When I began my career, teaching wasn’t on my radar. My parents were hoping I’d attend med school, and except for knowing I didn’t want to be a doctor, I wasn’t wholly sure of what lay ahead.
I began teaching after I completed my graduate degree. The desire to have a positive, inspiring, and enduring impact on my students, and the incredible energy of a classroom turned out to be a perfect fit.
Now, nearly 20 years into my career, teaching is a life-giving passion. I look forward to my days in the classroom and relish the opportunity to engage and enrich my students. Teaching has given me true purpose.
So why do I feel so meh right now? Let’s rewind a few years.
Three years ago, the world was different. Suddenly, rather than walking into a classroom, I sat in front of my computer and opened Zoom. My book had just launched, and I couldn’t have any in-person book tours. It was months before I could see my family. There were no more gatherings with friends at bars. I adapted to working out at home.
Today, much, if not all, of our pre-COVID existence has been restored. Public events take place every day, restaurants and classrooms are full again, and normal travel has resumed.
Still, we’re not the same as we were before. Many I’ve spoken with were excited to shake the COVID cocoon free. But I’ve been hearing from others, and feel myself, a little bit of reticence to return to that previous life.
To be clear, I still love teaching and am so happy to teach in person. The energy of a classroom is unmatched. I also still love traveling for pleasure. I find nothing more rejuvenating than enjoying a new place far from home.
But the activities that were an everyday occurrence before March 2020? The constant barrage of quasi-social-professional commitments and social gatherings? I know there are many struggling to get back on board.
In conversations about these feelings, we’ve wondered, could this change be related to different seasons? Perhaps we're experiencing a natural progression of life. Maybe we’re reacting to a personal challenge by wanting to stay inside. Or are we simply different now?
What do I want?
For me, when faced with choosing between dressing up to attend a gala or staying home to catch up on my favorite shows, the latter option wins out more frequently these days. I want to rest, relax, and enjoy some time in my own company when I have a spare moment. Now more than ever, I find myself saying, “I don’t feel like it”—a phrase that wasn’t in my pre-pandemic vocabulary.
Beyond pinpointing when this change began, I can’t make sense of how I’m feeling. It’s not that I don’t have patience for the pace of my pre-COVID life. For the first time in my life, I simply don’t have the interest.
Why do I feel different?
Fear of missing out, also known as FOMO, was a factor that used to dictate many decisions about what I did and with whom. Not anymore. I‘ve become more selective about how I spend my limited downtime.
In a way, I feel more balanced. I’m making more intentional decisions about how I spend my time. My energy is dedicated to my teaching, my work, my dearest friends and family, and myself.
As comfortable as this mindset feels right now, this choice can be isolating. I’m conflicted because I know social interaction is good, and sometimes I need to get out. At the same time, I’m no longer quite as motivated to participate in the activities I once enjoyed. Along the way, I’ve lost some momentum.
Don’t get me wrong, I check in with myself to ensure I’m not declining invitations because of a deeper issue. I want to be at peace with my social choices and know that I’m not isolating myself from the world purposefully. Honestly, I’ve just been taken aback by these changes considering the dizzying pace of my pre-pandemic perspective.
The changes ushered in by the COVID-era have made life more monotonous, and monotony is a motivation thief. I want to break this cycle to reclaim my momentum, but I’m struggling to figure out how.
What should I want?
Even though there are parts of this outlook that have made me feel more balanced, the situation isn’t perfect. I struggle to understand why I’ve changed and if I need to tweak my current lifestyle.
So perhaps the changes we’ve been noticing are our innermost selves looking to strike the right balance between the many vital elements in our lives. Throughout the past three years, we may have learned more about what we’re willing to accept and what we won’t.
If this is the case, who am I to ignore the sensibilities of my soul?
What about you? Does your pre- and post-pandemic self align? Are you struggling to reconcile these contrasting versions of yourself?
A little advice—stop letting the old you judge the new you. Make peace with who you are right now and create space to fill your cup—no matter what the cup looks like.