Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Big Four For Balance

My beloved, budding page has gone untouched for a solid amount of time now, and it's time to get back to it! Things picked up around here, and the rainstorms started, causing internal laziness and more blanket-and-bed-prone aspirations, while work was telling me, "Hahahah!! Yeahhh...right. Get up, girl! You've got meetings with the parents on Friday, and progress reports due next week. You don't have time to just hang out by the heater and snuggle with yourself." So I didn't. ....for the most part.

The thing about working two jobs, is that you kind of have no choice but to become somewhat of a workaholic. Your weekdays generally consist of little other than your morning routine, (which for me is a HUGE part of my life -- devotional, prayer, meditation, yoga, breakfast. I actually only need about 10 minutes to get my appearance together, it's all the getting ready I do within that takes the time), getting yourself to and from work (shout-out to all my people in LA who have got that morning commute grind to suffer!), working, and eating, usually while simultaneously working, or at least thinking/planning for one of the jobs.

When a new friend was asking me about my hobbies, I was so blocked by work, that it was the only thing I could think of to bring up! I said, "Well, I work a lot... and I usually eat lunch in between my two jobs. . ." And then he said, "So eating is your hobby." It was perfectly acceptable, because he is Roman, and food is just about the best hobby you could ever have, but still, the fact I didn't even think about the weekends just goes to show you how engrossed I have become in the worklifeflow.

And last week, I finally realized (/admitted to myself) I am actually a workaholic. Which is ironic, because I "fled" the US so I could avoid going down the path I saw most everyone else following -- work/status[aholic], engaged, married, children, and big dreams of traveling the world. But I guess that's kind of the way it works out, isn't it? The thing you try to escape, is usually what catches up to you. "What you resist, persists."

And so, here I find myself, in one of the most desirable places in the world (Spain has been selected as the fifth best country to live in, and Andalucia the best part of the country, especially, Sevilla), and I am constantly thinking about, planning for, or doing work.

Luckily, I have developed passion for my job as a teacher, and I really do enjoy it. And, if anyone were to look at my life from the outside, they would say I'm pretty dang lucky. Heck, I look at my life from the inside AND outside, and tell myself I'm pretty stinkin' lucky. But teaching is taxing, and man, let me tell you, it's been an amazing practice in... wait for it... yep, yep, one of the things I've ALWAYS said I have a hard time with applying in my life......


(Big surprise there, huh?)

Who'd have thought that not only would I be trying to ditch out on a life based mostly around work, just to end up in one like that!? Especially in another country as an English-teaching-expat! And also, not only would I end up with a brain full of lesson plans, vocabulary games, grammar techniques, verb tenses, and explanations, but I'd be learning one of the most necessary lessons I needed to learn in my life: how to balance it all. (Can I perhaps suggest this was part of God's plan for me, and why He kept calling me back here?) And I've gotta say, I think I have become pretty good at this!

I figured out pretty early on that with teaching, planning ahead is everything. Really, it is. If you are trying to plan your lessons in the minutes available before you have the class, it's probably not going to work so well. Unless you're a seasoned vet, it's best to plan ahead. When you're a first-time teacher, using the materials and books for the first time, and refreshing your own English language knowledge yourself, planning ahead, namely looking at the material beforehand, is a crucial part of your survival.

Another huge part of finding, and maintaining, balance when work is the largest component of your life, is to really let yourself take a break. When you go on vacation, hit the weekend, or have a little break between jobs, it is so important that you really let yourself take your mind off work. Don't even let yourself stray to it! If it starts to happen, stop yourself, you can always return to it when it's not your personal time.

When I went home for two weeks, I was sitting in church on Sunday morning, having arrived in California less than 12 hours before, circling words in the bulletin that I wanted to teach my First Certificate students, because I thought if they could work it into the speaking part of the exam, it would raise their scores. I was thinking about ways the pastor could simplify his sermon so that everyone could understand it (not remembering that everyone around me had grown up with English), and freaking out that he was speaking in "such a complicated way." (Really, it was just a native way of speaking English. Nothing too advanced or fancy, but in my mind, knowing how an ESL student learns, I was like, "Ohhh noooo, they aren't going to get any of this!! Wait! Stoppp!!")

It was then that I decided I wasn't going to let myself think about work for the rest of the time I was home. I would talk about it with people, since I was home, and they would ask, and that's part of it, but I wasn't going to allow myself to think, "Have I got all my lesson plans made for the week we get back?" Or, "What games should we play/activities should we do?" I let myself have those two weeks without thinking about it. And if work started to creep in my mind, and I started to wonder if I had everything ready for when we returned, I'd stop myself mid-thought and say, "You are on vacation. TAKE THE VACATION!! Everything is fine. You have time when you get back to Sevilla to check it out. Right now, you NEED to vacate your mind. Enjoy where you're at, and especially what's going on." And I did!

And since I've been back, I've been implementing this same method. If I am at the weekend, and I start to think too much about work, I just remind myself that I've got it all planned ahead, at least one or two weeks, and that right now, it is essential to take this time off to enjoy life, and enjoy other things than the classroom.

So my bottom-line is this:
  1. Wake up early. No, a little earlier than that. It's likelyway earlier than you want to, but just do it. And do your morning devotional, journaling, prayer, meditation, yoga, and movements. Make a big breakfast, and eat it as fast as you need to to make it out the door on time (apologizing to your body the whole time for shoveling food into it and then immediately proceeding to exercise by biking to the metro), but make sure you eat it. The day requires energy, and you can't give it your all if you're starting empty.
  2. Plan ahead. For me, I work two jobs, Monday-Thursday, and I have some spare time between the jobs. So I dedicate myself to focusing on work, and almost only work, on those four days of the week. I get my lesson plans done, papers graded, games planned, and photo copies made, and then I reward myself with three days to vacate my mind and not think about it.
  3. Eat right. You cannot feel good about yourself if you're treating yourself like a trash dump. And as a teacher, or any other job where you are constantly in contact with other people, and the pace is quick, you have got to love yourself, or you can't love those eager or bored faces in front of you.
  4. Allow yourself not to think about it. Really, don't do it. I can't stress this enough! It's so important to make yourself take a mental break from thinking about work. If you don't, you're consumed by it. And for a lot of people these days, that means being consumed by something you don't necessarily love. 
So those are my Big Four For Balance! All our lives, habits, and needs are different, so find what works for you. But I promise you, the "vacate your mind" one, applies to us all! And in reality, all of this post is written in such irony, as I currently have a "puente" (long weekend, from Thursday to Sunday), and one of the first things I did this morning was start writing about work and being obsessed with it. Whoops.

But now, it's time for me to take my own advice! I know I've got all my lessons planned for at least the next week coming up, and with four different couchsurfers, from four different countries, all coming to our place for varying nights from tomorrow to Monday, I could do myself a great service by spending an hour or so doing some yoga before a tapas-filled and touristy weekend commences!

Work your tail off when you're working, but relax your face off when you're not. Life is all about finding that sweet balance between give and take, and for many of you, you're approaching the weekend, which means it is time to take -- a break, a rest, a jog, a shot, a pint, a nap, a ride, a-whatever, just take it easy and get your mind off your work for at least a couple days!

Sweet, sweet Blessings to you all, and endless amounts of Love & Light!
Love to everyone, from the core of my being <3

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