I was growing by leaps and bounds. My weekends were spent in various staff development seminars or sitting at the kitchen table planning lessons. I received The Teacher of the Year award. Every year, I received glowing reviews. One year, I received a promotion. Ah, the good life.
Meanwhile, my partner CJ navigated carefully around the prickly, often frigid, and always exhausted person he did not marry. The old me had left the building, and it seemed I had taken fun with me. While we still loved each other, our relationship revolved around work and talk of work.
By Tammy Renzi
Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. – Dr. Seuss
My pant size increased while my enjoyment of life steadily decreased. I justified staying late and working weekends with shoulds and oughts.
I continued to hop on that hamster wheel year after year. What else could I do? This is life. Deal with it.
Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Model
Six years ago, I was curled up on the couch most of the hours I was away from school. A medical mishap, a toxic reaction to an antibiotic, wreaked havoc on my nervous and skeletal systems. For a year and a half, I did little but work, attend doctors’ appointments, and fight with the insurance company about approving MRIs.
Yet, here on the same couch sat a man who took back his life. Two years prior, CJ declared he had enough and left an elementary music teaching position to start his own guitar studio. He cut his work hours in half, and I was so excited for him. Although the money was trickling in, I loved having clean laundry, prepped meals, and shiny floors.
Only now, as a 35 year old who ambulated as if I were 80, did I admit what I had been denying for several years. Something had to give. In addition to my poor health, I was bigger than I ought to be, our sex life was non-existent, and my anxiety was through the roof.
Complacency was no longer an option. I had to make a change. And I was scared to death.
Collaboration and Conversation
I loved being with CJ more than anything in the world. Our conversations satisfied everything from my desire to my intellect. The obvious solution was to move toward more time with him and less time with work. But how?
We took our conversations from bitching to action. During any free moment, we talked about how we would make a life together and still afford to keep the lights on. There were wild schemes, lame schemes, and everything in between.
A coffee van for teachers! We could under-price Starbucks and drive their morning cup right to them!
You’re a guitarist! Compromise your principles and write the One Hit Wonder. We’ll live on an island like…
Eventually, we found the answer in a closet.
One afternoon, I was talking with CJ about how a colleague wanted me to tutor her son. School policy forbids teachers from making extra money on their property, so I needed another place.
What about the guitar studio?
Guitar and reading. Um, probably not going to work, honeykins.
Not in the same room. What about that closet off the waiting room? It’s kind of small, but so are your kids. You only need a little table.
And so it came to be. Now in its sixth consecutive year, we enjoy the fruits of an idea born out of conversation. No incompetent coworkers. No staff meetings. Decreased pant sizes. Good health.
Doing Whatever Works
The facts are a bitch and so hard to deny. In fact, to this very day, I occasionally slip into rationalizing my past behavior. I had to stay late. I wanted to advance in my career.
But I got sick. Only then did I change. While the catalyst for CJ was anger, mine was pain. Different strokes.
What I realized in this transformation from merely existing to living is what everyone keeps saying ad nauseam. Change takes time. What some fail to mention is that it is fun. It is damn fun to change and craft yourself into a better you.