How do you find balance? With so much to do, and with so little time, how do you balance the prep and the planning and the grading and the Real Life?
Because I'm not. There have been weeks where all we do is work. Andrew and I are literally working 16-17 hour days 5-7 days a week.
But it still isn't enough.
We are only planned day to day, which goes against our educational principles. And with other things to talk about and deal with outside of the classroom, there are even days when we're not properly planned. Where we show up and hope that giving 100% while the kids are in the room will be enough to make up for not being 100% ready for them.
But it's not enough.
If we were all perfect, with perfectly tidy lives that conformed to the shapes we wished they would, and everyone did exactly as we wanted them to, maybe we could handle the rough edges of the job. Maybe if Real Life didn't get in the way, we could make those lesson plans perfect, reach every student in the way he or she needs, and do all the paperwork and return all the emails and whatever and whatever and whatever.
But life isn't perfect. And neither are we.
We choose to do this work despite those two things. And if we're really lucky, someone chooses to do the work with us, to come alongside and help us clean up the mess. Who will be there when things go wrong. Or when we just need another voice to drown out the narrative in our head about what a failure we are. About how much there is to do, and how much we aren't doing, can't do, fail at, ruin.
I don't know how to shut off that narrative. How to do more than I'm capable of doing. How to stop feeling like it's never good enough. That I have to achieve more, do better, try harder.
What I do know is that with two people, it's possible to counter the narrative's lies with the truth. That we weren't meant to go it alone. That it's impossible to be way out on the educational fringe (as we are) without someone holding the safety rope for and with you.
That trusting someone enough to do that is scary. Really scary.
That the alternative to trusting is failure - either through not taking enough risks, or by taking too many. By burning out of the profession, either actively or passively. By choosing to return to the same lectures, the same worksheets, the same control year after year, or by trying every new and shiny thing to cover the fact that you are just bored. And without trusting others, you will never find balance.
But what if trust is not come by lightly?
And what happens when everything falls apart?
When life just gets difficult, and it's a battle to merely show up.
When the narrative presses down hard and it's impossible to tune it out.
The only answer I have is to trust that the person holding the safety rope will still be there, not only as protection against falling, but as comfort for how difficult it can be to hold on. To help drown out the narrative that threatens to overwhelm me, and makes me want to let go and fall right off the mountain. To just be there.
And despite all my attempts to convince him that he'd be better off dropping the safety rope and leaving me to my own devices, he's still there. Refusing to let me run away, from the mountain, from collaboration and from friendship.
I have no idea why. Even though I would (and have) done the same for him in a heartbeat, it doesn't make sense to my weird, twisted brain that anyone would do it for me.
But I do know this: The moments in which I trust him to help me are the moments in which I find balance between Having Too Much To Do and Having Not Enough Time. Where the mountain suddenly levels out and I can see the sun again.
Because neither of us can stop all of the Bad Things from happening. We can't protect each other. We can't save each other.
But when the storms try to throw us off the mountain, we can hold on tighter, refusing to let go because It's Worth It.
Because without trust, you will inevitably fall. Balance is always predicated on trust:
Trust that the ground won't fall away and the sky won't fall down on us.
Trust that what is behind us may be familiar, but isn't worth returning to.
Trust that what is ahead may be dangerous, and it may be scary; it may bring further storms, and larger rocks, and steeper climbs, but the effort to move forward is Always Worth It.
Trust that the person beside us chooses to be there, and won't walk away when things get tough. Who, even if you tell them to go on without you, will recognise the narrative's hold on you and call out the lies for what they are. Who reminds you why you started moving forward, and why you need to keep moving.
Trust that when you keep walking, with someone holding the safety rope, you will eventually find balance.
And the more times you look over, just to see if he's still there, the easier it is to trust that he means it when he says:
No Matter What.