Life isn’t always a beach. This is true indeed. Nor is it always plain sailing. Would we want it to be? Would we feel inspired, invigorated, challenged, awakened, aware…any of these things, if it were?
It is fair to say I have been feeling incredibly jaded. I have been reaching a level of emotional burnout, through the effect of various pressures, both externally and internally. And this takes its toll. Once stress is enabled to build-up within us, the effects become long-lasting, have damaging results health-wise, and our mental state feels the hit, hard.
Happy to say however, that though my pressures continue, I have turned some corners. With workloads and with facing some social anxieties head on, (by reconnecting with an old female friend), as well as treading the boards of my beloved dance floor once more. Is it fair to put the blame of all these stressors onto living in Lagos? Maybe. But not entirely.
Working in a school, whether you are a teacher, teaching assistant, on the management team, part of admin and facilities, or whatever, is hard. It is. Being an educator does not begin at 9am and end at 3pm. Though it would be spectacular if it did. (Impossible also but anyhow….) Often in life I have been faced with the phrase, “Those who can, do. And those who can’t, teach”. Wow. Imagine if there were no more teachers anymore. Maybe the phrase is correct, we are insignificant members of society, always on holiday, not knowing the pressure of what a ‘real’ job feels like, having no idea at all of what pressure means either.
I have felt personally offended, and of course defensive by such insinuations and when shown a Ted talk recently, by the late Rita Peterson, I found myself reminded what drives me to do this. To battle against the ever-growing amounts of paperwork, assessment and data, in comparison with what is fundamentally a very small proportion of time with the children themselves. I am studying once again, under my own volition. Consequently I do accept and know that I could be living a simpler life if I changed this. But I want to grow, and I want to increase the capability of what I have to offer to children, most especially the vulnerable ones. The world we now live in dictates that more and more letters after our names are the main way to achieve this. And though to an outsider this may sound absurd, our jobs are becoming more and more under threat. If I were to sit on my laurels, I would quickly find myself with highly limited options, and certainly I have already felt the restrictions that International Teaching puts upon us all, especially if you have a mortgage, need to save for a pension and/or any other major financial constraint you may be facing.
So, I work hard. Then, I work a bit more. Then when I’m just about ready to drop, I work a bit harder. At least for this year.
Despite all of this, one thing that has not left me, even whilst I have allowed myself the sacrifice of being an absent friend, sister and daughter, has been to do my very best to instill joy among the children in my supervision. We all only get one life, but we most certainly only get one shot at childhood. So though I have been facing some internal battles and strains, I have never failed to make time for the little ones.
As we celebrated World Book day recently, though at times inside I was feeling like crying, (or even better, just sleeping, finding some time for me), I set about conjuring up an outfit fitting for the theme of “Mystery, Fantasy and Adventure”. Admittedly in Lagos this is not a simple matter of using Amazon or going to the high street shops etc to get a costume, but I feel I managed to pull it off reasonably 😉
We had a wonderful time that day, we danced our socks off in the costume parade, we imagined we were in a pirate ship, we wrote cryptic riddles (example, and yes, this came from a 4-year-old – “I am a great dancer, and I can turn into a werewolf” – got it yet?), and we laughed. A lot. It is why Rita’s talk resonated so well for me – children do not learn from someone they don’t like. Do any of us?
However, days like these were stark reminders of how little I had been laughing freely, for so long. How rundown and empty I felt. Ironically, I had only recently taught my class about the importance of not allowing this to happen; a concept termed “Keeping your bucket filled”. I know better than allow mine to empty. Yet I had done so.
Thank goodness for friends and loved ones. Thank goodness for a home. Above this however, thank goodness for sense of own self to be strong enough to trust that: saying no; staying home; being silent; allowing the discomfort of difficult thoughts and feelings to just be there, whilst they need to be, rather than busying myself even more in order to not hear/feel them, means I am still lovable and ultimately, I am quite alright.
Lo and behold, things slowly and gently started to shift. I found myself spending a lot of time underwater once again. Floating along the bottom of the pool, hearing the sounds of little, yet the music in my heart. Sitting outside, remembering how much I need to be among trees, water, sky, (cold beer included now and again too). Saying yes and this time starting to push myself.
The key has not been that life in Lagos is hard. Or that there is too much work to do.
It is not really anything more than this:
– sometimes we wade through a swamp, other times we skip along the sand –
Trusting in one’s own heart, is the key and in some ways it could be said….it is the
I’ve needed to sit within my own winter period, despite the raging heat of Lagos reaching in the 40s these last months. I have needed to hibernate and not be the creative, social, colourful princess that I can be. And more than that, I have needed to work and not resent that I am carving out further opportunities for myself even when the party has gone on without me.
Then, when I have been ready, I have been able to step back into the scene, cautious yet alive, and found myself sparkling once again. Lagos really does bring some sparkle to my eyes at times!
It is the Easter period now, and I will spend it completing my latest paper. It can indeed be frustrating as friends send me photos of exotic and far-off travels in Senegal, South Africa, Berlin and so on. But it is more than okay for me. I want to surpass this latest goal, I want to open up more doors in my life. And you know what, I have pulled it off that right now I am in the Cypriot mountains, listening to birdsong that is louder than any I have ever heard, and writing doesn’t seem all that bad after all. Oh, and I’m also feeling like a pretty good daughter it has to be said – I have achieved it that I could bring my mum here, as an early birthday celebration, given that I will be absent on the actual day itself. As it goes, there are worse places I could be. And any suffering I have been having, is there for me to learn from. To teach me what is needed for that true beach in my life.