Take Control of the “INGS”
Justine Evyn Saliski
This was one of those weeks where even if there were 48 hours in a day, there wouldn’t be enough time to get everything done that I need to get done. I have events taking place every weekend for the next few weeks, I’m directing Shakespeare in the round with my middle schoolers, while one of the coolest things I have ever done, it is daunting, and camp starts in less than 13 weeks. Planning, hiring, training, executing, facilitating-all of the “ings” that have me panicking. It was getting better, until I screwed something up and found myself in a tizzy on Wednesday morning.
I’ve spent the last 5 to 6 weeks actively trying to disconnect from work when I get home, and allowing for myself to have some me time. It’s hard. Like super hard. For the first couple of days when I would not immediately answer an email, even if it was 11pm or 5am, a pang of fear would start to radiate through my body like something terrible was happening. More often than not, I end a phone call at work with “I am frequently in and out of the office teaching, but I am always accessible by email.” If I tell someone I am always accessible by email, not answering in lying. But where do we draw the line?
My accessibility started to become something that was eating me alive. Slowly, I began to limit myself from my constant state of connectivity. As a young professional rising in the field, wrapping my head around the idea that “there is never going to be a near death arts education emergency” was something I really took to heart, because what if there was? What if there was something that happened to one of my kids, or their parents, or my program, and I wasn’t there to fix it? Would I lose my credibility in the field? Would I lose my relationship with my kids and their parents that I have been working to build for months and months?
The answer, is no.
On Wednesday morning, that feeling of something terrible crept over me at 7:12 am when I received an email that shot me out of bed. I forgot to put something in the calendar. I don’t have the staff to work. I can’t be in two places at once. I’m screwed. I got up, ran to my computer, sent some emails and a few texts, and waited for responses. In the midst of that waiting, I had a complete breakdown on the couch. I tore myself to pieces because if I had just been more accessible, if I had just been more proactive about making sure I was following back up on my emails, this wouldn’t have happened. It was my fault for “actively trying to disconnect”. My partner looked at me on the couch mid panic, and said “You are doing too much. Something like this is bound to happen a time or two, we’re all human. It’s okay.”
In the moment did it help? Sure didn’t! But is retrospect, she is right. A lot of the time, I am doing too much. And even more of the time, I am not allowing myself to recharge mentally, physically and emotionally in order heal from the stressors of a work week. We are constantly checking in with our kids, but who is checking in on us?
Every time you go to check your email and it has already been an 11-hour day, check in with yourself too. If it is one of the 1 in 1,000,000 arts in education emergencies, please, reply. But, if it is a parent or student who is asking if they are called for rehearsal on Sunday, they have the call sheet. They can figure it out if it cannot wait until the morning.
Putting down your phone does not mean that we care less. Ultimately, it means that we care more. We spend day in and day our championing for our kids and carrying them on our backs. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how are we going to be the best support we can be for them?
As arts educators and advocate for our kids, we all know the radical healing powers that the arts can have. Go see the play you’ve been wanting to see. Explore the new exhibit at the museum. Read a libretto outside sitting on the grass with the sun beating down on you. Take a mental health day. You’re kicking ass.
Check in with yourself. You deserve it.