And Still I Rise*

Passion is important, whether it is for teaching or for any other profession. Yet passion, as with anything that is all-consuming, can eventually fade and even die altogether.

The greatest challenge is figuring out what to do when passion dies (or is dying). For instance, can I "rise again" when I've made mistakes or experienced some hurt on the job? Or has my working life become so riddled with humiliating moments and unholy compromises that teaching truly is a "thankless" job for me?

If it is the latter, what can I do to heal myself and revitalize my passion? How will I know when it is time to let go of the path that I am on and try something else?

So, for me, passion alone isn't enough. Figuring out how to make it through those "dark nights of the soul" is just as important.

These emotional points came up on a recent discussion in a teacher’s forum, and I wanted to share some possibilities in response. 

Healing the Self

1. It may sound trite, but if possible, take a weekend and reflect in solitude. It may be difficult to arrange, but a personal vacation or even a personal stay-cation (where other family members give you the space) just... helps. Treat yourself to some pampering, whether that’s a bubble bath and a clay mask or fishing in the early morning.  The goal is peace and quiet. You’ll naturally reflect on things, particularly if you stay away from the computer and other mind-numbing activities.  You’ll (hopefully) feel refreshed.

2. Pick one person to talk to. That friend should be a very positive, warm individual, the kind of person that makes you feel energized (as opposed to drained) after spending time with him/her. This needs to be a very grounded person, not someone caught up in drama or turmoil.  Get together with that person, if only for a meal, a visit, or a phone call.  Let this person know what he/she means to you and his/her role in your life.

I had one friend I’d call, and she’d say, “Need some distraction?”  Because she and I had discussed our friendship roles, she knew. We were each other’s support mechanisms.  For me it was distraction of other conversation, generally followed by a new perception on an issue (kind of like what Dr. House experiences with his "breakthrough" diagnoses at weird moments).After talking with her and being a little silly about school or teaching or classes, I would feel tons lighter and better able to cope with my issue.

3. Begin a daily or weekly routine of doing one thing that nourishes your spirit. Whether that one thing is singing, dancing, music, painting, roller derby, or wrestling, do it. If you say you don’t have time, then cut something else that might be getting in the way. That one thing you do for yourself is every bit as important as what you do for others because otherwise, you experience the type of depression that care-givers experience. For that matter, teachers experience a burnout that is a lot like care-giver burnout, and the guilt we feel for taking time for ourselves is every bit as daunting.

     “How can I take time for myself when I have my family to take care of and so much to do for them?” you might ask.

It is because you have families to take care of that you must take time for yourself. You’re no good to anyone functioning at 50%. Only after you’ve made some efforts to self-heal, can you take the next step.

Revitalizing Passion

1. Many teachers jump straight to this step. However, unless you’re in a good spot on a personal level, you can’t revitalize. Knowing what revitalizes you is crucial. What kinds of things make you feel excited about teaching your upcoming classes or courses?

For some, watching an inspirational movie does the trick. For others, a good book or going to a seminar of your choosing. Whatever lifts you and your profession “up” is where you’re headed.  For example, for a few years running, I’d attend a week-long seminar that helped build curriculum. Working with other professionals who were excited about teaching totally energized me.  It was a rush, for lack of a better word.

But you’re not done, yet. This is only the feel good part. Now comes the hard part.

2. The ability to tap back into that rush is difficult. However, much like you need to do something for yourself every day/week, you also need to consciously tap into your passion every day/week. If you’re in a dark moment, find the mechanism (the friend, the book, the movie, the activity) that brings you back. If you’re in a dark moment, actively seek light; don’t wallow in the comfort of the darkness. There will be someone or something to help you.

Letting go of the path is something only you can decide, but I'm hoping that by renewing your self and determining what reignites and helps you tap back into your passion will help you make that decision with greater confidence and peace.

             You may shoot me with your words,
             You may cut me with your eyes,
             You may kill me with your hatefulness,
             But still, like air, I'll rise.

                                             ~ Maya Angelou*

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