(Half of this story has been posted on Facebook, and as everyone who reads this blog is also there, it feels silly to retell it, but both halves go together, so...)
The kids found a cockroach behind the iPad cart on one of the last days of school. It was at least an inch and a half long, black, and shiny. The kind people euphemistically call "waterbugs" or "palmetto bugs." This year's cohort of fifth graders contained several ardent bleeding heart animal lovers, so killing the roach was out of the question.
They caught it. Under a cup. I was the one who slid the paper under to trap it. I was the one who did that. Then I ran screaming for the door and nearly knocked over a dear, sweet, quiet girl named Gabby when I threw it open. The kids reverently deposited it (the cockroach. COCKROACH.) in the grass and cheered, encouraging it to find a safe home and family.
Yesterday was the final workday of the year. No kids, just me and a mountain of cleaning and paperwork. It was well into the day when I encountered our shiny black friend's close relative, hiding behind a stack of guided reading books.
I screamed. No one came. My vision got blurry, and my heart started racing. Clearly, in spite of my earlier heroics, my phobia was not cured. I went and got a colleague to help me dispose of it. Then I put my head on my desk and sobbed.
The end of the year is always an emotional time. By this time, you and your class have learned each other. You're a strange kind of family. And then they're gone, and that's it.
But there was more than that going on for me here. At the time, it seemed clear and heartbreaking to me that my students are the source of my powers. They were my phonebooth. Around them, I can be a superhero because I HAVE to be. And for the next two months, I have to just be a regular human being. Mild mannered and phobic.
I'm still slightly stunned that I lucked into a job that I love so much. Of course, it's an impossible job, and I'd die if I didn't get to take a break from it every year, but I still like myself better when I'm doing it.
This year, I have become much more open about the anxiety disorders I've been diagnosed with. Which today led to the following conversation with a colleague as she prepared her report cards (we both waited until WAY the last minute to do our report cards).
Her (looking distraught and overwhelmed): "I have reached panic mode. It's finally hit me that tomorrow is the last day of school."
Me: "Haha, that's my life all of the time."
Her: "I know. How do you live? I couldn't do it.
A. I am so grateful that she recognized my truth here and didn't see my response as oneupsmanship.This colleague and I work very closely together, and our relationship has not always been smooth. A road of very open communication and hard work to understand each other has led us to a place of mutual support and benefit. I credit this to the fact that, in spite of our almost completely different mindsets, personalities, and preferences, we both value relationships, are open minded, and want what is best for children.
There was a time when I wouldn't have admitted this on her behalf, and it is still hard for me to say (anything positive) on my own behalf. Things like this make me realize the huge growth I've made in my 4 years in this profession.
(And for what it's worth, me in the past? She's a fucking amazing educator, and you're lucky to have her on your team.)
B. I do not believe in bragging about or fetishizing one's diagnosis. I don't want the fact that my body releases a toxic flood of chemicals every time I receive an email punctuated with periods instead of smiling emojis to be something that I use as an excuse or crutch to avoid responsibility. That said, it is helpful for me to recognize that my reactions are not normal, and that they are a physical thing that my body is doing. I've spent too long believing that I reasonably hated myself because I was a terrible human being who does everything wrong.
That said, it was disappointing to realize that having a better understanding of my emotional responses did not make them go away. I am learning to be satisfied with being able to handle them better. I've taken back the control they had. So that's something.