I am prone to stress. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s perfectionism or upbringing or some kind of chemical imbalance, but more often than not I find myself overthinking things and locked into some kind of death spiral from which it’s hard to escape. This is particularly true of teaching, because it is an endless job, the kind of thing which (if you’re prone) you will inevitably carry home with you – even if you leave the books at school.
My habitual reaction to situations like this in the past has been to run away. If something is difficult, if it is not working, and you are stressed out by it, then clearly it is not right for you, and it’s time to go. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but that’s the gist of it. Friendships, jobs, cities… I don’t want to over-state how much I do this but I have that tendency in my brain, to think that if it was right then it would just work.
That’s easy enough when you’re young, but the older you get the more difficult it is. It’s harder to make new friends, for one thing, because who has the time for that? More than that, though. Each thing you burn up and get away from becomes another few months gone, another opportunity lost at a time when opportunities are narrowing and narrowing. And then there are those things that you can’t just get away from. You have a house, and a mortgage. Selling it means a massive upheaval, and finding a new commute, and losing a pile of money in stamp duty. You are married. Of course, you can’t get away from that person (and nor would you want to, incidentally), but suddenly your decisions make an impact on someone else, and you are less cavalier with them. You have a career. It might not be ideal, but the alternative is starting again at the bottom of a ladder you don’t even know whether you want to climb, and not knowing if you’ll even make it.
And so you stay put, or at least I do, and everything in you for a little bit cries out that this is wrong, and you should run away – be like Robert De Niro in Heat, and when the heat is on, be willing to drop it all and go in five minutes. And it’s terrifying. Your whole way of doing things, your whole cowardly (and mostly quite effective) way, isn’t really an option any more, or at least not without causing untold risk and pain to your family. And so you start to wonder, like you always do, whether if it was right, it wouldn’t be this hard. You’d love your job and you’d feel comfortable where you lived and you wouldn’t be so worried.
And then you stay a little longer, and the panic starts to pass, and you start to realise that maybe this is okay. That in turn makes you still more worried, because maybe you’re becoming complacent and settling for less, and so you start to think again about how maybe you should get out, and you start looking for new houses and new jobs… just in case. And the whole cycle starts again.
For a while I was breaking the cycle. I was content, things were great and I felt peaceful with just about everything. It lasted about three months. And then I got tired, exhausted even, and started to wonder if I could keep doing this job, if I was actually cut out for it at all, and the cycle started again.
I’m tired of this game. I was learning how to be content whatever the circumstances and then my stupid brain undid it all again, and for what? For possibilities that I worry about not ever being able to achieve. Fat lot of good they are. It’s a running joke at work that I have a ‘Plan B’, that I’m always thinking of what I can do if one day the heat is on and I have to get away. I’m tired of living life like that; living with an escape plan, always ready to run away. Just for once I’m sticking here, even if everything might not be perfect. I have to believe that’s a better plan for happiness than the alternative.