What happens to you when you are completely stripped of your identity?
What happens when the role you once played is no longer yours to own?
How do you introduce yourself? What do you latch on to in order to define who you are?
How can you possibly prove your worth when the one thing that gave you value and made you feel confident was taken from you?
These are the thoughts that have been running through my mind for the past seven months.
Since I quit my job and walked out of the classroom, I feel like I’ve been wandering around aimlessly.
Before I earned my credential, I was a teacher at heart.
At family parties, I was always hanging around the kids. Playing with them. Teaching them. (“Bossing them around,” my mom would say).
But I was good with kids.
It was what I was known for.
So it was inevitable that, some day, I would chase after this dream of teaching.
And I was good.
I knew I was good.
Not in the overly cocky, “I’ve-got-data-to-prove-it” kind of way.
But in the, “I value these relationships and I fucking love my children as if they were my own” kind of way.
Sure, there were days I would come home defeated. I would have a student with severe behaviors and, sometimes, I wouldn’t always know what move to make, what steps to take.
But, at the end of the day, I came home knowing that I was where I was meant to be. My approach was so individualized and my love was so fierce.
So when I walked out of my role, it felt like I left my entire identity behind.
When you’re teaching, it’s easy to throw yourself into your work. And when you’re not throwing yourself into work, you’re throwing yourself into happy hour to recover from work. It’s literally a ping-pong match between the classroom and the bar.
There is no time and there is no space (and, for me, there was no reason) to try to figure out my “self” in between the eating and the teaching and the blogging.
I was happy falling under the “educator” umbrella.
I felt proud. And I felt confident.
But, since I walked away from that role, I’ve felt lost.
I’ve gone through withdrawals. I didn’t know how to deal with all the free time I suddenly had. And, living in this small town only made matters worse. There isn’t always a lot going on. So I am FORCED to sit with my self (whoever the eff that is) and think about things.
For the past few months, I’ve been coping. Not in a healthy, productive way.
Rather, instead of dealing with this identity-crisis head on, I simply respond, “I’m a special education teacher in my real life” when people ask me what keeps me busy.
And, instead of processing this huge change, I throw myself into social media or a bottle of wine or anything to distract me from these negative feelings that come up.
I have no idea who I am.
And the Universe is forcing me to figure it out.
Forcing me out of the “teaching” confines and into my own mind. All the doing, doing, and more doing has left me confused about who I am underneath it all.
This weekend, on a mini roadtrip to Knoxville, I allowed myself to venture through my feelings. I didn’t turn on a podcast. I didn’t use the time to call people back. Instead, I thought about everything that I’ve been suppressing.
Who am I when I am not teaching?
I’m a spiritual being.
A lover of people.
A reader. A writer.
A sunshine seeker.
I am all of these things.
And probably more.
I need to spend more time with my self. Shutting out all the noise and the distractions. I need to get to know my self a little better.
But this is a good start for now.
Questions of the Day:
- Who are you underneath it all?
- Describe your “self” without using your job title or the role you play in your day-to-day life.