How much money would you sacrifice to save your mental health? This week, I determined that figure.
Would you like me to explain?
Here’s the long-winded explanation: I have a part-time job teaching criminal justice for an online school (I’m not going to say which one but suffice it to say, it’s probably the one you’re thinking of). It’s not too difficult of a job. I get to work it when it’s convenient, I get to work from home or anywhere else (so no extra babysitting required) that has internet access, I have a good deal of freedom with my syllabus, and, as long as I’m adhering to deadlines and certain requirements, I get left alone. I do have a once a year performance review but that’s fine. As far as part-time jobs go, it’s one of the easiest, noninvasive ones I could ask for (except for the whole grading papers thing. That’s time-consuming and very invasive) and I feel fortunate that I was able to get the job when I did.
I’ve had the job for just over 3 years. At this point, my classes don’t take up a huge part of my time and I don’t spend a whole lot of time on my classes. Since I’ve been teaching them for so long, it’s not only just part of my regular routine but teaching them has become second nature. However, the classes run year-round in 9 week blocks so I’m always teaching something. Always. I have not had a stretch of more than 4 weeks where I have not been teaching at least one class. Every vacation I’ve had in the last 3 years has been a working vacation.
For a while, I didn’t mind. It was crucial that I earned the money so we could eliminate our debt. Not having debt was more important to me than having a “real” vacation. I was willing to sacrifice relaxing at that time so that I wouldn’t have the stress of debt later on (for the record, my husband did and still does work a second job as well so it was not totally on me to bring in extra income). As a result, I never turned down a class. If a scheduler came to me last minute and needed a replacement, I said yes. Every solicitation that was sent to my inbox was accepted. If they wanted me to teach two concurrent sections, I happily agreed. And so it went for 3 years.
I still keep accepting classes. Even though most of our debt is paid off at this point, I still keep teaching because the money is good and it’s fairly easy to earn. The money that was once going towards debt is now going towards some of the fun things. It’s nice to be able to keep them money in my account rather than giving it over to someone else. Except there’s one problem. I am burned out.
I am exhausted from constantly working two jobs. I have been working 7 days a week for pretty much the past 3 years. I miss having time off and actually being able to enjoy my weekends. The quality of the student enrolled in the school continues to backslide and I find myself having to teach basic grammar and literacy rather than the subject matter I’ve been charged with teaching. I find myself stressing about the job at odd hours of the night. A job that I once enjoyed and did not only for money but because I like teaching was now becoming the bane of my existence. I’ve stopped caring about whether or not the students learn. I’m doing everyone a disservice by continuing to teach right now.
So, this week, I did something I’ve never done before. I emailed my scheduler and told her that I could not teach the class I was scheduled to start next month. Then, the very next day, I was sent another solicitation for a class starting in December. I turned that one down, too. I decided that focusing on my blog, my business in the making and my daughter were more important than the money I was going to earn from those classes. I chose to have my weekends free from class work and grading papers for students that don’t really care about my feedback anyway. I decided that when I’m with my daughter in Disney World in January, I want to be able to give her my complete attention and not bury myself in my laptop. I picked my mental health over money.
I get paid just under $1500 per class. I turned down two classes, meaning this week I gave up almost $3000. And I don’t care.
I don’t mean to sound cavalier when so many are struggling. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to not have any money and to have to do whatever possible to earn a dollar. And I will start teaching again in a few months. But for now, I need a break. Because for the first time in a long time, I’m picking myself over money. I’ll do without whatever that money was going to buy. No vacation, concert, purse or frivolous item is worth what will happen if I don’t take a break.
My mental health is worth $3,000.