You’ve heard of a midlife crisis or a quarterlife crisis. Now introducing the after-a-pandemic life crisis.
As of March 31st the country with the highest Covid-19 cases worldwide was the USA. The country with the highest number of deaths due to Covid-19 was the USA.
This all means that 1 of every 17 people in the U.S. has been infected, and 1 in 1,000 has died. (Source).
You have an equal chance of contracting AIDS or dying in a house fire (also 1 in 1,000).
It’s hard to look at these statistics without thinking about life, the universe, and everything.
I’m not alone in looking at the past year and thinking “I could’ve died!” Because a lot of us (especially us “eSSenTiAL wOrkERs”) can honestly say this. I was exposed to over 20 known sick students and staff members and countless numbers of unknown people. I watched cases skyrocket while my school district decided to open back up. I know teachers who have been on ventilators and others who have agoraphobia now. I have lunch-duty twice a week where I have to watch over 90 maskless people. I had to be exposed to this when indoor dining was closed or restricted in my state. The exposure, exposure risks, and knowing people who have had their lives altered caused a lot of thinking.
I don’t think I’m the only person who has been thinking. I’ve been wondering about my mortality and the future of our planet a lot lately. Been wondering about our humanity and our interconnectedness. I know we’ve all had more time to think (we’ve been inside or kept away from our usual activities). I think we’re ALL re-evaluating things. I look around and see people around me acting on this thinking. There are disproportionate instances of people around me:
- quitting jobs (teachers quitting to go back into retail, people retiring early)
- moving across the state (4 of my colleagues are quitting to move across the country).
- going back to school (I know 12 people going back to school)
- ending relationships
- fighting back when they used to just take it
- and generally not-taking-it-anymore.
The world saw this after WW1. People were done with it all and, through a combo of many things, began experimenting and blending cultures and ideas (a great read about it here). People were/are wondering what does it all mean? People were/are fighting injustices more. People were/are wondering what is the point of any of this when it’s all so fragile?
I’m not sure if we’re going to see the modern version of flappers. But I do feel we’re starting to see – a “Post Covid Life Crisis” where people who are making it out of the pandemic want to start over or reevaluate what really matters. Like a good old fashioned Quarter/Mid Life Crisis we all may need more mistakes, experimentation and fearless living.
What are you getting at?
I’m getting at the fact that there were so many times I’ve heard and seen people at their absolute lowest. Where I’ve been at my lowest. I’ve been on multiple Google Meets of 65 people where everyone was near tears. I’ve had to turn my camera off a lot to have a good cry. These are staff meetings that should’ve been boring but instead it was very difficult decisions being made for us all the time.
We’ve all hit lows this past year and I think we’re coming up for the highs now. Many of us feel it is time to get back out there and, if necessary, start over.
So it is with great reluctance, excitement, fear, and sadness that I announce that I’m (also) quitting teaching (see why Chris quit teaching here). I’m going to finish the year off but I’m not returning to this or any school next year. I’m not going to finish my teaching courses. I’m not going to have a license to teach. I might substitute and I still would love to do something educational but teaching-teaching is not going to happen anymore.
This is an insanely difficult and terrifying decision. I love teaching but I don’t love being a teacher. There are 10,000,0000 things I do in a day that don’t bring me any joy. I just love the teaching so much I stuck with and tolerated those things. But it’s clear that this job isn’t good for me. I had 80 nights in a row where I was unable to sleep through the night. I’ve lost 15 lbs without even trying. I don’t eat anymore and stopped taking care of myself. My average resting heartrate at school rarely goes below 85.
In fact, my heartrate spikes at the beginning of each class from anxiety and frequently hits 120-130 (this past Monday I hit 50 bpm).
This is clearly killing me. These levels of stress can lead to heart disease, diabetes, stroke and so much more (source).
“‘As much as I love my students, I’m not going to kill myself over this. I don’t mean COVID kill, I mean they’re working me to death,’ she said. ‘Frankly, I would rather be a barista at Starbucks right now than a teacher, because at the end of the day, I could walk away from work.'” (Education Week).
It’s not just the COVID teaching, either. A lot of the things that are not working for me will exist in other countries or in other years, schools, districts and states. This is a job you can’t leave at work and I’m not good at that.
1 side of me really wants to teach and keep fighting through all the health issues but it is just not healthy or good to keep killing myself slowly. I’d love to be that martyr teacher that runs myself into the ground teaching kids. But then what? I’m burned out and hate my life and the kids, trapped in a Colorado retirement system that requires 10 more years to go. I’d rather get out of the profession while I’m still fresh.
I don’t want to explain it because I don’t think I can make anyone understand. Even my own husband quitting was something I didn’t/don’t understand and I don’t think he understands why I am quitting. Just like you know you’re meant to do something I know I’m not meant to do this anymore. This is the Post-Covid-Life Crisis I’m talking about. We’ve just had a lot more introspection this year and need to trust when things aren’t working out. I say embrace the change and support those who need/want to make changes. We’ve all collectively lived through a global pandemic. If you need/want a tattoo, piercing, car, new relationship and/or new job to cope I say go for it. We should all hold the door open for each other as we navigate through this.
Don’t think this was an easy decision. This has been 5+ weeks of obsessive thinking, talking to people, going to therapy and lists/data. It was absolutely heartbreaking to finally do it. I cried for the whole 15 minutes of my exit interview) but I know it’s the right thing to do.
So all of this was for nothing?
We have both expressed this sentiment. So what was the point of any of this? Anyone going through a post-covid-life-crisis is probably looking at the past years of their lives and saying “so I’m just going to throw that all away?” But that’s a “Sunken Cost Fallacy.” The idea that just because you’re doing it now or have been doing it for years you may as well keep doing it.
This year, or the 7 years I’ve spent teaching were not “for nothing.” No part of yours or anyone’s lives were “for nothing.”
We didn’t fail at teaching or fail at life. We didn’t make any mistakes when making the hundred emergency decisions we had to make since December of 2019. Fate or whatever-you-believe-in led us down this path and now we’re taking the reigns again and saying enough of this path.
We know what we know now and all the skills and things we’ve learned along the way are only going to help us in the future. It’s not starting over, it’s just going on.