Emotions are hard to curate. Harder and harder as days pass, I begin to think, “what’s the point of navigating, compartmentalizing, polishing all this nonsense?!” Begin is an understatement here. When discussing this and so much more with professionals, they always ask,
“are you feeling suicidal?”
The frank answer to that is no. No, I’m not suicidal, but yes, I’m going mad with all the drivel life’s been offering. Some have it worse than me, let’s get that out of the way. Nevertheless, as an individual with a brain and a heart that work together to keep me going like a blasé Energizer Bunny, these feeeeeeelings are keeping down and blue, so down and so blue. At this point, I’m comfortably comatose – wake up at 5:30am to sit in 23 miles worth of traffic to make it to work by 7:30am, go through the motions of classes and hoards of violent students, off by 3:30pm only to sit in the same (only worse) traffic to make it home by 5:30pm. All the while, I am numb, I am fighting, I am naked. Naked because I don’t have the time to take care of myself, fighting because I’m normally the type of employee who is dedicated to their work but this time around I have to be the opposite, numb because I don’t have a choice and because I don’t have a choice, this is life or death.
Everyday – especially over the past three months – has been a continuous game of Extreme Tug o’ War. So badly I want to give myself to my job. For clarification: I work as an ELD TA at a trauma informed high school that is focused on restorative justice. On paper that sounds great, that’s how I was hooked! In practice, however, it’s not great. Not even good. Not even okay. It’s mediocre at best. On one side of the ring is a cohort of devoted educators with a shared foundational goal: live with intention and with the students best interest at heart. On the other side of the ring are classes of students how’ve thrown in the towel and abuse the school’s mission statement. For context: we’re in Watts, CA. Get the picture?
Everyday, I’m exposed to new traumas: students cussing out staff, students ditching, smoking weed, drinking in the restrooms, students getting arrested, students bringing weapons to school, students who can’t even read or write or multiply or divide, students who are desensitized to sexual and physical abuse, students who’ve never been exposed to anything past their garbage neighborhood bubble, students who get shot, students who shoot, students gravely affected by institutionalized racism, students endemically downtrodden by socioeconomic inequalities, students who can’t.
And what am I supposed to do, what are we supposed to do, as educators, as advocates, as humans. How are we supposed to process all of this? The inspired fire is dissipating. We see each other in the halls, through the obstacles of students, and think to one another,
“yet another day in this war zone,
only [x] days to the weekend,
only [x] days to peace.”
On the weekends, I cry. Cry because I don’t enjoy eating anymore, because I’m swept from cozy slumbers by nightmares induced students, because I am disassociated. Cry because this isn’t me! Cry because even if this isn’t me it’s the only way to survive.
So now, do I continue with the apathy that keeps me under or do I go back to internalizing my surroundings that will inevitably make me go under?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. Keeps me from adoring my passions as I once did. Keeps me from happiness. Keeps me from quitting my job for fear of not finding anything else, fear of losing relationships built with co-workers, fear of no longer having the health insurance that’s allowed me to learn more about my well-being. I’m conflicted, I’m confused, I’m ambivalent.