I've got this image in my mind of myself right now. I'm in the water somewhere and I am paddling as furiously as I can just to keep my head above water, like a labrador going for a stick in the lake. And as the waves keep coming for me, and I know that even in the lull between them, the next big one just might swamp me.

In the past week I had two different dreams related to water and drowning. First, I dreamed that I was in New Orleans and that the floodwaters were rising and rising, and I had to escape with all of my family, but that Spousal Unit got left behind. Then, I dreamed that I was swimming in the ocean and a wave came up that was a big as the house, and that I dove into it like you do to avoid getting smaked in the face with waves when you're at the beach in the summer, but as I dove, I knew the wave would be too big. It was -- it picked me up and then fell away beneath me, leaving me hanging in mid-air for a minute before I started to fall. As I was falling, I was thinking about whether or not I should hold my nose, dive in head first or feet first, but I knew that no matter what I did, it was futile. And then I woke up.

From everything that I have heard and read, the first year of teaching is the most difficult. Well, I certainly hope it doesn't get any harder. I am so so tired. And it is only the third week. My classes are going really well, I think. The students seem engaged. They're doing the work. They seem to like the subject and they generally pay attention when I talk to them and when they talk to each other. But I feel like I am paying a really high price for this success.

Yesterday I snapped at Spousal Unit at a dinner with some folk and really hurt his feelings. At the end of a long day of teaching and commuting, going out with people was the last thing I wanted to do, but felt obliged to help celebrate a birthday. Clearly, I should have stayed home. My stress was spilling out in inappropriate ways, hurting the person I care about the most.

I have a goal right now. It seems like such a simple goal, but it continues to elude me. That goal is to have one day of commuting -- just one day -- where in the hour it takes me to get to campus, I'm not in a total panic about whether or not I will be prepared for the classes of that day. Maybe it will happen this week. Maybe.

And as for the drowning, I think it is clearly time to get back into the swimming pool at the Y. To take the time to remind myself that I know how to swim. And that I love to swim, no matter how big the waves are.


At 2:56 PM HistGrad said...

Wow... I can relate. Running from the boulder was my personal metaphor, but swamped works just as well, too. I might blog about this, too, but I've had numerous New Orleans dreams, and in one I was on the second floor porch with the waters rising and in order to escape to a boat I had to use the self-defense techniques we learned to fight off some men, first! How's that for mixing anxieties??

Swamped, panicked, snapping, exhausted... yup, that pretty much sums it up. My first year of teaching was the same year my husband and I were living in different states, and I often think that perhaps that was a good thing. I could be as stressed and as sloppy as I wanted without having to worry about the care and feeding of others. :)

Hang in there. It will get better. You'll even notice a big improvement next semester. You can make it until then -- I know you can.

At 5:37 PM Suz said...

I remember some retreat where I had to come up with a spiritual goal (at the time I had little kids and was commuting to law school) and all I could write for my goal: Drive somewhere slowly!

I wish you a good swim and a slow drive and some music and kind words with SU. You are doing great and will be rewarded with calmer days.

What ever these first few weeks have been like, they are not predetermined for the next few. It will ebb and flow (back to the ocean!)

And when you are just at the end of a day and can go no further, feel free to say so! Everyone runs out at some point and has to regroup, refresh. Take as good of care of yourself as you do of your students. :-)

Congrats on another week under your belt!


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