Since my Caliventure experience, it’s taken some time to return to the world of adulthood.
And, spoiler alert, I’m not a fan.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments going on. There are. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some bumpy moments happening either. And by bumpy moments, I mean a resurfacing of past demons.
On a more physical sense, it took me a couple of days to readjust to the altitude and, more or less, stop suffering from what I presumed to be a mix of jet lag and altitude sickness. I mean driving my own car back in Pennsylvania was enough to make me nauseated. I was ready to give up driving for the rest of my life.
Then some highs and lows hit me.
Randomly. Without warning.
During the teacher in-service week, I recall sitting down at a faculty lunch. When I sat down, I was fine. But, like a switch had been flicked, my mood darkened and the tendrils of depression started gripping me once more. It was so sudden. So unexpected. Crippling. I turned into the cloud at the table. I didn’t interact with people. I don’t think it was noticed much, if at all. To keep it that way, I ended up retreating from the social environment, vanishing into my classroom.
I’m being reminded of just how complex mental health is. Or, maybe, it’s not so much of being reminded as it is continuing to learn what this process is truly like. So many times I think people assume depression and anxiety can be cured like one can cure the flu or the common cold.
“Here, you sad person you, take these pills. In a few days your symptoms will wear off and VIOLA! You’ll be healthier than ever.” #Winning
Except, that’s a mainstream myth that only people who suffer from depression and anxiety realize. The people around them? Well, they can never fully understand that, despite their best intentions. Winning is a daily process with mental health.
As for my highs, I’m so glad to be back with my dog, Logan. I missed him immensely and it means the world to me to be able to curl up on the coach with him once more, using him as my favorite pillow and telling him how much I love him and how much of a good boy he is. I’d be lost without him. I really would. Next time I go on an adventure, I want him to come with me. He’s my sidekick.
I have been happy to be back in the classroom. Frankly, I love my kids. I always have loved the kids I get. This year feels fresh in so many ways because it’s the first year where I can devote the majority of my time into my classroom. I don’t have to worry about the huge demands of directing the drama club productions this year. I can focus on teaching. Focus on my students. Focus on me. I’ll miss drama, but I’m excited to see what this year holds without it.
I’m already having more time to do different things. I was able to put a lot of time (and money I really don’t have) into my classroom. For real, it’s been completely overhauled with cozy lighting, a reading nook, and Marvel decorations. I assigned an array of diverse and powerful Marvel characters to each my classes; characters that are younger, a new generation–characters I want the kids who love Marvel to get to know and explore. I have a Shuri class, the sister of Black Panther (and sometimes Black Panther herself in the comics) and African Princess; there’s an Ironheart class, an intelligent young Black woman named RiRi Williams was a mentee to Tony Stark, a girl who fashioned her own iron suit–fantastic character; I set up a Ms. Marvel class, the first Muslim-American superhero with shapeshifting abilities that pale in comparison to her incredible heart; there’s a Ghost-Spider class (also known as Spider-Gwen), the punky White girl who is an all-out boss with her spider abilities; and then there’s my Spider-Man class fashioned after the Miles Morales version, the middle-school aged bi-racial Black/Puerto Rican boy who has to fill the roles of the iconic Spider-Man after he’s bit by a strange spider.
I know that may not seem like a big deal to you all as my readers. But for me? It’s huge. I want to create a classroom where all are welcome. I want to make sure I’m representing all voices. These characters are a start and for every character, I made sure to buy some of their graphic novels so the kids could get to know them.
It was funny because in my Ironheart class a young boy was heard saying, “Ironheart? Who’s she? And why are we a classroom set up after a girl?”
I smiled and said, “She’s an incredible character. You should be honored! She’s got so much heart and loyalty.”
Another boy was quick to ask, “Mr. H, do you have Ironheart’s graphic novel? I want to know more about her!”
It filled me with joy during the first week, a week I always get anxious and excited over. It’s a week where building relationships is key. I love taking the time getting to know my new students, kids I hope to each and also learn from over the next nine months.
These moments fill me with such joy. I’m teaching lessons with passion. Grading essays with more thought because, yes, I already assigned writing to the poor souls.
But there’s a part of me that still wishes I was on the West Coast, having adventures.
Seeing the world.
Ignoring adult responsibilities.
As I said in my season finale post, I’ll never forget the lessons California taught me. While my bank account and finances were hit majorly from my trip, I don’t regret what I did. I’d do it again. I learned much about myself. About the world. About nature. It gave me hope. Joy. Happiness.
My return to the adult world has been jarring at times. As I said, I’ve had my ups, but I’m having my lows.
Random bursts where I just lay around and stare at the wall, despite the fact I’m on my anti-depressant medication. And, yes, I Googled whether it was possible for my body to build a tolerance to the meds. And, yes, it’s possible.
I suspect that’s what’s happening and that I might need to talk to my doctor about this. Which, sadly, means more medical bills I can’t pay. A 20 minute session with a doctor costs me almost $100, and that’s with insurance.
It’s getting worse. My mood swings. This past week I spiraled into it a bit more. No motivation. No drive. Last weekend, a friend I work with invited me to her place for a pizza party. I was immobile on my couch, unable to do anything all day, hiding from the world.
Right now, I’m struggling to understand how to prevent myself from self-destructing some friendships that mean a lot to me, from pushing away people I care about. I have a friend who’s done a lot for me, but a friend who doesn’t know how to best support me anymore. So this friend has put up barriers around themself because they don’t want to take on the battle I, myself, have to deal with. While it’s hard to process this friend’s words, I can’t necessarily blame them. This friend is probably right: I have to take care of me. Once I do that, things will fall into place.
I’m trying to grasp and understand it. And I also know that it doesn’t mean I won’t face this mental health issue more in the future. I just have to get better at parrying it, like it’s an epic lightsaber duel on Mustafar between Master and Padawan. Every blow violent and striking, but every swing met with equal resistance. And maybe I’ll stumble here and there because it takes energy to stay on your feet. One wrong step and a mortal wound could slice through you–through me. But, sticking to the analogy, I have to use the Force… use what I know, my weapons, and the strength within to fight back.
It’s not going to be something that permanently goes away. It’ll always be there. Always ready to pounce. Dark vs. Light. Depression vs. Joy.
That’s what it means to be back to reality–to face life head-on. I’m not hiking through the wilderness of California anymore. I’m hiking through the unpredictable forests of life, and I can’t let my guard down. I have to do whatever it takes to take care of myself for myself. For my friends. For my family. For my team. For my students.
I may stumble, like I did on the powerful slopes of Mt. Shasta, but I have to keep going.
And I have to stop using metaphors because, really, how many can I pull out? The answer is… a lot. I mean I am listening to epic instrumental music while writing this, so… are you surprised?
Anyway, life has been interesting since returning. I thought my adventure ended when I left the West Coast. But really? I think that’s where it all began. It’s where my perspective shifted, where I gained back some confidence and willpower, where I overcame fears. And California Josh came back to the East Coast. He’s adjusting. He’s slipping.
But he’s still on an adventure.
Because do adventures ever really end?