Teachers, Tap Into Your Inner Gump
My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump. -Forrest Gump
Well, not really. It’s Jill Talarico. People call me Jill Talarico. My friend Marnie would occasionally call me Forrest. How did she come up with that? Every time I saw or spoke to her, I had a new hobby, had joined a new team, or had just returned from some exotic location. Whether hiking on glaciers in Iceland, drumming for a rock band, or joining a dragon boat team, tales of my never-ending explorations and endeavors entertained and amused her.
My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’ -Forrest
For most of my life, I was always up for a new adventure. There are SO MANY things to do, places to go, and people to meet, and I wanted to try it all. Life is a box of chocolates, and I wanted to taste every. single. one of them. Sometimes I just secretly scraped the bottom of the chocolate to see what was inside, slyly put it back in the box, and moved onto to try something new. You know what I mean. Other times I loved that chocolate and binged on that flavor for a while. I never knew what I was going to get, but I knew it would be an experience!
Over time, my enthusiasm for new, exciting experiences slowly disappeared. I wasn’t sure when or why it happened. I didn’t even realize it was happening. All I know is I had become a completely different person, a bit of a hermit, which is totally fine if that makes you happy. I was not happy; I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
My enthusiastic sense of adventure was buried under mountains of stress and overwhelm from teaching. My inner perfectionist, martyr, and people-pleaser, who I affectionately call Barbara (Babs for short), had me saying yes to everything at school.
Do you want to be on this committee? Umm, no, not really, but…sure. Can you put this presentation together? Of course, and I’ll spend countless hours of my weekend making it 100% perfect. When can you enter all of your data into this meaningless spreadsheet? Today. I’ll stay late, because I am THE BEST!
I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours…I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now. -Forrest
After almost 30 years of teaching, I was basically running on a treadmill, going nowhere fast. I was surviving, not thriving, counting down the days to retirement. At the end of the school day, my tank was empty, and I had next to nothing left to give to my family, friends, or myself. I spent countless evenings on the couch at home, mindlessly scrolling on Facebook or binging the newest Netflix series, desperately trying to make it to 9:00, so I could finally go to bed.
And, I wasn’t the only one. I was surrounded by burned out, overwhelmed educators, shuffling through the hallways at school, trying to make it to the end of the school day without losing their ever-loving minds. By nature, most teachers are care-givers, perfectionists, and people-pleasers. That’s why we’re teachers. We just can’t help ourselves; however, saying yes to everything at school means we say no to our family, friends, and, most importantly, ourselves.
Bubba was my best good friend, and even I know that ain’t something you can find just around the corner. -Forrest
All of this changed for me in 2020 when Marnie, the Bubba to my Forrest, the peas to my carrots, passed away from breast cancer. Losing her shook me to the core and broke my heart into a million tiny little pieces. Although I think about Marnie all of the time and can’t believe we will never make more memories together, her passing was the wake-up call I desperately needed.
Life is precious, and I owe it to Marnie to get back out there and live my life to the absolute fullest. That’s what she would want, and I would do absolutely anything for her. This means I’m slowly saying goodbye to the annoying perfectionist, people-pleasing martyr in me. Buh-bye! I am learning to say NO to the things I do out of obligation or guilt and saying HELL, YES to me.
Do you want to join this committee? No, but thanks for thinking of me. Can you put this presentation together? I would love to, but my plate is already full. When can you enter all of your data into this spreadsheet? As soon as I finish my lesson plans, because teaching the kids is my first priority.
You’ve got to put the past behind you, before you can move on. -Forrest
It’s not easy to set healthy boundaries. Trust me. People expect me to always say yes and sometimes pushback or get a wee bit angry. They’ll eventually get used to the new and improved me, and we can create a more positive, respectful relationship. Or maybe not, and they ride off into the distant sunset. Best wishes. Either way, I have more time to do the things I actually want to do. Imagine that!
Welcome back, me! I missed you! Do you want to go hang-gliding across the desert? Sign me up! Would you like to hike through Patagonia? Yes, please! Why don’t you start your own business? Hell, yes! Marnie would be so proud.
“Always be able to look back and say, at least I didn’t lead no humdrum life.” -Forrest Gump
Chicago. Zemeckis, Robert. 1994. Forrest Gump. United States: Paramount Pictures.