A Letter to Myself…and to YOU

This year has been weird for a multitude of reasons. We’ve passed the one year mark since COVID turned our worlds upside down. I’ve taught in a multitude of different ways, many of which I never though I’d do. I’ve grown as a person and mother. I’ve gained close friendships and lost some. I’ve learned how to make a damn good pour over by reading instructions my husband left for me when he went to another state to take care of his mother for 2 weeks. Like I said. Weird.

I’ve had a lot to process and not a lot of time or ways to do so. I’ve avoided journaling because I know I need to and what fun is doing the work to get healthy when you could avoid it and continue being miserable? Right? So here I am. Doing the work. In the form of a letter. On the internet. That I can almost guarantee NOBODY will read. And I’m okay with that. I don’t WANT attention. I want a place to let out my feelings that feels…less personal than writing it in a journal. When I write, I want my handwriting to be perfect. I want to avoid tears falling on the page. I want to rip it up into a million pieces and throw it away when my pen runs out and I have to change colors or when I misspell something. Here, I am anonymous. I can tippy type away and rest safe knowing that I won’t accidentally run into it when looking for my notes from a professional development or that someone won’t accidentally open my notebook to the exact page I poured out my heart and soul in the angriest letter I could to the person I still resent in a weird way. Here we go.

I could start this letter with Dear ____…but I don’t feel like calling you dear. You ARE NOT dear to me right now. I’ve worked my freaking ASS off to get to where I am in my mental health right now…or at least where I was before I met you. It’s not your fault. I told my student teacher today-we were just not compatible as friends, you and I. You needed more than I could give and I needed to not be suffocated by your needs. That’s not bad…it’s not wrong. It just…IS. The year before I met you I felt…healthy. I felt happy. I’d found a balance within myself. I went to work, did my job, left and focused on home. It was a little lonely sometimes, but I felt fulfilled. I got alone time at work that I didn’t get at home. I didn’t feel pressured or have to explain myself to anyone. I was free. It was lovely. Then I met you. I took you under my wing and we became friends. Oh. And I got you into a car accident. Sorry about that. We found we had a lot in common with our teaching philosophies. You asked for my advice and I gave it, though you rarely took it. You wanted to collaborate. I was on board with that. You wanted to spend time together. I said okay. But before I knew it, I found myself suffocating. My little island of peace and tranquility at work was disturbed. I had to explain myself to you and if I didn’t, there were negative repercussions in the form of you pouting or getting upset. I no longer could come and go as I pleased. I never got time to myself without asking for it. It felt like I was your mother. I didn’t need another child. I had one already and a husband who was recovering from a major depressive episode. I needed a friend, NOT a dependent. But I soldiered on. I tried to redefine my boundaries with you, create a safe place for us to be friends. For whatever reason you just couldn’t handle that. I’m not sure if it was the boundaries you didn’t like, the fact that I enforced them, or what. The time came for me to let you go. For your sake and my own. Mostly my own. I’d tried everything I knew to try and I was still left feeling frustrated and miserable every time I spoke to you. I am STILL left feeling frustrated and miserable every time I speak to you. I feel disrespected. Constantly. I feel undermined and manipulated. I’m not saying that is what you’re doing, I’m saying that is how I FEEL. I’m important, damn it. I have learned that I AM IMPORTANT and what I want MATTERS. But with you, it doesn’t feel that way. I feel NEEDED. I do not want to be needed. I don’t need to be needed. I have a husband and child and students who need me. I have over 500 people who NEED me. Some need me to teach them. Some need me to communicate with them because they are my superiors. Some need me to communicate with them because they’re my childcare. Some need me to communicate with them because they live in my house and depend on me for a multitude of things. You…you do not need me. You’re a grown adult. You have a support system. And if you don’t, I’m sorry but I just do NOT have the capacity to be that for you at this point in time. It’s not my job to be everything you cannot be. I cannot change myself to be your friend. It’s not worth losing myself. You don’t care about me. You care about what I can do for you.

Know when I realized that? The moment you looked at me, a hispanic kid from TWO hispanic parents and told me that you didn’t get a scholarship to college because you were white. WTF. Know your audience. And when you kept getting upset with me for leaving and not saying goodbye…like I wasn’t going to see you the next day?? What’s the point in interrupting you to say bye when I’ll see you in 12 hours and we spent the majority of the day together? And all the times you complained about me not hanging out with you outside of the school day. Woman, I didn’t know what to say to you. We spent so much time together in school. I saw you MORE THAN I SAW MY FAMILY. Why would I want to see more of you?? And why on EARTH would you get upset that I spent two hours and a couple glasses of wine with a friend of mine from high school who I see once every few months? You were JEALOUS. And I get that. I’ve been young. I’ve been possessive. That’s where you are right now. There’s nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing wrong with me walking away from it. I’m sure plenty of people walked away from me when I was young and possessive. However, I was probably too self involved to notice or care haha. Regardless. I feel like you stole a year of my life. I spent last school year so freaking stressed and annoyed and CONSTANTLY explaining myself over and over…I can’t blame you, though. I tried too hard to make it work. I didn’t notice the signs of burnout until too late. I can’t blame you for trying to push boundaries, but I can blame myself for not shutting you down.

I’m trying to shut you down this year. I’m prioritizing myself. I won’t answer your texts if I don’t feel like it. I withhold information from you just because it feels good to not give you another part of me. It feels good to reclaim my independence and…and boundaries. I tried so damn hard to be your friend. Even when we came back in the fall. You kept saying how weird it was. YOU WERE THE ONE MAKING IT WEIRD. You STILL are. Again. I know you’re practically a child. You’re in your mid twenties, fresh out of college. You have a lot to learn. And I don’t have to be the one to teach you. I tried. You wouldn’t let me. You were kind, yes…but wild animals can be cute and cuddly until they rip your heart out. I am bitter. I keep trying to get over it…but then you do something to remind me of the pain and frustration I dealt with last year. And it takes SUCH self control to smile and nod and not just yell at you. So much so that I get a headache almost immediately after every one of our meetings.

Those headaches come a lot this year. Headache is a nice term for it. They’re closer to migraines, but people say they’re not migraines, so what the hell do I know? My headaches come from pretending. From wearing a mask and holding all the tension and words I want to say in my brain. I have zero outlet for them right now. I go straight from soul crushing meetings to trying to care for my family and I feel like I am suffocating again, just in a different way. There are so many heavy burdens on us teachers right now and I am WELL aware of them, but all we seem to do in any meetings this year is just commiserate over them instead of move to make the best with what we have or solve our problems. You keep asking for help or saying you don’t know how to do things and instead of speaking my mind and helping you, I’m forced to read a script and say things like “yeah, that’s really hard!” when I HAVE THE BLEEPING SOLUTION.

One instance in particular comes to mind. Okay. Many come to mind, but I’m going to mention just one. We were speaking about grades and you were talking about how subjective they are…but…grades aren’t SUPPOSED to be subjective and I tried to tell you that and I tried to give you an example, but you wouldn’t have it. You’re trying to solve your problem by making all of us fit into this neat and tidy box of your design. Everyone should enter their attendance and comments THIS way. Everyone should do the SAME lesson objective or Essential Understanding or whatever. Everyone should have a theme. DAMN IT _____. You value individualism so highly in your classroom but you are trying to make us all the same. And WHY??? You say it’s for the kids, but I don’t think it is. Maybe I’m just tired of being bossed around by someone who isn’t my boss. I really like doing things my own way. I relish in it. I’ve spent SO BLEEPING LONG living my life inside a box. Doing what I thought I should be doing. Keeping the peace. Striving for perfection. Now that I’m approaching my 30s I am SO OVER THAT CRAP. I’m living for me, by my own standards. I am finding what works for me and RUNNING with it. FULL SPEED AHEAD. I can’t tell if you’re trying to be a leader or an influencer or just trying to save your own ass. A true leader doesn’t seek to have everyone conform. A true leader accepts feedback gracefully, even if they vehemently disagree with it. A true leader SPEAKS TRUTH and stands up for what they believe, no matter what others think of it. I hate to say it, but you’re a coward. I’m sure you know it. I can’t blame you for being a coward. I’m a coward in some ways. I mean, here I am writing this letter anonymously on the internet when I could give it directly to you…but then what purpose would it serve? It would hurt you and definitely wouldn’t make me feel any better. Writing it is the cathartic part. I don’t want to hurt you. I never HAVE wanted to hurt you. Maybe that’s the problem. You took every damn thing so personally as opposed to realizing that it’s not about you. It’s about me. I can’t blame you for that either. You’re allowed to take things personally and feel your feelings. But that’s the difference. I was always telling you your feelings were valid…never once did I feel like mine were.

Gosh. It felt like being a teenager in my mother’s house all over again. Being told that I’m being irrational or too sensitive or too whatever. Putting the focus on YOUR feelings instead of mine when I’m trying to talk to you ABOUT MY FEELINGS. I don’t blame my mother for not having the tools she needed to communicate effectively with me and I don’t blame you either. My relationship with my mother was important enough and life giving enough that I was willing to do what I needed to in order to continue a healthy relationship with her. I TRIED to do that with you, but the benefit did not outweigh the cost. You’re not my blood. You didn’t bring anything the the relationship that I couldn’t get elsewhere. I had to say good bye to you. And yet, we still work together. So…I can’t truly say goodbye. I’m trying SO HARD to be professional with you. To treat you with respect and kindness. But I’m so damn bitter and so damn angry. Every time you speak it grates on my nerves and every piece of my body tenses up. When I see a text from you I impulsively clench my jaw and furrow my brow. I’ve come to expect stress from you and so that is what I get.

I don’t know how to expect anything different. It feels like every time I assume good intentions, you do something to piss me off. Again, not your fault. I’m sure you’re not intentionally setting out to push my buttons. Or maybe you are. I don’t know and I don’t care. What I care about is finding peace. And right now I have so freaking little of that. I’m mad at you for not trying harder to make our relationship work and making me feel like the bad guy. I’m mad at you for being young and stupid even though it’s not your fault. I’m mad at you for not letting me help you when I have so much to offer. I’m mad at you for trying to push me into a box, trying to force me into a role I didn’t want to play, trying to make me feel bad for my life choices that brought me peace and joy. I am mad. And I don’t know how I’m going to get over it or when I’m going to get over it.

Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I’m blaming you for things that are affecting me and have nothing to do with you. We’re all under immense stress right now. All I know is that I have one month left of school and then I can just…ignore you the entirety of the summer until we return in the fall. And then we will be colleagues only. I will be cordial. I will be friendly. I will be professional. I will not let you into my room, onto my island, into my heart to disturb my peace. Starting now I will protect my heart, my sanity, and that inner peace. You’re not worth it. My job isn’t worth it. I can find a way to be good at my job and also protect my heart. I don’t know how yet, but I can.

I really hope that either you find peace as you are right now or find a way to grow and mature into someone who can find peace. I know you have a lot of pain, a lot of baggage, a lot of trauma. I cannot be responsible for it right now. I have to deal with enough of my own and my husband’s pain, baggage, and trauma. I don’t have room for yours.

Goodbye ____. I learned a lot from my brief friendship with you.

Sincerely,

Someone who has learned that putting yourself first isn’t selfish. It’s self love.

P.S. This quote really stuck with me and I wish you’d understood it: “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” Prentis Hemphil

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