- Teaching--I'm a high school English teacher. I teach English 10, IB English I, and Speech & Debate. Having three preps means I spend a lot of time planning and organizing for these three classes, and I have a lot of different assignments to grade. And, no, you can't just do the same thing each school year. I like the variety of having three different classes, but sometimes it can feel like a lot.
- Coaching--In addition to my three teaching preps, I coach our school's Speech & Debate Team. Coaching is rewarding and, at times, it's the most fulfilling part of my teaching career. But, it takes a lot of time and dedication. The team practices each week and we have tournaments most weekend. Last school year, somewhere around twenty weekends were taken up by Speech & Debate activities. (I never did the official count because I didn't really want to know.) The team has grown and met great success over the past few years.
- Graduate School--I started working on my MA in Literature (not Education) in the fall of 2008. I should finish next spring (2012)! I take one or two classes each semester, including during the summer. Something that has been making my graduate school experience particularly interesting is the "foreign language proficiency" requirement. (Did I mention I'm working on a MA in Literature--English Literature??) So, since I managed to avoid this foreign language requirement in undergrad when I transferred schools, I have been taking Spanish courses in addition to my literature courses. I have taken 101 and 102...just two more to go to reach "intermediate proficiency."
In addition to the above, I also have the "normal" things to take care of--keeping up with things around the house, taking care of the "dog child," etc. My wonderful husband is very supportive and helpful with all of these areas!
On top of these things, Bradley and I also have to handle having very different work schedules. The end-of-day school bell rings at 2:10pm; Bradley often begins his shift at 2pm. He works a good number of Sundays, too, so tournament weekends often mean that we have very little time together.
And (finally?), I have a number of health issues to deal with, including a plethora of food allergies and intolerances which keep life interesting.
I like to keep busy. If I had a "personality label," it would probably read "works best when busy." When I'm not busy, I feel sluggish and unproductive. And I like to sleep...a lot. I honestly feel more productive when I have a full schedule. Sure, I get stressed from time to time and there are times when I feel burnt out, but I enjoy what I do. But I've realized that for both my sanity and my health, I need to learn to relax more. And I actually struggle with this. I need to learn how to relax because it definitely doesn't come naturally. Even when I think I'm relaxed, others, including my husband (who knows me better than anyone), sense that I'm not. And I don't want to come across as someone who is uptight all of the time.
I've had some "need to relax" wake-up calls. Thankfully, none of these wake-up calls were serious, but as they've accumulated, they've been enough to tell me that even if I think I'm relaxed, I'm probably not, and I should think about this more and work on relaxing more.
Here are some of the wake-up calls I've had over the past few years:
- Heart palpitations--In the fall of 2008, after moving into our house, starting at a new school, and starting graduate school, I started having pain in my chest and shortness of breath. I figured it was my asthma kicking in. When the pain really became annoying, I went to an allergist/asthma doctor and was told that, no, it's not my asthma--it's stress. The heart palpitations went away (I had a lot going on that fall), and they've only returned for a couple of brief periods of time since then.
- "Take a chill pill"--I was driving to a Speech & Debate Team tournament with a few of the students from the team. One of the students was a new member. As I was going over times and some tournament information, this student jumped in and said, "I don't mean any disrespect by this Mrs. Fulton, but I think you need to take a chill pill." Hmmm...no student had ever said anything like that to me. I wasn't offended; I was interested. This student didn't really know me yet...or so I thought. When I asked what made him think that, he replied that I seemed like someone who gets stressed and uptight over things and I should really relax more. His bold statement and observations have stuck with me...and we still laugh about how he told me this shortly after meeting me and joining the team. :)
- Lessons from a voice teacher--One of my former voice teachers from just a couple of years ago was determined to get me to relax! She wanted to cure me from holding onto my stress. She picked up on my nature during my first lesson with her. I wasn't fully aware of it then! While she didn't cure me, she did help during the time I took lessons with her.
- Advice from a Spanish professor--As I walked out of our last Spanish class before our final exam just a couple of weeks ago, the professor walked out behind me and then walked beside me and asked if I would mind if she gave me some advice. I said "not at all," but I had no idea what this sweet, older woman was going to say. You guessed it--she said I should relax more. She went on to say, "Sometimes you just have to say f*** it! You don't have to do everything perfectly. Don't take life so seriously! Enjoy life!" The fact that this sweet woman said the f-word was surprising, but it made me take her seriously. And the fact that she made this observation after knowing me for only six weeks really made me think about what she said.
So the first step in solving a problem is to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a problem. My problem: I don't let myself relax enough. I need to learn to function on modes other than "110% 24/7." Now to learn to relax...