Is it with the number of friends? With your achievements in life? With how many lives you’ve changed? With how you achieve your inner peace? Or, does it really make sense to try to measure these things in the first place?
For some reason, shitty days will always be part of our lives and it will sometimes come in a timing when you just can’t accommodate it.
That happened to me today. I made a mistake of opening my email at 2 in the morning and receiving a sad news about something I’ve worked hard on. And it kept me wide awake until 7:30AM, just in time for my first class. I got through my first class with my camera off because I did not have time to prepare to dress up and put some makeup on. I was numb, overwhelmed, and I can’t explain what I was feeling. I had no one to reach out to and vent about it, except a few toxic people who knew about this whole journey I went through, which I did reach out to. And I got nothing but anxiety and unmet expectations.
I’ve been trying to sleep after my class but I just can’t. I don’t feel sleepy. I don’t feel tired. I thought that opportunity denied to me as per THE email will make me cry and destroy me at least for a few days or weeks. But no. I cleaned my condo, floor to ceiling. I’ve got an energy (not an angry energy) which I don’t know where it comes from. I feel normal, and I guess I just have to get through the day. And I did.
And another email came in today. This time it’s the faculty evaluations from last term.
Faculty evaluations give me anxiety. While I believe and trust that students will not write very horrible comments on the way I performed in class, I did not have a good start with this thing. The very first set of evaluations I received were very bad. Bad in a sense that the Department Chair called my attention and asked me to to something to improve it. It put my contract renewal at risk. That was traumatic.
Well, if I’m being honest, I also started in a wrong foot. I was totally unprepared that time to go back teaching again. After almost 5 years of office work, I wasn’t ready to go back to the classroom again to teach, full-time this time. I forgot how to manage noisy students, lazy students, irresponsible students, and apathetic students. I focused on the diligent students, those students who actually cared.
Years passed, and online school happened, I became kinder to students of all backgrounds. I give them the benefit of the doubt for late submissions. I give them the benefit of the doubt for failing to attend classes. I follow up on them if they did not hand in their submissions. I never forced to call them out to open their cameras and recite. I was very, very patient. I always think about how I can possibly cause them anxiety and how I can prevent it from happening. I don’t want to give anyone anxiety because I know how it feels like, and it feels awful. I just want the best for them.
I will always remember facing the Admissions Committee in the Master’s Program I applied for that I was very certain about going the academia route after earning the degree, and therefore they should let me in. And here I am, yay! I dedicated years of blood, sweat, and tears to be able to have something to teach to my future students, and I am very happy it’s starting to pay off.
Earning my Master’s Degree and being given the chance to teach full-time is a dream come true for me. The world has been kind to me. Both my undergrad and grad alma maters have been kind to me. My students and colleagues have been kind to me. But was I ever kind to myself?
That being said, I think this time I want to measure success and happiness in terms of how much I can prioritize myself and be kinder to myself. Every word of appreciation I get from students from the evals are some things I can never say to myself. I’m not even aware that I’m being kind. I’m just doing what I think is right. I’m just doing whatever makes me sleep at night.
How about you? How do you measure success and happiness?