Over the past few weeks, a few people have asked me how I am possibly able to continue teaching at the university on a daily basis, while living with all of the challenges that I describe here on my blog. I realized that when I wrote the following words here on my blog, a little over a month ago, I may not have been too clear about the fact that I had stopped teaching at the university:
And my professional life has undergone some radical cuts during the past week. I will continue to teach, but on a much smaller scale than I have been doing during the past year. On one hand this is quite frustrating, because my mind is so capable even though my body continues to fall behind. I could interpret recent events as a blow, but I am instead approaching them as another example of personal success while living with chronic illness: My body continues to demand more care, and I am prioritizing its needs above anything else. I am recognizing and accepting my limitations, hard as that might be. I continue to look forward to the future…
The reasons why I stopped teaching at the university were numerous, and while my health was not the primary factor when I made this decision, it certainly was a major factor. Even though I could (technically) continue to “push through” my pain and keep on going to the classroom each day, I felt like I had reached a point where doing so was counterproductive. Sure, teaching gave me an opportunity to distract my mind from my pain and disability, but the physical cost of doing so was just becoming too great.
So even though I was slightly (okay, no-so-slightly) devastated by the fact that I would no longer be working as a college professor, I decided that instead of getting depressed, I was going to use this opportunity to get closer to a place where I needed to be.
I thought a lot about my “new rules” moving forward, and formulated three main requirements for any professional opportunity that I might pursue. First, I needed to be able to set my own schedule, and–more importantly–I needed to do something that did not require any commitments before 12 noon. Second, I needed to be able to work primarily from home, although leaving my house on a minimal basis was acceptable. And third, I needed to work with something that I was passionate about, such as design or teaching.
This past week, I realized–with much satisfaction–that I had indeed found the place that I was looking for. I am currently tutoring a few high students in different subject areas, from English Literature to World History to Algebra to SAT Test preparation. My first lesson starts at 1:30 p.m., which gives me plenty of time to get through my mornings (which are usually my most difficult time of day, living with rheumatoid arthritis). Only recently have I realized the great amount of distress that morning commitments added to my life, and how much better I am doing–mentally AND physically–since I have removed these sources of stress from my daily routine.
I am able to work from the comfort of my home office, which is located just steps away from my bedroom. I can wear my slippers up until the moment the doorbell rings, and I am also able to take a quick nap or just sit down and rest during lessons. Another benefit of working from home that I had not realized up until now: there is no need to carry around a heavy backpack full of books, folders, papers, and so on.
The aspect of my new situation that makes me most happy, though, is the fact that I can continue working with students who are eager to learn. Time and energy become even more precious than usual when living with a chronic illness, and it’s nice to be able to ensure these aspects of my life are being dedicated to people who appreciate them. And of course, it’s nice to be able to choose who I do and do not work with. (Just this week I had to “wait list” a couple of students, including one whose mother kept on demanding that I guarantee that her son would score at least a 2100 on the SAT.)
And the best part of all? Up until now, I’ve managed to keep my Friday’s free.
Sure, rheumatoid arthritis does and will continue to shut many doors…but there will always be bigger and better doors to open…we just gotta find them!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!