It has been a very long time since the last time I posted. I didn’t realize how long it had been, but looking at the dates on the posts, I guess it makes sense. Being somewhat of a student of philosophy in my spare time, and studying mostly the work of Ayn Rand, it would make sense that I would abhor the idea of altruism. But this weekend, after a time of reflection, I have realized that I have been practicing altruism for several months. The result has been a nightmare that I have continually tried to blame on the circumstances around me, but has ultimately been my own fault.
It started about a year ago, when a conversation with a fellow teacher about curriculum turned into a conversation about summer camp. The conversation was uplifting to me at the time because we were talking about collaborating to plan summer camp, coming up with all sorts of creative ideas and ways to keep the children engaged throughout the summer months. That conversation blossomed into me completing three different summer camp calendars on my own, booking field trips on my own, planning activities on my own, and doing everything for a class that was not my own. And since we got a new director during the summer months, I was unable to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but it was made known to me prior to the new director taking the helm that I probably wouldn’t get to enjoy them anyway. So why did I take on the challenge? At this point I really have no idea, because the collaboration never happened (I wasn’t sure that it was going to happen in the first place) and the end of summer camp fell apart with the changing of the guard. Guilt ran rampant as I tried to distance myself from the implosion, but since I felt like I was ultimately responsible for summer camp, I felt guilty.
The guilt continued when it came to my own classroom. Since I had been so involved with putting summer camp together, a teacher that had just been hired (with no experience) was put in my classroom. I listened from the office, which was across the hall from my classroom, as my room fell apart. But there was nothing I could do. I was busy up to my neck in planning summer camp. When I was taken off of summer camp duty, there had been complaints about my classroom and I was put back into the room. I was also charged with training the teacher in the classroom, but I was so mired in guilt by that time over summer camp that I couldn’t really do a great job of it, which brought on even more guilt.
It just kept going and going. I switched classrooms and co-teachers. I was given a choice between two teachers, and chose according to altruistic reasons rather than sound, value-driven reasoning. I had talked to the teacher that I chose enough to have the impression that she’d had a hard time and been misunderstood in the past. I figured that if she worked with me, maybe that would help. Instead, it brought me down and increased my guilt as I began to feel like a failure, simply because I could not change her attitude. And when I approached my new boss and explained to her that I couldn’t lower my standards in order to work with her (after I realized my mistake), I was told that I would have to compromise.
A lot has happened since then. I am in a new classroom with a new co-teacher, after going through the needed steps to secure a transfer to another center. I have had to backtrack through my actions and figure out where all of the guilt has come from. And I have had to absolve myself of this guilt and figure out who I am and what my goals are. I have found that when you do something for altruistic reasons, you lose a part of yourself in the process. I have actually felt like I have been unraveling during the past few months, and have worked hard to try to pick up the pieces of myself and put them back together. I have been in the process of trying to start a business in the middle of all of this, and the stress of the guilt has been such that I have had to put the business on the sidelines so that I could figure myself out.
I am very glad that I went through the process of figuring this out over the weekend. I have needed to do this for quite a while, but guilt has a way of consuming you and making it hard for you to see anything else. The important thing is to wade through it and figure out the root of it. That is what integrity is about. I know that if I am feeling guilt, then I have strayed from my beliefs. Sorting through the feelings and the causes of them will help me to get on the right path again. Understanding that my actions have been altruistic in nature can help me to remember the reasons for what I started before I began dealing with life altruistically. I was going to school, and was beginning to think about the business before the summer camp issues began. Maybe I can get back to the place where those things can be a possibility again.