Friday, March 20, 2009

On Failure, Part 4: Stressing Out

This is part of a two week series on my five biggest failures and five biggest successes as a teacher this year. This week I am focusing on failure, while next week will focus on success.

I don't think I anticipated how stressful this year was going to be. I'm not really talking about the numerous difficult challenges I've faced at work, because those have been there every year I've taught. It was outside the classroom that I really failed to thrive, which made everything more difficult. I failed to find enough outlets for stress relief this year.

My physical and emotional transition across the country last summer was incredibly stressful. I'm a seasoned veteran when it comes to moving--I've moved every year for the last six years (sometimes more than once in the same year). So when I say this move was the most stressful yet, that's saying something.

Finding an apartment was more challenging than ever, as we were restricted to areas with good public transit accessibility while trying to search from 2000 miles away. I had crunched the numbers to figure out how much rent I thought we could afford and still maintain a similar standard of living, and thought I knew exactly what I was doing. We ended up in a great apartment and location, but the rent was significantly higher than what I had come up with, which lead to a much bigger problem.

I totally took for granted the low cost and high standard of living I had enjoyed in my five years in the Rio Grande Valley. My girlfriend and I have cut back everything to save money, I've sold almost all of my earthly possessions, and we've learned to appreciate getting by on far less (which is certainly a good thing).

It's not having to live more cheaply that makes things stressful; I actually enjoy that challenge. It's the very real possibility that I won't be able to pay the rent or other bills, or won't be able to pay off debts and save for the future. I hate how money has put a strain on my relationship with my girlfriend, how many pointless arguments it has fostered. It's taken most of this year for the constant tension about money to subside, but I still stress about it privately even if we don't fight about it any more.

Even though I've learned a great deal about what's really important to me this year, the high cost of things has made if difficult for me to indulge in anything I would normally do for stress relief.

No Relief

If I'm not at work I'm basically a shut in, because I can't afford to take advantage of many of the things I came to Boston for--access to tons of live music, theater, museums, major sporting events, great restaurants and bars or travel to nearby places. Even the local cafe is no longer a cheap respite for a few quiet hours out.

I used to watch every UFC PPV in a great local pool hall in the RGV, but the cover charge alone here could have paid for the entire night out before. I was even interested in taking a mixed martial arts class at a local school before I saw what the monthly cost would be. The same goes for a gym membership.

Ironically, one reason I moved back to the East Coast was for the opportunity to see my family more often to help me get away from things. Yet the increased cost of living has been so dramatic that I haven't been able to afford to visit them any more often than I did when I lived 2000 miles away.

I have learned to appreciate little things, had more time to blog, and found out I can do a lot by myself throughout this year. I just wish I could strike enough of a balance to make my tough job a little more tolerable.

In a Sentence
Find outlets for stress relief and always strive for a true work/life balance, no matter what.