On Sunday December 3, 2017, I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. It was my brother. I knew to be scared because it was 5 a.m., way too early to be a casual call.
I answered the phone and he said: “Mom passed away.”
I screamed. No, I wailed. Got out of my bed and didn’t make it past my door before collapsing on the floor and beating it with my fists. I was in disbelief. I was angry. I was filled with so many emotions, I could barely breathe.
As my family went through the preparations of burying my mother, I started to fall into old habits I had become familiar with after heavy losses in my life:
I did this in 2010 during my senior year of high school after my father passed away on his birthday from pancreatic cancer.
I had college and scholarship applications to bury myself in.
I did this in 2012 when my grandmother passed away due to pulmonary hypertension. My father had died in February and by May my grandmother was using a 24 hour oxygen machine, and by October of my first year of college, she went into the hospital and never got better after.
I had my college classes to bury myself in.
I did this from 2015-2016 when four of my friends passed away. October of 2015 my childhood friend went missing and was found a week later, stabbed 167 times. In 2016 I had two college friends pass away.
I was in my second and third year of teaching, so I buried myself in my job and completely ignored my self-care.
In the months after my mother’s passing, I just couldn’t bury my hurt and pain like I had trained myself to do. I began to notice how I would be okay one minute and be deeply sad the next. I would lay on my couch on Friday and not realize I was still there on Monday.
I was losing sense of time. I was depressed.
I knew I needed to seek help, so I sought a therapist for grief counseling. It was through those therapy sessions I realized how much loss and pain I had experienced in such a short amount of time. I realized how precious time is and that I had been existing instead of living.
I realized that for many years I had ignored my own self-care.
I also had a new outlook on my career: I fully understood that my purpose is to teach, but that didn’t mean teaching in the classroom was my only option. With this came the realization that in order for me to fully take care of myself I needed to step away from the classroom.
Teaching is a wonderful job, but it also is a demanding one. I knew that I had to be selfish with my self-care. I had spent five years giving my time, energy and knowledge to beautiful children, and it was time for me to focus on me for once.
June 14, 2019 was my last day as a high school teacher.
I quit my job with an idea: