I have no doubt that my childhood influenced my decision to go into teaching. I wanted to be a positive influence in the lives of children by fostering a nurturing classroom environment. So, it made sense to me to specialize in Early Childhood Education. This gave me the platform to help young children establish a strong foundation not only in their education, but also in their lives.
I didn’t start out as an education major though. At first I was going to major in sociology, but had no idea what I wanted to do in that field…maybe social work. But at every family get together when my answer to the dreaded question, “what will you do with a degree in sociology” was met with disapproval, I was discouraged from pursuing a career in social work. Because there’s not enough money in it, it’s hard work and depressing….they would say. Ironically, people try to dissuade would be teachers with the same argument. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s this: it’s not always about the money.
I spent a total of 20 years working in the field of education as a tutor, a substitute and a classroom teacher. For the first four years, I was single and dating. My fifth year of teaching was very eventful! I married Mr. Hines during first semester and discovered that I was expecting during second semester. My plan was to wait for five years before having children. I wasn’t ready to be a mother, but I had decided long before I ever met Mr. Hines that I would be a stay-at-home mom. So, I resigned at the end of that school year, and I was so upset about ending my career so soon. So upset that when I sat down to tell my boss, she thought I was going to tell her I had cancer. (Perhaps I should have been a theater major.) But, I had really gotten use to life as a teacher. It’s who I was. The birth of my daughter changed all that.
I think any pregnant woman feels insecure about the inevitable weight gain. It didn’t help when someone said, “You went from being a svelte bride to having a pregnant belly.” I held back tears as I smiled and nodded in agreement. By the end of my pregnancy I had gained sixty pounds.
After I gave birth, my hypothyroidism seemed to spiral out of control, even though I was being treated. I spent the next ten years in a battle against depression and weight. I realized that my identity had shifted from being a teacher, to being thin. In my mind, I had to be thin to be pretty. I told a friend at the time that I felt like the real me was hidden under 3o or 4o pounds. I did not recognize myself in the mirror, and I did not feel sexy AT ALL. This did a number on my sex life. Poor Matt. The doctor told me to wait six weeks after my c-section; the usual orders. I waited for three months, and even then I felt obligated because it was our anniversary ,or we might still be waiting….LOL! Just kidding.
It took two years, but I lost most of the weight I gained from pregnancy, only to gain it back after about a year. I have been overweight ever since which has been about nine years now. I’ve tried not to put my identity in my physical appearance. Some days I’m successful, others I’m not. I’ve worked at accepting my curves and telling myself that my weight represents a different phase of life: I’m not twenty something anymore.
I remember when I first began teaching, I would look around at the other people driving to work and be struck by the blank stares and the bored looks on people’s faces. I believed then, and believe now, that life is too short to be stuck in a job that is just a job. I was so sad at the idea of dreams lost. I wanted those people to quit and pursue their passions. But, I know that kind of thinking is idealistic. I guess I’m an idealist. And that idealism drives me to fight for what I think reality should be. It is a lonely fight. I know the world can’t be perfect, but I can’t stand the idea of settling with status quo if you’re unhappy with status quo. It makes me want to shake people by the shoulders and shout, “Wake up!”
I am not content sitting idlely by, and I don’t want others to be either. And that brings us to last Sunday, Mother’s Day, when I heard that still, quiet voice inside of me saying, “Rise up and walk!” In my Mother’s Day Out series, we’ve been talking about being all that we are created to be. I feel my weight is hindering that. So, it’s time for me to shake myself by the shoulders, wake up and take responsibility for my weight. I will tell you that it is not like me at all to talk about this issue. I resolved a long time ago not to be the girl who always complains about her appearance. I didn’t want to model that for my daughter. But I did want to be forthcoming with you, my readers, in the hopes that someone can identify with my story, and hopefully be inspired by it.
A couple of years ago, I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge having lunch with some of my colleagues. As we were sharing how our day was going, we found that all of us had dealt with our share of misbehavior in the classroom that morning. I said to my colleague, “I’m not happy for you, but I am glad to know that it’s not just me.” That sentiment is true in life too, I think. There is comfort in knowing that someone has gone through, or is going through, similar circumstances. There is peace in knowing ‘you’re not the only one.’ I have literally felt my fears, stress and anxiety give way to calm at the realization that someone understands because they’ve ‘been there.’
I’ll share more about ‘where I’ve been’ next week. I hope you’ll join me.
Until next time,