I always say that teaching everywhere is hard, teaching middle school is even harder, and teaching middle school math in a turn-around environment in Miami-Dade County, Florida is a special kind of hard reserved for the saints and angels of this world. Of which, I am not.
And yet, that's how I started my professional career. I worked as a middle school teacher for a few years before transitioning to elementary school, and then moving up in the ranks as an instructional coach, department head, assistant principal, and finally, Director of Academics at a charter school in Washington, DC.
To say that I was burning the candle at both ends would be an understatement.
I was in such a state of perpetual burn out, that I forgot what it was like to not be burnt out.
Have you ever felt that way?
And then, in the summer of 2017, I got married and went on my honeymoon.
I woke up every single morning before dawn to enjoy the sunrise with my new husband and a cup of coffee. I found myself down right happy-sobbing at everything - the sunrise, the sunset, the fish we saw snorkeling, I mean everything.
It was the first time in ten years that I remembered feeling truly happy. That I remembered feeling a sense of calm presence. That I remembered feeling pure and absolute joy to just...be. To sit. To relax.
And on Thursday of that week, I made the mistake of checking my email and seeing the subject line: Due by COB today.
Suddenly, the peace, the calm, and the joy were gone. I was angry. Very angry.
Now listen, I thought, what could you POSSIBLY need while I'm on my honeymoon?! There are no students in the building, there are no teachers in the building, and just short of the building literally falling down, which I can do NOTHING about from here, mind you, WHAT COULD YOU POSSIBLY NEED?!
And then I made the second mistake of the day, and I opened the email.
And I started sobbing for a whole new reason.
I was being asked to apply for the principalship of my school. I was honored. I was flattered. I was angry. I was terrified. I was overwhelmed. I was anxious. I started to panic.
My husband comes running into the room to find me in a heap on the floor, and suddenly I realize that it's no longer just me that I'm martyring for the cause - I've signed him up too. The early mornings, the late nights, the phone that never seems to stop ringing, the work that never seems to get done. For years, I'd done that to myself - I'd volunteered for it, because education is something I believe deeply in and feel passionately about. It's important work, and I knew I could help.
But I'd never stepped back to see what impact it was having on the people around me.
Why is it that we're fine with running ourselves into the ground on behalf of other people?
Why is it that we're not okay with seeing this happening to others?
Why is it that it took me seeing the impact of my self-destruction on someone else for me to commit to doing something about it?
As women, we so often will burn our own candles at both ends for others - because it's good work. It's work the world needs. It's for a good cause. It's for people we love.
But really, we can only do this good work when we have first taken care of ourselves.
Because at the end of the day, we can't be our best selves if we don't take care of ourselves first.
And so I left education to take care of myself. And in the process I spoke to dozens of women who felt the same way - exhausted. Burnt out. In a state of perpetual stress. Unsure how to move forward. Yearning to connect with someone else who felt the same way.
The thing is - so many of us feel this way.
The thing is - we all want someone to see us for who we are and to love us.
I set out to find a book club to meet this need for me, where we could read the same transformational books and get together to talk about our experiences.
And when I couldn't find one, I created it.
This is my invitation for you not only to join the book club, but also to dive in and have engage in real, deep, meaningful, vulnerable, and authentic conversations with others in the Go Love Yourself community, including coaches who can help us to think through what's going on and what action we might want to take next.
Because, as March's featured author Kelly Corrigan notes, "you can't really be loved if you can't bear to be really known." And you deserve to take the time for yourself to know yourself, and love yourself, to know others, and to love others, and to be known by others, and to be loved by others.
You don't have to go it alone.
We're here for you.
I'm here for you.
And who am I beyond being a burnt out teacher?
- I am an outgoing introvert that most people mistake for an extrovert. I've gotten very good at playing that part.
- I am obsessed with reading, and learning, and growing. Only my best friends and my family are privy to my ultranerd self.
- I travel like crazy - I love to see the world and experience new things. I've studied abroad multiple times, circumnavigated the globe in 108 days, and lived in Germany, and visited more than 50 countries.
- I love starting my morning with coffee, even though I know it triggers my anxiety.
- I don't drink alcohol. It exacerbated my anxiety even worse and was a terrible cover-up for my social anxiety.
- I grew up in Pittsburgh, taught in Miami, spent the last seven years in DC, and just moved to Seattle.
- I am married, and my husband and I have chosen to be childfree. I have a catchild named Annie who is weird, and wonderful, and the most dog-like cat I've ever met. She has no teeth.
- I am incredibly passionate about social justice and will never stop working to create a more peaceful, joyful, just, and equitable society.
- And I love love love having deep, juicy conversations with people about things that matter - like social justice, big ideas, goals, and dreams.
And what, exactly, qualifies me to curate boxes, create self-coaching workbooks, and cultivate community?
Well, to start, I'm a human. A human who knows how hard self-care is. A woman-identifying human who has struggled desperately with shame, and enoughness, and has worked hard to demystify so much of what has created shame in her own life. And I'm a woman who still struggles with self-care on a daily basis. I know all the outs and excuses. I've used them all.
I understand deeply the challenges of disconnecting my self-worth from my job. I understand fundamentally how hard it is to love yourself in a body that is deemed unworthy by the dominant culture. I understand, fully and completely, stress and anxiety, and have been diagnosed with both generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. And I understand how complex identity and growth can be.
And for those of us who are into credentials, there's this:
- BA in Sociology, University of Pittsburgh
- BPhil in Cognitive Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
- MS in Education and Social Change, University of Miami
- Certificate in School Management and Leadership, Harvard University
- Leadership Coaching Certification, Georgetown University
- Certified Coach, International Coach Federation
- Write. A lot.
- Have published 20+ self-help book companion guides.
- Teach coursework in the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Education.
- Serve on the board of the DC-Metro chapter of the International Coach Federation.
- Coach social justice leaders and innovators through my other organization, The Center for Conscious Leadership.
- Choose nachos every time they're on the menu.
It's good to meet you. I'd love to get to know you better. Seriously.
I look forward to it.
It's good to be on this journey with you.