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On occasional Saturday mornings, I help out with some weeding at my church. As summer hits, scraping out tough roots of little green unwanted plants can be quite excruciating. The sun’s rays burn through the old scrubs I wear, and I think to myself, Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Weeding under the sun the past several Saturdays has gotten me thinking about how hard it is to weed out certain habits that have entrenched their roots into our lives. For me, I have come to realize there is one bad habit I need to get rid of: constantly overexerting myself.
In Ecclesiastes 1:3-8, King David shares the inevitability and meaninglessness of the daily toils of life:
“What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.”
This passage speaks to me because I have become so tired of life as a teacher burning out almost every year. As I put in so much time and effort, I sometimes question what I gain. The world will still move on if somehow I become so weary and sick and can’t teach. For the past 5 years of full time teaching, I barely took any sick days, and would feel guilty and anxious for doing so. I worked overtime almost every day to plan and grade. I would get up early and started sleeping late. On my breaks, I would self-indulge instead of proper self-care. And on the very fifth year, I suffered some physical consequences of headaches and stomach aches.
Everything just piled up and taken root deep inside of me, like stubborn weeds that refuse to come out no matter how many times I use a weed cultivator. These kind of weeds need a large spear head spade to crack the cement around it before reaching for the roots. Even now as I relax into the summer, nightmarish scenarios of teaching in the classroom still somehow find their way into my dreams as I fall asleep. Thankfully, it has not been every night.
I can still think back to last August, when I booked an appointment at the doctor’s to get a Tuberculin (TB) test. I ended up doing a blood test as a physical check-up. After getting the doctor to sign off for a negative TB test, I was asked to book another appointment with the doctor so that he can explain my blood test results more in depth regarding other aspects of my health. Because school was already starting, and the doctor had a very limited schedule, I ended up not booking an appointment.
At that time, I didn’t care too much. I was too focused on not missing any days at school, especially since this was our first year back teaching in person. I had the same mindset I had for the past four years: I cannot afford to take any days off. I need to be here or else my students would be lost.
But now, I deeply regret this. I should have cared more about my health. Therefore, this year, I resolve to book a doctor’s appointment for a check-up and not worry about whether it will conflict with my teaching schedule, unless of course it is the first week of school.
I used to take pride in being a “career woman.” On the surface, I wore my hardworking ethic as a badge of honor. This kind of habit of always working hard can look very beautiful on the outside, but like most habits, too much of a good thing can ruin your life.
Similarly, there are so many beautiful weeds out there; it can take the form of a brilliant pink and purple bindweed flower, with its long green leafy stems slyly curling up the fences and boundaries you built around your life. If you are not careful, these beautiful weeds can suck out all the nutrients of your life, and poison your health.
I am afraid I let my my hardworking ethic turn into overexertion and burn me out several times in my teaching career.
I cannot keep telling myself that “I don’t have time,” because of my job. For the past five years, I have been putting my job first. Being a teacher consumed 90% of my life.
I am done giving up so much of life for such a draining career.
I need to take care of myself.
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