch up amazing friends. And it’s been fucking awesome.