Leaving a toxic job in 2015 was supposed to be the beginning of a better quality of life for me. While some might wonder how going back to teaching mainstream education results in a better quality of life (I’m a Support for Learning teacher, not classroom teacher), I’m experiencing the difficulties associated with big life changes. There was much I enjoyed about my previous job, despite my previous job leaving me emotionally and mentally drained day in and day out, and suffering from the physiological effects of stress (like waking up in the middle of the night due to elevated cortisol levels). I even loved it. Lately, not a day goes by that I don’t experience some kind of FOMO: fear of missing out on teaching my previous students, working with my friends who happened to be colleagues, the laughing and joking around on a daily basis, and experiencing the deep rewards that came with teaching teenagers with complex emotional and behavioural needs. And while Pat, Coconut Friend Amie and other people that know me have said I’ve made the right choice, it’s still a tough choice to deal with. These last few months transitioning into my new job at my new school have been valuable learning experiences, but in general life continues to be – to put it into a trail running analogy – a messy uphill climb. Because change is hard.
So how do I deal with this messy, uphill climb in a constructive way?
I head to my favourite place: the mountains. They’re my safe place, my quiet place. My idea of calm and heaven is standing at the top of a mountain, taking in the view, taking in the quiet, and looking at the world below. To me, mountains are quite symbolic. You climb all the way to the top, carrying stuff with you: emotional stresses, the things that get you down, drama, issues. But once you’ve made it to the top, those problems are all of a sudden so trivial. They’re literally below you and suddenly insignificant; standing on top of a mountain gives me a great sense of relief and release. It’s like the trivialities are blown away with the wind.
At the same time, I also find mountains incredibly humbling. I find even just hills humbling. You realise that there are things that are so much bigger than you, and combine that with the extreme weather you might encounter at the top, you realise that there are far more powerful things in this universe than little old you. For me, this makes my worries, stresses, issues that are sucking my positive and valuable energy seem so small.
So what do I do when there’s an obstacle in my way? What do I do when the negativity tries to suck the life force out of me? What do I do when I put too much pressure on myself? I head to the mountains. I need a dose of reality, I need to feel that something is physically hard, tiring and stressful; not emotionally stressful. I need to clear my head. That strain on the legs and the lungs to climb to the top, whether running or walking, makes me focus just on the task at hand. It also makes me realise that if I can get over this messy, uphill climb, I can do anything. I can deal with anything life throws at me. I may not like it, but I’ll do it. Just like I run up those hills, up those mountains.
“Life happens on the hills.
They’re opportunities to prove to yourself that you’re stronger than you ever imagined.”
And the reward at the top? The view, the quiet, the peace, the inner peace, the descent. Running downhill, especially on steeper surfaces or trails, requires the same type of focus one needs for downhill skiing or even yoga: you can’t let your mind waver, you need to dedicate your mind completely to getting down that hill fast, efficiently and without falling. One meandering thought could lead to poor footing, rolling an ankle, falling. There is no space for bullshit in your mind during a descent.
So, when life present me with a ‘messy, uphill climb’ I deal with it by literally doing a messy, uphill climb. It hurts and it’s tough, but soon enough it’s over.
How do you deal with stresses in your life?
How do you overcome obstacles?