Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I’m a 27-year-old teacher of remedial English at a high-needs urban high school. I’m in my second year, and this job has completely worn me out. It has been a constant barrage of disrespectful students, absent parents, zero funding, lack of curriculum and unsupportive administration every day for nearly two years. I began having bouts of insomnia and anxiety regularly. I could tell my attitude and health were getting bad, and I applied to another school for a midyear change (a very drastic thing to do in teaching). I quickly got an offer at a much wealthier school that will supposedly solve all my problems. However, I’m still strung out with anxiety and depression, which had been manageable for years, and now what I really want is just a break. From life, from work, from having to try so hard to get anything done. I am going to start taking some kind of antidepressants (through my doctor) and will be re-entering therapy, but I just don’t know if I can deal with the stress of teaching again, even if it is with a higher-performing group of kids. I also feel guilty about possibly passing up this good opportunity and about changing jobs so often. Shouldn’t I have settled into a great profession by now? Won’t I just look flaky if I keep changing jobs, although I do feel like I’m growing with each position, learning what my strengths and weakness are, etc.? I know there will be other opportunities for me. I am so scared of starting this new job, and I just want to stop. I have the resources and family support to take off the rest of the semester and summer if I need to. To be in counseling, to find the right antidepressants, to exercise, to just be healthy. But I just can’t help shaking my uncle’s words: “Buck up! This is the real world.”
Needs a Break
DEAR NEEDS: It sounds like part of what is going on right now is anxiety about starting at this new school. Starting a new job at a new place is extremely stressful for anyone. Are you able to handle this universal stress, which would pass in a week or so, without it triggering more health problems? You and your therapist should discuss it.
My own opinion is that you should accept that you are nervous and have your goal be to teach until the end of the school year, and then use the summer break to reassess your situation. Ultimately, teaching might not be the best profession for you, but teaching at this new school would help you to decide.
You should continue to search for a profession that provides the work/life balance you require to be healthy. Your uncle is right — there are definitely times in life when bucking up is definitely called for, but if you have extreme anxiety, bucking up would simply not be possible. An important aspect of adulthood is taking responsibility for and managing your own health.
DEAR AMY: I am a 37-year-old single woman with a good job. I have met a terrific single guy who is 59 — we are just friends at this point. He is battling cancer, so we get together and talk and I’m helping him to cope with what’s going on in his life. The thing is my family (my mom and sister) disapprove of the friendship because of the age difference. They have expressed that I shouldn’t be friends with someone that much older. I don’t see anything wrong with it, and we enjoy each other’s company. What do you think?
Nothing Wrong With It
DEAR NOTHING WRONG: I’m with you. But I wonder — why do your family members feel so comfortable judging your friendship choices? I assume it is because you invite them to. You are a grown woman. You are free to use your judgment to have relationships with people, and as long as you aren’t hurting each other or anyone else, it’s all good. If your family members don’t approve, you should remind them of this.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Worried Grandma,” about her little grandson, who had long hair like a girl. The whole world isn’t queer or transgendered, except in the liberal bastions of insanity! Worried 24/7 about being bullied? Dress him like a sweet little girl! Better yet in the liberal world, let him decide if he’s a boy or girl! Good grief! I’m with grandma!
DEAR DISGUSTED: You are not alone in your view. Thank you for responding.