The other thing I did was spend a night in a hotel every couple of months. I'd usually drive down to Richmond, VA - it was a nice drive and got me far enough away from the beltway that I felt like I could breathe. It wasn't the cheapest habit, but looking back, I think it was part of what helped me stay sane.
I'm tired. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally... I'm tired. Over the last couple of months I've started realizing that my 8th graders are really leaving me and it's occurring to me that some of them aren't ready. Trying to get them there with just over a month left to do so is no easy feat.
You can't work with kids and not develop relationships with them. Most are seasonal. Kids come and go -- that's the nature of a school. As a counselor, my job is to make every child on my caseload feel like there is someone in the school building who can and will help them with their problems. Of course, being responsible for 400+ kids makes building individual relationships very difficult, but I manage, I like to think anyway, to be a large part of making my school building a safe place emotionally for the students who attend.
Sometimes, though, the relationships are more than seasonal. This year I've developed some very close and very individual relationships with a handful of kids. I really do care a lot about them and I worry about them and want them to be successful, much the way I imagine their own parents do (well, some of their parents). I work with a low-income, high needs population and so that presents its own set of challenges. One thing I pride myself on is supporting the kids in their athletic events. I drive them to their games, I watch them play and then I congratulate them after on their hard work, win or lose. I see their faces light up when they notice me on the side of the field. They always check in with me on game days to make sure I will be there and I try to make every effort, though there are certainly some times I can't.
For the ones I'm close to, I spend a lot of time with them. I'm walking them through everything from dealing with teachers they don't like to feeling as if their parents don't like or care about them. For some of them and on some days I'm the only person who smiles at them, hugs them and makes them feel good enough.
All of that takes a lot out of a person. I'm constantly pouring into these kids and I love what I do, but it's draining me way more quickly than I can refill.
But the kids aren't the only ones I pour into. My coworkers need support, my family, my friends -- as always, I sit here realizing that everyone's got me but who do I have?
I had an uncomfortable exchange with someone I care about, recently. I can't decide exactly how I care about them and what that means for how I want them to function in my life, but they are someone I consider a friend and this exchange has stayed with me. Partly because I wasn't at my best, and I allowed them to make me react in an out of control way, but also because I realize that just like so many other things in my life, I feel unheard and disrespected, but I don't know how to communicate that.
I know my friends and my family and my kids and my coworkers love and care about me, but sometimes you need evidence of that to remind you.
My BFF was worried about me a couple of weeks ago. He sent his former roommate and friend to take me to dinner since we don't live in the same city. He also insisted that I take a break. "Come down here!" he text me. But I can't - I'm not free any upcoming weekends to make an 8 hr drive. I would love to, but I can't. I've made promises to my kids, I've made promises to my friends and I hate breaking promises. He did make me promise to find a weekend to do something for myself and decompress. So here I am. Away from "life": my phone is off, the BFF is the only one who knows I'm doing this and I intend to keep it that way.
God. Please let this brief respite give me the energy I need for the week ahead.