We all have a story and some sort of baggage, lessons and pain from our past. Some of us are still living our story because we feel stuck.
This past year has brought on challenges that I never dreamt I would face. I’ve had to realize that this quest of finding myself was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.
Backing up a little bit.
I was in education for 19 years as a full-time teacher. We had a levy fail in my district (I won’t name) and many teachers were cut and shifted around. I unfortunately was one moved. I loved my beloved position as a middle school teacher which is all I knew in my career. I was moved to 6th grade Social Studies and a new building. This ended up being a very toxic environment.
After two years of the worst harassment I’ve ever experienced from a building principal, my days turned into motions. The dedication and enthusiasm I once had for my life as a teacher was virtually gone. No matter what I did or how hard I tried, my heart was no longer in it. I had no idea what kind of bullying situation I was going to walk into each day. I had no idea what belittling words would be emailed or said to me or even my peers. The anxiety was crippling and this effected every part of my life. My peers were an amazing support and some had already been the target of this abuse and some were dealing with what I was dealing with.
The fact that I was still a great teacher and my parents and students loved me, only made me feel more miserable and confused. I had made major sacrifices and dedicated a great part of my life to the world of education, and to admit to myself that I needed to remove myself from this toxic environment, which meant resigning from what I loved after 19 years was too much to bear.
July of 2015, I packed up my belongings from my classroom and moved them home. A few days later, I notified my district that I was resigning and thanked them for the years of my amazing experience working with our students, programs and community. What I did not tell them is why I resigned. What I did not tell them is what hell I just endured for the past two years.
I remember the night that I resigned. I could not sleep. I grabbed a pillow, jammed it into my face, and let out a long scream. (My kids were in bed) Tears of frustration and anger ran down my face. This went on for some time.
After a while, my body was drained. I was totally exhausted, but I felt a strange sense of inner peace. For this phase of realizing my life was on a new path. It’s amazing, how you sometimes have to go through hell to feel some peace.
I decided right then and there that I had to get some clarity and answers. I needed some kind of indisputable sign that I was on the right path.
I made this choice to resign and I made the choice to choose my character and integrity over being bullied by someone who was supposed to encourage and lead teachers.
I have to admit, along this journey, my thoughts and focus have not allowed me to enjoy the rebuilding process of my life. I have dwelled on the negativity and have allowed this man (principal) to be an anchor that he had been for the past 2 years. I had actually allowed 3 years of this anchor.
I have had so much to be grateful for and so many great opportunities come my way. I was not using any of this to nourish my soul and allow myself to experience the happier, healthier reality.
One of my lifetime goals is to be at peace with the negative things that have occurred in my life. I’ve come to realize that they are a part of who I am and will be with me forever, but it is my choice on how I decide to handle them. No matter the pain and worry in life, there is always something to be grateful for. I have had to learn over this past year to dig deep, find positive over leaving my teaching position and look at what positive was happening around me. One week I was on cloud 9 and another week I was fighting depression, missing my classroom, missing being that teacher to so many that I know I made a difference in their life.
I have realized that happiness is a choice. I know many ask, if happiness is a choice, then why are so many people feeling crappy instead of happy? Why are so many people going through life feeling unfulfilled? I guess the answer to this is most people either don’t believe that happiness is a choice or can’t understand its meaning. Trust me, I get that at times, many of us can’t understand its meaning.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “People are about as happy as they make their minds to be.” This came from a man who had the country on his shoulders.
I think when I say people choose to be happy can be taken out of hand. Happiness isn’t one choice, like deciding which presidential candidate will make you less miserable or picking between chicken and the prime rib. Instead happiness is a long, continuous choice.
When you get up in the morning, before you step on that floor, list the things you have to be grateful for. I am grateful that I can get up and go to the gym as early as I can. I am grateful that I have a friend to meet at the gym. Then I come home and get my kids up for school. This makes me happy and I need to allow that to set my tone for the day. You need to find what makes you happy by getting up. It could just be that nice cup of coffee, but whatever it is, find that one thing to get your mind on a positive.
Any day there are a number of reasons/excuses that I can use to justify being unhappy. It can be work-related like with my career I chose to leave for my health, family issues, time management or someone else’s bad mood. The key, however, is that I know I am responsible for my own state of mind. I have allowed outside forces or circumstances to determine my happiness and let me tell you, to sends me in a quick downward spiral. The same goes for you.
Understand that it’s not the situation itself that is causing you to be unhappy or to feel unsuccessful, it’s the thoughts you have about the situation. It is what we choose to focus on that fuels our emotions.
For example, with school starting this week, traffic has increased greatly. I know many have been stuck in traffic and now have to deal with traffic jams or stopping for school buses. Do you choose to allow this to ruin your day, or can you laugh at it and find the goodness in the extra time to relax and listen to the radio and sip your coffee? Find the positive.
I will be the first to admit, that while in my black hole of doom, I was given so much to be grateful for and I still wasn’t happy. I allowed the obstacle of my school levy, and being placed in a toxic environment define me. I allowed a person who was negative become my anchor and hold me down. I was moving forward, but looking back, I was just in motion.
If there is one thing I would love for you to walk away with after reading this, it is the understanding that YOU have the power to experience any challenge in your life as a positive and an opportunity for growth. The way you ultimately experience these challenges is through the thought process. You need to identify the challenge and the address it.
I can tell you today, that I am human. I have stressors and I still have my down days about resigning, but it is time to focus on what I do have.
When I allow outside circumstances to determine my happiness, my state of mind deteriorates. It then brings a lack of confidence and a feeling of failure. As a result, my enjoyment and appreciation of all the good stuff that life has offered me gets distorted, leaving me in a victimized state.
I have decided it is time to be the person that I am…. DAILY! I am going to take that anchor and learn from it. Letting go of hurt and anger and deal constructively with all of this is the right choice. This is an everyday battle for many of us, but you are not alone.
Of course you will have a bad day. On these days, say to yourself, “Okay, I blew it, but I need to bounce back from them.” I found that being too hard on myself, only made me feel worse. I know that I am in control of how I feel and going forward, I have promised myself that I will enjoy my days.
I know that today, I would not be where I am at if I didn’t resign. I can of course be upset with this or I can choose to be happy. I am going to choose to be happy, but I can tell you, I do have my days.
Today, I am a certified Life Coach. I know, funny after reading my struggle right? Actually, this has helped my clients a great deal, along with helping myself as well. I am authentic and I can understand my clients struggle. I have been there, so I get it. It is the experiences I have had that allow me to help others. I have also been trained which in turn not only helped me, but gave me more tools for my clients. I absolutely love helping people.
I am teaching part-time in Columbus City Schools and working with some of the most challenging students. I have made great connections and I have made many great friends. I am a co-founder of RAW: Real Adolescent Work, which is my passion in the Urban Schools. I am an author. Maybe not the best, but I have written two books. I probably need to hire an editor, but you know, I still did it!
I have healthy boys, and I have my person that loves me unconditionally, even while in my black hole.
It’s easy to play the victim. It’s easy to blame outside circumstances for interfering with your plans and goals, and life not going exactly as planned. Every minute you wallow in a negative state, you keep yourself from the quality of life you desire. I have lived this, this past year. I have recognized that my thoughts have caused my emotions to snowball out of control and shift my thinking to the black hole.
I know that adversity is necessary in order to grow. I choose to experience what happens as life lessons. I will continue to grow and I challenge you to do the same.
I know that adversity is necessary in order to grow. I choose to experience what happens as life lessons. I will continue to grow and I challenge you to do the same. Step away from those moments that bring you down and focus on the aspects of yourself that bring you up.
Bless the things that life has given you, rather than cursing what you are lacking. Always find the laughter. This is what a change in focus can change and how you view life. The more we all focus on what is working in life, the more we will all appreciate what we have and the more we elevate our degree of overall happiness.
That is the single most important lesson I have learned, and I learned it the hard way. When you make happiness a habit, you will find yourself in the place of desires, dreams and much ease when things to arise. . You will also be able to not only forgive, but ask to be forgiven.
Becky Shaffer–Life Coach, Author