Written by Elle
I was recently thinking about the years 2010-2011. I was 23, working two jobs, finishing my senior year of university, moving out of my parent’s house, and planning my wedding with B. I was putting about 400 miles/week on my dad’s car, and got way too comfortable applying makeup on the freeway. It was a whirlwind year to say the least.
Though I felt pulled in too many directions and wore far too many hats that year, I remember feeling oddly proud of my busy schedule. I would run into my teaching classes, “complaining” about waking up at 3:30 that morning to work at the coffee shop and driving over an hour through traffic to get to class, knowing that I would get the “omg you’re so busy!” response, fueling my new desire to be seen as the “girl who could do it all”.
But was this what I really wanted? Was I truly happy doing all of these things at once?
To be honest, most of the things I did that year made me super happy. I loved both of my jobs, I was coming into my own as a student-teacher, and I was sort of built for planning a DIY wedding. What sucked was doing all of these at once! It sucked so much that once the summer hit, I was utterly drained. I graduated in May, got married in June, and decided there was no way I could start applying to full-time teaching jobs just yet. I needed to slow down, so I took a job as a substitute teacher for the year, ready to have much more free-time and learn what I wanted out of a teaching career.
However, by the time August came, I was worried about having “too much free time”, and applied to coach the cheer squad at my old high school. It would give me something to do in the evenings and I thought I would love it.
Turns out I was wrong. I loved the girls on the squad, but I wasn’t passionate about coaching. I was ready for the season to be over, and then the basketball team made it to state championships, which meant I had games and/or practices nearly every night for an extra month and once again felt drained by my schedule. This time, it wasn’t that I had SO much to do, but that I really didn’t enjoy the things that were taking up my time. It was a different form of busy, but busy nonetheless.
The following year, B and I ended up moving to southern Oregon for his job. I took another job subbing in the Medford school district and decided to not take on any other work commitments. We quickly made a close group of friends and suddenly I felt like I had the perfect amount of “busy” in my life. I worked about 3-4 days a week, and the rest of my time was spent on lunch dates, long runs, weekend getaways, trivia nights, and my new passion for baking. I knew then that I wasn’t cut out to be the “girl who could do it all”, but rather the “girl who could have a great life balance”!
Fast-forward to the next four years, where I toyed with this life-balance as I made my way into the American work-force as a full-time educator back in Washington. I now knew many of my passions and how I most liked to spend my time. I loved teaching, but also wanted other things! (time with B, with friends, traveling, baking, exercising, reading). Yet despite my knowledge of the things that made me most happy, my days and nights quickly filled with work-related activities. It is incredibly easy to be convinced (really: forced by use of guilt) to join/lead an array of things in an elementary school (I feel like this topic could be a post in and of itself, “how public schools take advantage of how nice teachers are”…ugh). In my third year of teaching, I had become the Green Team advisor, the science curriculum lead, and the track coach—giving up my lunch breaks, afternoons, and even some weekends in the process. I even volunteered to help keep track of the staff “step-count” competition, logging pedometer numbers into a spreadsheet. What was I thinking?! I again fell into the busy trap that so easily catches so many of us. I once again felt obligated to all of my duties and though I was exhausted, I never had the courage to quit any of them.
Let’s fast-forward again to today. March 20th, 2018. The first day of spring, just starting my 6th month here in Spain. I can now categorize my life as the opposite of busy. I work every Monday-Thursday, and am always home by 2:00pm. I teach one private English lesson on Tuesday evenings (I quit the other private lesson because it wasn’t fulfilling for me and I’ve learned how to say ‘no’ to things!), and take a private Spanish class with Karrie on Monday evenings (which I absolutely love). The rest of my time is free. Free to do what makes me happy and fulfilled. I’ve used the past six months to once again take stock of what in my life is truly worthwhile. I know “worthwhile things” are all defined differently for different people, and these things change for me as I go through different seasons of life. Right now, I find value in time with Brian, time with friends, and time for myself. Sometimes this looks like cooking up a new recipe for a dinner party, sometimes it looks like a run in the park with Karrie, and sometimes it simply looks like binge-watching The Office on Netflix. What’s so wonderful about it is that I am choosing each day what to do without the restraints of unwanted commitments that once plagued me.
And as I look forward, I know that I won’t always want to spend my life teaching English part-time. I’m using my tiempo libre now as well to think about my future aspirations. Maybe I will go back to teaching kindergarten. Maybe I’ll move to another country for a new adventure. Maybe I’ll work in a preschool. Maybe I’ll go back to my passion for interior design and design classrooms. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll start that dream school with all of my teacher friends. All I know is that I’m going to do my damnedest to not get caught up in the busyness trap again, because the opposite of busy feels like a pretty sweet spot to stay for a while.