The Couch That Suffocated Me

In the long, long ago, when I was a high school teacher, I brought incredible energy to my high school students e’ry damn day.

I loved them, my colleagues, and the work. I loved it so hard that I brought a couch into my classroom so my students would have a soft place to land during low moments and tough times.

And each day, I’d bring an oppressive bag of grading home with me because during my work day there was no time to breathe.

What was depriving me of oxygen?

  • Allison hated her mother, and her mother obviously hated her.
  • Tyler found reading so hard that he’d come to my room to escape it.
  • Mary was overwhelmed as a teacher and had no coping skills.
  • Christine was a new teacher who just wanted to hear my thoughts on this idea she had…

You get the picture.

Every free moment I could’ve used to get shit done during the school day was eaten up by the needs of other people.

But MAN did I feel needed. Validated. Powerful. Helpful. Giving.

I obviously had my shit together (insert eye roll emoji here) – and all these poor friends, colleagues, and students just did NOT.  They needed me.

And I was important to the world because they needed me.

One day I looked at a student come through my door and realized, No one ever walks into this room and offers me something. Everyone takes. That felt horrible, so I stuffed that down.

Another day I watched a colleague saunter past, stop, come in to chat, and thought, Am I the only one with work to do?! That felt judgmental, so I swatted it away.

Finally, a friend walked in to share her heavy story. I thought, I have heard this story before. It never changes. And it never will change.

And I realized something had to change.

I looked at that damned couch and thought, You. You need to go. It’s like a god-damned talk show up in here.

One mass email to the staff  and I got that couch out of my room and out of my life. It was my very first professional boundary.

People still came, but they didn’t stay long. Slowly I began to get my time back…and learned my very first lesson: we all need to create the conditions to give ourselves some air.

Just a little bit. At first. Just a sip.

Today, I support you in taking one action to get yourself a sip of air. Just a sip.

Maybe you say, “No” to one obligation.

Maybe you tell your kids to get their own damn cup of water.

Maybe you tell your boss that the timeline isn’t reasonable.

Whatever it is, tell me! I’d love to know what action you took – share what you did (or didn’t do) in the comments!

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