Isn’t it wonderful how God gives us exactly what we need? As you could tell, I was badly needing some rejuvenation last week. Life is busy in May…life is busy, period…and I had lost my ability to handle it all. I think that happens because we need fresh perspective, new energy, and a good dose of focus. When we lose the ability to be productive and positive in our lives, we are forced to take a step back and find those things.
This weekend I went to visit my sister, Sarah. We ran a 5K race on Saturday, and I am very happy with my performance. I ran almost the entire race, with only one short 1 or 2 minute walking break in the middle by the water station. I finished with a time of 35:58. Yay! I said I had no goal except to just do my best, but my secret goal was to be able to run enough of the race (instead of walking) to finish under 40:00, and I wildly surpassed my expectations of myself. Running the 5K also gave me new motivation to continue working, sign up for another 5K, and do better. And maybe run a 10K someday soon…maybe within the next year or two…
We had various opportunities to hang out with Sarah’s fellow graduate students this weekend. Her boyfriend John went out to dinner with us on Friday night, and picked us up for church on Saturday afternoon. Her friend Allison ran the 5K, and we went with Allison, Rebecca, Elizabeth, and Andy to explore some parks and trails this afternoon. And we also had some conversations and meals with her roommate Teresa. I was thinking in the back of my mind all weekend about something Sarah said, that I watch t.v. much more than people she knows. This struck me because, I watch t.v. much less than most people I know! So I was sort of unconciously wondering, what is it about the Sarah people that is different? First of all, grad students are incredibly busy. I understand that. They are coming near to accomplishing a goal that they have been focused on for six years or more! As a result of these six years, the people that I’ve talked to in Sarah’s life seem to have their priorities in order. One, relationship with God. Two, relationships with people. And three, their work. Everything else is below those three things. So of course, since their work takes up so much of their time, and since what time is left they fill with friendships, romantic relationships, and family, there isn’t much t.v. watching. But it’s not t.v. specifically, and it’s not the time spent on those non-priority activities that is the point. The point is that what you make a priority, you do. If they made t.v. a priority, or magazines or video games or underwater basketweaving, something would have to go. It might be their relationship with God, or their human relationships, or this incredible goal they’ve been working toward.
After the 5K, our aunt Tammy took us out for lunch. Over the course of our conversation, she asked me if I was looking forward to being done with the school year. As per the stresses of last week, I was quick to affirm. We got to talking about the challenges faced by preschool teachers in my district, and the challenges I face with my one particular student, and she asked if I have a student exactly like that again next year, what could I do differently to be sure I don’t burn out? I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something like almost every preschool class in the district has at least one, and we need to do our best for the students, and that’s just the way it is. You know, poor us, martyring our happiness for the cause. We women are good at that. 🙂 But the truth is, I would burn out a lot faster in a classroom of kids who don’t need me. There are students in this world who would do great with or without a good preschool teacher. That group of students, year after year…ugh. What are you going back for every morning? Knowing that you’ll get that group of students again in the fall…how would you get excited about the beginning of the school year? I’m glad someone does, because obviously those kids should have a good education and good teachers too. I just don’t think I’m one of those people. I get excited about a kid who needs to learn social skills. I get excited about parents who are apprehensive of schools. I get excited about a child who doesn’t get read to at home, who then takes books home from school and begs his parents to read them! I get excited when a parent comes to me with a question and the assumption that we are on the same team, working together for the benefit of the child. Will I teach preschool forever? No, probably not. But I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t imagine doing anything forever. But teaching preschool is not making me a martyr of happiness. It is enhancing my fulfillment. I believe that if I am doing my job right, with care and passion, I will have times when I need some refocusing. This weekend was that.
So, my applications of what I’ve learned this weekend: What are my priorities? Am I spending time growing in my faith and deepening my relationship with God? Am I focusing on my relationships with the people in my life? Am I taking opportunities to spend time with my friends and family when they arise? Am I creating these opportunites where need be? Am I putting a priority on the things I need to do for work? What do I need to do this week? What do I need to make sure gets done in the next three weeks? Am I remembering that the school year is a cycle, and this month feels crazy-busy, but it will be followed by a nice long break if I get all my stuff done? 🙂 This may sound like internal pressure, adding to my to-do list, or whatever. But it feels more like a spiritual and mental spring cleaning! The fridge is clean, the closets are organized, and the light is shining on the focal point of the room!