I’ve been mulling over this post for 5 months. I’ve started it probably close to a hundred times, written the entire thing at least a dozen and erased it every time. I just never was able to find the words to tell the story well. I’m still not positive that these are the right words or the best words but they’re the one’s I’ve settled on. So please proceed with grace.
This story can only start one way: I am so glad I’m a teacher, you guys.
I will limit how many times I tell you how much I love my first real job and I will try to keep from gushing over my school and students and everything that is so incredibly marvelous about my career, but let me just say it this once: I love being a teacher.
I started school last week and had my students for 4 days and all you veteran teachers out there might be smirking to yourself and thinking “ohhhh, just give it time,” but I don’t care. I love students and I love my classroom and my colleagues and everything about every day I’ve had at school so far. I genuinely, earnestly, wholeheartedly love it.
And the story can only start this way because teaching has profoundly adjusted my world view in the last 4 days.
I’ve spent 5 arduous college years preparing for these last 4 days, and arguably, the 14 years before that. And while there are certainly moments every student can question if the end goal will be worth it, there was a true moment where I didn’t know if I’d ever make it to these days.
The story continues with a strong feeling of conviction. I published my last blog post “Fleeting Moments and Tattoo Parlors” and in it I emphasized the necessity of being real with the people around you. I touched on the fact that we live these fake lives on social media and we don’t enjoy the moment with those around us because we’re so focused on the fake life we have to portray.
So after publishing that post, I felt really convicted for the fake life I had been living. And in the 2 months since that post, I’ve carefully tried to craft the right way to tell the truth.
So with a weird mix of gladness and conviction, here is the truth.
I was not okay for a long time.
For several months I felt like I didn’t want to see the dawn of a new day. There were events that lead up to feelings of helplessness and torment and fear and anxiety and each and every day I woke up to face a narrowing tunnel of light.
And on April 5th, all the feelings got to be too much. The light was all but gone in my tunnel. I’ll remember that night forever. I was curled up in my fiancé’s arms in a park, the sun setting, and I told him in 100% earnestness that I was ready to see Jesus. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic. I wasn’t trying to get attention. I was, for the first time in months, being honest about how I really felt.
I told him that there was no way this life could ever get better and there were no other options and I was ready to leave this life of torture and find paradise. My hands were shaking and though it was cold out, I was sweating profusely. I felt nauseous and I finally released the knot that had been sitting in my throat for the last few months and cried uncontrollably.
To explain the conviction- I posted 4 pictures on Instagram over the course of this disaster and not a single one had even a remotely upset vibe to it.
If it hadn’t been for Dylan caring for me that night, I wouldn’t be here today. I almost took my own life, and yet I felt like I needed to keep up my appearances on social media.
And this wasn’t the first time. I had spent months feeling alone and isolated, feeling misunderstood and uncared for, but instead of reaching out to my friends and family, I told them I was fine and posted an Insta to prove it.
I kept perpetuating the lies and I kept masking the truth and it all snowballed to the point that when I was at the lowest of low points, I still didn’t feel like I could tell anyone because it wouldn’t make sense. I had spent so much of my time and energy lying to everyone that when I really needed to tell the truth, I couldn’t. How could I expect people to understand the depth of my pain now, when I had spent so much time trying to convince them that I didn’t have any? How could I ever break the cycle of lies and come clean and be cared for when it would be so much easier just to end all of it?
With the help of just a few of the people closest to me, I was carried out of the trenches in my fight for life, but I still hadn’t told any other friends or family- people who meant the world to me- of the battle I had fought. I was so paralyzed with fear and anxiety that I still couldn’t be honest. So I continued to mask the reality I was living in.
But the thing about that kind of trauma is that it surfaces again sometimes. For what seems like no reason at all you have memories and flashbacks and triggers and you’re inexplicably angry and hurt and defensive and if the people closest to you aren’t prepared for that- if they haven’t born witness to your battle- there’s no way you can expect them to understand these incidents.
So what started as white lies to protect your privacy turns into a completely alternate facade of a life. What starts as guarding yourself turns into a life of pushing others away. What starts as your own pain turns into causing others pain, too.
I’m still dealing with how to reconcile those relationships where I put distance between myself and people I care about. I’m still dealing occasionally with triggers of those painful times. I’m still dealing with the consequences of living a fake life.
But it’s getting better with everyday. And I’m over-sharing once again, not to get pity or attention or whatever else this may come across as, but to give a message of hope.
Here is the hope I have to offer you:
People care about you. I don’t know who you are or what battle you’re fighting, but people care about you. And you need to let them. Because you absolutely cannot do this alone. I know, it’s not easy to cry out for help, but I promise you won’t regret it. I get it, it’s not easy to share the depth of your wounds, the reality you’re living in, but people are so kind. The few people who knew about my struggles are the champions of my life. They didn’t look at me as weak, they didn’t think less of me, they didn’t judge me for those months of trials, they didn’t get mad at me for putting up a front for so long, but they cared for me. They shined their own light in my narrowing tunnel, they reminded me of the joys of this life, they loved me through the torment I was feeling and they continue to do so.
People care about you and they will come alongside you and show you that this life is worth living. I let fear control who I let into help me fight the battle I was facing. I let voices in my head that weren’t my own talk me out of being honest with so many people who still mean the world to me. And at the time, I didn’t have the foresight to look beyond the fear. But now, I regret so much the fake life I tried to live. Looking back, I know that if I had only trusted the people around me, if I had only been honest from the start with them, I may not have ever had that fateful night in the park.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with the people around you. They care about you.
The second hope I have to offer is permission to feel your feelings. But you have to put down your freakin’ screens sometimes. Social media is so awesome for so many things- pulling you out of a spiral of despair, riddled with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness is not one of them. It can be so hard to overcome the pressure to put your best you on social media and hide who you really are and what you’re really feeling, but that will only cause you more pain. As soon as you start lying about your experiences and invalidating your feelings by pretending they aren’t important or real, you are distancing yourself from the people who love you, and you’re inadvertently giving everyone else permission to dismiss how you feel, too. How can you expect someone else to truly acknowledge the depth of your reality if you can’t do it first? How can you expect someone else to validate your struggles if you can’t do it first? Feel your feelings earnestly and sort through them with your treasured tribe. Swipe up on Instagram and call someone you trust. You need real, honest, deep, conversation with someone who loves you. You do not need to compare your valleys to other’s peaks. And you certainly don’t need to try to prove anything to anyone through a stupid screen. Feel your feelings and deal with your feelings. Don’t live a fake life. Feel and deal.
The third hope I have to offer is that the Lord’s grace is abounding. God became flesh and dwelt among us and experienced in human form the brokenness of human life. And He died to make us whole again. There is no trench we can fall into where God has not been, and there is no depth of human sorrow that God has not felt. But He has conquered it all. And He conquered it for us. So when you find yourselves drowning in pain and sorrow, invite the Almighty Maker to fight your battle for you. Scripture is full of promises God makes to fight for us, to draw near to the broken and to heal our wounds and even though it may feel like you are at the time, trust me, you are no exception to that. Call on the Lord to come alongside you and carry you through the storm. He is still carrying me, and I promise, there is plenty of room in His arms.
And so my story draws to a close the same way it started: I am so glad I’m a teacher, you guys.
It has profoundly changed my world view in the last 4 days.
It has shown me what life beyond the narrowing tunnel looks like. This summer was a lot of built up anticipation and excitement for school to start, a lot of challenges with new things, but now that I’m living my dream, engaged to my literal life-saver, I can really see a future growing- something I have struggled to see for a while.
You guys, I cry so much now. I cry at commercials, TV shows, staff meetings, really good food, puppies, students’ responses on surveys, everything. I have become so soft. But. It. Feels. So. Good. No more holding back how I’m feeling or invalidating my emotions. No more lying to keep up pretenses. No more Instagram on bad days. No more bottling it up. No more going at it alone. No more. We have been in school for 4 days and I’m pretty sure I’ve cried at some point every single one of them and I have no regrets. I even cried writing this post. I weirdly love crying now.
And I love crying now because it’s so honest. I’m reveling in the honesty of how I feel and the sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful truth of my reality. Honest emotions in this season beyond the tunnel are the best thing that has happened to this heart of mine.
I am so glad I’m a teacher, you guys.
I am so glad that I lived through the darkness. I am so glad I chose life over death. I am so glad I finally cried out for help. I am so glad I have lived to see these days. I am so thankful that people came alongside me and dragged me out of my narrowing tunnel. I am so thankful for a God who is merciful and mighty and who is using me to further His kingdom by loving students. I am so glad I made it to my season beyond the tunnel.
I am so glad I’m here, you guys.
I’m so stinkin’ glad.