self care

The Guts to Get Out by Deidra Dallas

I meant to post this on Saturday, but then this happened:

All is mostly well. Several homes were lost (not mine, just to be clear), the baseball field is destroyed, and there was some damage to the track and a whole bunch of junk blown around. No serious injuries and no deaths, so we escaped relatively unscathed. Still scary and life changing for people near and dear to me though.

So because of that, graduation got moved to Sunday and then the older brother flew back home Sunday and then best friend and I decided to be healthy and do some exercising and then I had to watch the Game of Thrones finale so the Internet wouldn’t ruin it for me and then I sang at the junior high awards assembly and then… well, a few days late is better than I’ve been doing, so I’m gonna take it.

But anyway, read this knowing it should have been posted Saturday.

Today is the day I had the guts to get out.

Today marks the official one year anniversary of resigning my position as a teacher. Or to quote my best friend’s mother-in-law, today is the day I had the guts to get out. It has been a year that has felt simultaneously as if it contained about 15 years in one and also as if it was maybe just the longest month of my life. Everything has changed and yet nothing feels different. It is an extraordinarily exhilarating and confusing feeling.

I have been asked by many people if I regret leaving. I always laugh and cut them off before they can even finish the question. No. Never.

There have been moments I have missed it. Watching the kids I’ve known since they were little bitty perform in their last ever musical or One Act Play, I shed a few tears, I’ll admit. (I’m sorry, daughter of mine, for sobbing on your shoulder that one time, and thank you for letting me.) However, I do not regret my decision to leave.

Over the last year, I have changed more than just my profession, though, and so I thought I’d share some other things that have changed or that I’ve learned about myself in the last 12 months because who doesn’t love a list?

Top 12 Things that Have Changed in the Last 12 Months

  1. I can admit that I was depressed (sometimes still am because depression doesn’t just go away) and that I have at least a mild case of anxiety. It has lessened since I removed myself from situations that caused it to flare up.

  2. I am not angry as often. I am not stressed. I can breathe freely. Seriously -- I don’t hyperventilate anymore and I haven’t had a panic attack in months.

  3. I am not afraid to be with my own thoughts anymore. I no longer need to drown myself out with Netflix. I can read (something I hadn’t done in awhile) or, more importantly, I can just sit and think. There is power in just sitting and thinking.

  4. I don’t drink as much as I used to, and I eat better. My body is not 100% yet, but it’s getting there. I knew that mental and physical health were tied together, but I never really knew until now because now I actually want to take care of myself -- I have a craving for it.

  5. I’ve stopped involving myself in drama and with dramatic people because I don’t need the distraction of their lives anymore. (I also don’t see teenagers on a daily basis, which helps, love them as I do. And I deleted Snapchat. I highly recommend deleting Snapchat.)

  6. I’ve learned and am still learning to say “No,” even to my own family, which is hard. So incredibly hard. But I’m done with obligation, and it is definitely okay to say no.

  7. I cry more easily because I’m not bottling everything up anymore. Movies, TV shows, books, plays -- they make me sob. In public. A lot.

  8. I love traveling alone. I also like traveling with my dad and with my older brother and with the rest of our family. Traveling is no longer an escape from life, it is a driving force in my life. I am working towards visiting all 50 states. I’m over halfway there.

  9. I don’t want children. Maybe I will again someday, but to quote the older brother -- I just got free again; why would I want to change that? I love being an aunt, and I’m good with just that role.

  10. I love being alone. I am sick of people (including myself) trying to stop me from being alone. I do not need someone to complete me whether that’s a partner or children. I am not a whole person only when I have become a wife and a mother. I am a whole person right now.  

  11. I am better at things than I give myself credit. I don’t give myself nearly enough credit, still. Luckily, I have a best friend who tells people I am working on a novel when I gloss over that fact. Feels funny still to say “I am a writer,” especially since I don’t yet have any proof. But then again, it’s not really about proving it to anyone besides myself.

  12. I feel more like myself than I have in over 10 years.

Yeah, that last one was kind of sappy and I do despise sap, but I really needed a 12th one to make the whole idea here work, soooooo…

I am a whole person right now.

I've been busy... by Deidra Dallas

It has been four months since I’ve written. Specifically since I’ve written a blog, but essentially since I’ve written at all. Sure, I’ve done the odd journal entry here or there; I’ve done some editing, but I haven’t written since I was on PEI.

This is not good, guys.

But, to use the same excuse everyone uses to explain away everything they should be doing but don’t: I’ve been busy.

When I came back from PEI, I jumped right back into the school world. It was, as I like to call it, contest month. I assisted with the hosting of the UIL Concert and Sightreading contest (because my bff is the band director, and that’s what you do for bffs). A couple weeks later, we both helped host and run the UIL One Act Play contest (because I love OAP contests and I could help reduce stress for both my bff and the new theatre director). Our final hosting gigs were three track meets where we kept score tallies/organized medals (because bff’s husband is a coach...and we’re friends with all the coaches).

On top of that, we were also helping my best friend’s mom direct the 4th and 5th grade musical (an annual tradition we have been apart of for many years because the fine arts department in our district is a united front from elementary up through high school). This one I do for several reasons. 1) I love theatre 2) I love teaching theatre, especially to little kids 3) Best Friend’s daughter was in the musical 4) Best Friend’s mom thought she didn’t know what she was doing and was desperate for help. (Spoiler alert: she 100% knows what she’s doing, but if we could help ease her mind a little, we were there for it).

My obsession with baseball is second only to my obsession with books (and maybe also Tudor period England, but we can group that one with books).

On top of all that, it was baseball season. Those of you who know me know that my obsession with baseball is second only to my obsession with books (and maybe also Tudor period England, but we can group that one with books). I am incredibly lucky in that the baseball coach is my friend, and he understands my baseball obsession in a way that maybe nobody besides my brother who is also a baseball coach does. And so, he asked me to do all of the pre-game announcements for home games, and I also wound up being in charge of the official pitch count and music between innings and sometimes the scoreboard. (FYI, doing all of those jobs at once is super hard, but it can be done albeit with a lot of cussing and anxious hair pulling.)

Here’s the other thing about this particular baseball season -- my friend is following in my footsteps and leaving the teaching field at the end of this year. And people have been awful to him about it because people apparently can’t stand it when you make choices to take care of yourself instead of others.

So he got blamed for everything. Because he was leaving he suddenly didn’t care about coaching a sport about which he is very passionate. (Totally logical, right?) I wish I could have recorded him on the field to use as proof to all the naysayers that he did in fact care about winning games and that his heart was 100% invested. You don’t jump around in both agony and excitement after every hit and spend hours after a game going over every play in detail with your friend who obsesses about baseball if you’re not there for those kids.

But I digress. What it all boils down to is that on top of my official duties, my other job at baseball games -- self assigned -- was to protect my friend and be there to support him when not many others would.

Lastly on the friend front, one of my very favorite people made it to state in OAP. Actually, a lot of my very favorite people made it to state in OAP, but this person in particular asked me to come down to be with him as part of his family and team. I couldn’t refuse. I got to hang out with people I get to see maybe once a year, watched brilliant theatrical productions, and was there for my friend and his kids to celebrate the beautiful art they created. (Side note: I don’t normally cry during plays -- his made me UGLY cry.)

ALSO, both of my brothers are moving back home. We’ve been house hunting so many times I feel like I’ve seen the inside of every house in our town, and I’ve edited so many resumes and cover letters and provided insight on job interviews and helped set up countless meetings with colleagues that I can hardly see straight. I am excited about this change and glad to help my brothers with anything, but it has been quite a lot.

(Have you found the trend to my busy schedule yet?)

I also have had some very exciting news on the job front. For about a month I did some freelance work with an online curriculum company in an attempt to help get several of their courses officially approved by the Texas State Board of Education. That was immensely time consuming and at times mind numbing, but more than anything, hugely satisfying. It is the perfect use of my experience combined with my need to work from home. I still have a passion for education and good teaching. It is a learned passion, but it is a passion nonetheless. To be able to assist a company who makes exquisite curriculum get that curriculum in the hands of more teachers is one of the more rewarding jobs I could think of.

When that month was up, I began grading essays for state standardized tests. Now, this has not been hugely satisfying; however, it has been hugely enlightening. Reading through hundreds of essays I have been reminded how damn difficult it is to be a teacher. The combination of a flawed test and kids who don’t read (and so can’t write well) and teachers who are so desperate for their kids to pass the test they teach strictly to the test and so cannot teach good writing is painful to see.

I have spent the last four months being there for my people, which is something I will never not do.

So these past four months have been busy, and I haven’t written. Because these past four months have been full of the things I desperately love: Fine arts. Baseball. Educational tools that actually work. Brainstorming ways to improve the education we provide to students. I have spent the last four months reveling in my passions (that just so happen to be housed around high school children). More importantly, I have spent the last four months being there for my people, which is something I will never not do.

I haven’t quite been there for myself though. I have made money -- which is a super important thing I needed to do. I have reinforced my friendships and family bonds -- another super important thing. But I have not written, and that is problematic.

So, my vow to myself. As soon as I finish grading these essays (and after the older brother from Washington gets done with his visit this weekend), I am taking time again. I might disappear to another state. I could just hole up in my house. But you probably won’t see me for a few weeks. Because I have to get back to writing. I have missed it. I had forgotten what that felt like, but having had it on the forefront so recently and then to lose it again -- man, that’s been rough.

I will work on this balancing act -- me, my friends, family, money. I will work on not finding excuses. I make no promises because we all know how impossible those kinds of promises are to keep.

But I will make this one: I will continue to work on taking better care of myself. I know that it is a constant struggle, but I have come a long way in this journey already. The fact that there is still such tremendous room for growth and improvement is comforting and terrifying and a challenge I look forward to. I will not feel guilty for coming up short because I know that I am not done growing so, in fact, I can’t come up short. I will continue to love who I am and the journey that I am on. I am so happy to be on it.

(Okay, that’s more than one -- but it’s all in the same spirit, so it counts.)

I will not feel guilty for coming up short because I know that I am not done growing so, in fact, can’t come up short.