Some years, I really look forward to going back to work at the end of the summer. Some years I don’t. This year I don’t. And it isn’t because I don’t like my job. I really do. In many ways it is my ideal job. It’s just that, over the course of the past year or so, I have come to realize how much of my limited energy my job takes from me.
In the summer time (I have about 10 weeks off each summer), I get to return to myself, and all the things other than my job that make me, me. I can spend time with friends. I can spend time with family. I can give my husband more of my time and energy so he doesn’t just get what is left over. I can swim, walk/hike (ok, maybe not near my home in TX but when I travel), kayak, read, write, play word games, do puzzles. I can cook, which I have found I really do enjoy, just not when I have worked all day. I can organize the house (ok, for those of you that know me well, I can make attempts to organize the house, in that area I am just a hot mess). I can shop for things I need (or want) in stores, rather than having to do it all online and paying extra for shipping. I don’t crash out (re: sleep and sleep and sleep and just not be able to wake up except to eat and use the bathroom) for days at a time nearly as often, which, although necessary for me, really kills a lot of free time. And I can do all this while just generally feeling better, closer to what I think a healthy person feels like.
And then, I have to give it all up. Now I can live with not having as much time to do what I like, that is just how the world rolls. But it is hard to live without the energy to do a little of what I like besides work. And it is hard to live without the energy to quite simply do the things that need to be done, like taking care of the house, cooking, cleaning and the like. It is hard to have to choose between having a liveable house and seeing a friend. EVERY TIME. Everyone has to balance such choices to some degree, but in my life, it is hard to find any balance at all once I return to work.
During the work year most of what I do is my job, exercise three days a week, go to varying medical body work appointments, and sleep. Yes, massage therapy or physical therapy may seem like a choice, but having tried to go without massage last year, and aching and getting sick constantly, only relieved by returning to massage, well…. You may notice in there that I don’t mention spending much time with my husband, or with friends. That I don’t mention cooking, or keeping up the house. That I don’t mention time to read or play games. I get tiny bits of those in, but is that really living?
And a part that is silently in the background. I am now 39 years old, and you may notice I do not mention children. How could there be any way to have the energy to fit children in? And as I have alluded to a little before, even when I am off in the summer, I am still too prone to crash to be reliably alert and “with-it” on a consistent basis for a child.
I have struggled, on and off for the past couple years; with how long I will be able to keep working full time. Not because my work suffers, I am really good at what I do, and others at my job really value my work. But because the rest of my world suffers, including the people in it. I ask myself, is working full time worth it? I used to think it was, but now I am not so sure. I help students with disabilities access their world, and I believe in that with a passion. It gives my life meaning. But at what cost to myself do I do this? And couldn’t I find a way to do it less, but still do it (work part time)? Would I be psychologically ok with this?
I so wish that all of this was not even something that I had to think about. That I could work a full time job and still have energy left for other things. I can’t even conceptualize how people work a full time job, have energy for other things, and those other things include children. How do people do that? Do they have a cost, and does it even come close to mine? To that of other’s like me with chronic illness?
For now, I go back to work full time. I love my job and those I work with. I love my students. I do. I just go back with a heavy heart knowing all I leave behind for the next 10 months. And I wonder, will it always be this way?