33: Finding My Happiness

33: Finding My Happiness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Finding My Happiness

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

I found myself dreaming about retirement even though I was only forty. When my alarm went off at five in the morning, I would lie in bed yearning for the golden years. I was exhausted and felt trapped. I was teaching History to 180 high school students that year, the most I’d ever had. A request for an additional teacher for the next year had been denied, and enrollment wasn’t declining.

I was also a mom with four kids ranging from elementary to high school. As a working mom, I kept a tightly managed schedule to meet my responsibilities for classroom and family. Teaching over one hundred students meant bringing home piles of papers to grade every night. I took my grade book with me to sporting events, practices, even church events. After putting my own kids to bed, I’d stay up making instructional plans for the next day, channeling my energy into creative lessons to make History come alive. I was on top of my game professionally, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

I felt like a hamster on a fast-paced-wheel that never ended. I daydreamed of being in my house with nothing but silence. I longed for time by myself, but didn’t want to wish away the years my kids were at home. I was in a rut and saw no way out. I longed for the ability to work part-time or find a job where I could leave work at the office. I loved teaching more than anything, but it took all my energy.

Over time, my stress levels affected our family. While I held things together on the outside, I was a mess inside. I was chronically irritable, tired, and would easily snap at my kids and husband.

Changing professions never occurred to me until a neighbor reached out for some informal counseling. After meeting with her a few times, I wondered what it would be like to counsel professionally. But changing careers mid-life with a large family to take care of seemed out of the question. When I shared my internal struggle and exhaustion with my husband, he gave me the go-ahead, and I began to pray about doing something different. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so trapped.

After prayer, research, and weighing options, I applied to be a full-time graduate student in a three-year master’s degree program. It was a hard decision professionally, financially, and personally. But when I left the interview for the counseling program, I felt a peace and calm I hadn’t felt in years, and I knew it was the right thing.

It wasn’t easy. Going back to school in a technology-based environment required learning new skills and mastering the Internet, discussion boards, and APA formatting. I was in grad school when my oldest began her first year at a university. We tightened our belts. I cleaned houses to pay for lunch money. It was all worth it. Three years, two internships, and thousands of driving hours later, I currently work part-time as a school counseling professional and have a small private counseling practice.

I’ve also developed new hobbies, like writing. I attend my children’s school activities without a briefcase in hand. I occasionally meet a friend for coffee, and at times, have empty mental space. I sleep better and laugh more. I’m only forty-five.

The greatest thing I’ve learned from choosing to get out of a mid-life rut is how my countenance affects my kids. I recently heard my teenager say, “My mom loves her job and is happy.” When children know their parents are happy, they’re happy, too.

~Brenda Lazzaro Yoder

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