In March, I stopped working at the direction of my doctor and with the approval of the state of California. Living with a chronic medical condition meant I couldn’t keep teaching. Without the stress of my full-time job, I would hopefully experience much less pain and overall more comfortable days.
And sometimes that has happened, but it doesn’t happen everyday. My autoimmune disease isn’t something that can be cured. Pain doesn’t just disappear; but hopefully it can be eased, and I can feel some relief.
In the meanwhile, I have discovered six additional health benefits to not working. Here they are:
- More sleep. I am able to get into bed earlier because I am not staying up late to grade papers or lesson plan. Additionally, I am sleeping later each morning because I don’t have to set my alarm as early as I did when I was teaching.
- Emptier bladder. Teachers can’t use the restroom when the feeling strikes. We have to hold it, and I’ve been told, that teachers have a high rate of urinary tract infections. Not working and having more relaxed daily schedules means I can use the restroom when I need to.
- Fuller stomach. When hunger strikes, I couldn’t grab a granola bar while I was reading a short story in our fifth grade anthology. Theoretically, I ate when my students did (recess and lunch). But, even then, those weren’t guaranteed meal times for teachers. There are discipline issues to resolve, phone calls to return, copies to make. A twenty minute recess is not always even time to accomplish tasks and eat a snack.
- Less stress. My days are much more relaxed. I am no longer responsible for thirty plus children, but just my son. Teaching is a highly stressful job, and this time off has made me realize how different I was when I was teaching (over-extended, over-exhausted, over-whelmed).
- Fewer expenses. My monthly income is substantially lower, but I am also spending less. My son is attending kindergarten, so I no longer pay for childcare. And I am spending less on my shopping trips. I was always spending my own money on items for my classroom (paper towels, antibacterial soap, baby wipes) and on items for my students (pencils, books, folders).
- More me-time. When I was teaching, my day started at 5:15 each morning and ended usually around 11:00 each evening. During that stretch of time, most of my energies were dedicated to others -- my students, my son, my husband. Now, with me not working and my son in school, I have a chunk of time that is “me time.” Time for me, to savor a blended mocha, to do some writing, and to read my novel.
Everything happens for a reason, or so people say. When I’m in one of my pain episodes (tears streaming, body throbbing) I wonder why I was burdened with this disease. But, in other moments, when the pain is manageable, I am beginning to see that I can look at my disease and try to find the benefits, try to adapt, try to be brave and re-imagine my life.