Onions Have Layers

I spent the weekend having an identity crisis. Each day, I engaged in activities that nurtured different pieces of me. I came home on Friday to indulge in books and silly television, and spent Saturday at an education conference. I read fitness and body image blogs on the way home, where I dove into some writing. Sunday was a day of comfortable domesticity, cleaning a bit and running errands with Boyfriend. NYC public schools had Monday off, so I headed uptown to talk shop and plan with some of my teacher family, before returning home for an evening of cooking. It was a well-rounded, full weekend, and looking back over it as I waited for the last dish to be done in the oven, I expected to feel both nourished and ready for bed.

Instead, I was a live wire of anxiety. I tossed and turned through the night; I dreamed of paralysis, collapsed buildings, pits of snakes, the flu, etc. Early in the morning, I whispered to Boyfriend, “I don’t want to go.”

It wasn’t until I was sitting at the train station, packed and prepped and totally ready but completely not ready, that I could attempt to articulate the crushing guilt I was carrying. That’s what it was: guilt. I want to want to be excited about a new school year, new students, new colleagues, new opportunities. I mean, I love this stuff, don’t I?

… don’t I?

Every time I ask myself that question, or wish for more unstructured, self-directed time to write, read, and move, the weight of my guilt grows. Every time I let myself think about goals I have outside of my teaching practice, I feel the pit in my stomach threaten to swallow me whole. You’re not a writer, you’re a teacher, I scold myself, trying to drum up some enthusiasm. As if I didn’t just write this whole thing about multi-facetedness.

As we begin our units on identity, my students are thinking about onions today. Onions, I told them, have layers. All of the layers together make an onion. What are your layers? They draw, and label, and crinkle their noises, and talk, and write.

Thankfully, Boyfriend is really smart, and he had an insightful response to my early morning confessions of guilt. “These aren’t two identities,” he reminded me. “You’ve always been a writer. Up until recently, it just wasn’t a part of you that you considered real. It’s good that you feel it now.”

“You’ve always been a writer,” I remind myself. “You are a dedicated, hard-working, experienced teacher. These aren’t two identities.” I am layered, like an onion, I tell myself, ready to draw, and label, and talk, and write.

 

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