Updated: Nov 4, 2018
Or so they say!
I often think to myself what does that actually mean?
How in the world could something that almost took your life (or seems like it did) make you stronger?
How when we live in a world of stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD can something so bad make you a stronger person?
I reflected hard on this and I have started to believe that its not necessarily what is going to “kill” you – but test you and no more of a testing place than teaching and living in regional and remote Australia.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE living in the bush! The sun, the red dirt, the wildlife and the casual lifestyle of being able to walk or ride you bike from one end of town to the other. However, without a toolkit of resilience skills to help tackle the tests put in front of you it can be a hard and lonely place.
So here are my strategies for helping build resilience and tackling the tests when you move to regional and remote Australia to tackle the world of education!
Silence isn’t always golden!
Tip 1: Speak up!
When you are working away from home, family and friends it can be exciting for some and for others it can be a lonely time. So speak up! Talk to your work colleagues, talk to your neighbour, talk to the old man who has the dogs who wears the wide brim hat, talk to anyone who will listen. The more you talk and connect the more you will realise that what you are going through could be just like that of other people. It might not even be about work, or life in community. It might just be about “life” and that’s okay. It’s okay to have down days, the days where you just want to pack it all away but it is not okay to keep your feelings to yourself and it is not okay to feel that by isolating yourself from others because you don’t want to burned them.
In 2016 I had some issues that were impacting on my life, at school, at home, me as a teacher, a partner and a wife. It was an amazing lady by the name of Nat who I knew through St Johns who pulled me aside. She gave me a book and this book she said was a place to write what I wanted to say or how I was feeling. A place where I didn’t have to share if I didn’t want to. On one random page she wrote “To the world you are one person, however, to one person you are the world!” This is the support that I needed. Of course my ever supportive now husband and friends were always there, however it took a person slightly removed from my day to day life to share that act of kindness and see that one person wasn’t a sparky as they usually are. From here I paid it forward by offering a similar tool to a person who I consider a close friend, who at the time was going through more than I ever knew. Kindness breeds kindness!
I know that Shaun and Greg from Smile Teachers would be only too happy to connect with you via Facebook or Instagram if you needed a support tool! Hey even me – sometimes a stranger can be a great sounding board. Just don’t stay silent! Its far from golden.
Mum guilt – it’s a real thing! Parents in regional this ones for you!
Tip 2: Be kind to yourself!
In 2015 I became a mumma to my little bloke, Ryan. He was the baby I never thought I would have and especially not while living 550km from a Perth hospital. He was a perfect gorgeous newborn – instant love! Nothing in the world was going to hurt this baby, the mumma bear inside me was alive. I spent a week or so in Perth with family and friends. The cuddles, visits, presents, coffee deliveries and outpouring of love was incredible. The day came that I was going to travel home to the bush with this precious cargo. I got home and walked in the door, sat down and couldn’t believe what had happened. I made this human being! A real life human. The months passed and through the 3am skype calls to mum and the local nanas giving me advice and care I looked at the calendar and realised my leave was coming to an end. How could this be? He was only 10 months old, he needs me, I need him! I hadn’t spent more than an hour away from him since he was born! Insert mum guilt.
I cried for 63 days straight, for the 1.1km drive to work, every day I cried as I left this small human at home with dad or with his nanna and pop next door. Then a friend of mine at work asked me if I was so sad why am I doing this to myself? I reflected on this, and my answer – to give my son and my family a better life full of every need being met. On the 64th day I didn’t cry and nearly 4 years later I know that what I did was the best thing for my family at the time.
I guess what I am saying is that being a teacher in remote Australia is hard, being a parent is even harder. The tools that I have that help me include knowing that my son has a kind heart, a genuine empathy for other, respectful of others and knows no difference between the colour of your skin or the home you keep. Parents trust yourself, trust that even on the hard days when you realise that there is limited or no social sport, day care, playgroup or infant swimming lessons – that the life exposure to the bush, to culture, to jumping in a red dirt puddle after a summer rain. These are all things that will not only build resilience in yourself but your children too.
We as a family take time out, we go to Perth and our son joins his cousins at my brother’s TaeKwonDo gym and he plays and has fun learning a skill that he can bring home and practice himself against a background of Mulga bush and Cogla trees. We go to Geraldton and we eat icecream from Maccas at 9am because we can. We connect with friends and family while we are away and we make the most of their offer to connect back with us.
Next year I worry that when our son starts Kindy that he will be lost, that he will be picked on because he is the teachers kid and I worry that he wont make friends. Yesterday we went to the pool, 39’ in the shade in October! We arrived and one of my teacher friends wasn’t there with his son who Ryan normally hangs with. My anxiety increased as I looked around at the kids all having fun with their families and friends. Mum guilt set in – and as fast as the mum guilt showed its ugly face it disappeared again as I saw my little bloke playing, laughing and just being a kid with 3 other children from the same family. They sung out “Ryno come play” my worries and anxiety was for nothing. Cultural, age, socioeconomic and gender differences meant nothing at the point.
If you are worried about making the move to the bush with your kids or you are in the bush with your kids and you are worried about their social or academic lives – stop! Give them the opportunity to build camp fire, star gaze, collect wildflowers and kick a footy on a red dirt oval.
Life is what you make it and giving kids an outback experience for 1 month or a life time is something you will never forget. Be kind to yourself – you are the best parent for your child!
Act, Belong, Commit
Tip 3: Find your “thing”
As I have said in previous blogs I am a volunteer Ambulance Officer and previously a Volunteer Fire Fighter too. I spoke to a few of the girls about the pros and cons of living in the bush and one thing that came through was the experiences.
“The extra opportunities that you don’t get anywhere else lie ambos and fireys, the running team – nothing to do with teaching but the best experience we ever would have got in Perth”
Building resilience and finding the tools to combat the hard times through the message promoted by www.actbelongcommit.org.au
ACT: Act to improve your mental health. Every afternoon no matter what the day has thrown at us, my family walk in the bush. We walk, we talk, was laugh and sometimes we say nothing. But we make a time everyday to act to improve our mental health. For others it might be some self care like getting a friend to paint your nails or head out to the motocross track and wring the neck of a YZ450F motorbike. What ever it is – dedicate a time for you! Make an appointment in your diary or phone. You are important to yourself first so why not make the time for it.
BELONG: Belong to improve your mental health. My husband and I love to go geocaching. Geo-whating? Its like a treasure hunt, world wide, that uses GPS and clues to find hidden boxes of all types of sizes from tiny bison tubes to giant ammo boxes. Inside you find a log book and if the container allows, swaps of little toys and trinkets. As geocachers (yes we are a group) we connect with other “cachers” via logs and the net to share our experiences and our “finds”. Belonging to a group of like minded people is a refreshing change from the life of a bush teacher. The places that geocaching has taken us is incredible. To the summit of Mount Newman to the forest of Denmark our geoadventures are only limited to the caches on the trail. Checkout www.geocaching.com
Take up the offer to go bush with your neighbour, attend a cooking class or enrol in some online learning courses – anything to feel that belonging that we all need. Check out @HealthyTeachersAus on IG for a brilliant way to Act, Belong and Commit through the power of positive healthy choices by teachers around the country.
COMMIT: Commit to improve your mental health. For me its volunteering. For others is taking up a challenge of taking on a committee position at the local race club or historical society. Committing to a person, club or organisation and following through with that commitment. Every Thursday at 7pm you will hear the towns fire station air siren sound. The firey’s turn out and being their checks and training. They come from all walks of life and together are a team. They have committed themselves to turning up. Regardless of how their day was or what other stuff is going on in their lives. They made a commitment. For me knowing that every Wednesday night at 6pm, I get in my green uniform and turn up for training at the St John Sub Centre is my outlet to commit. To leave my boys at home and do something for me.
Take up a cause, volunteer your time or simply try something new – commit your time to improve your mental health and resilience living in the outback.
Every morning the sun will rise and so must you
Tip 4: Treat every day as a new day
Sometimes it can feel like groundhog day teaching regional and remote. You wake up, go to school, go to the post office, the shop and home. Hopefully you have taken up the Act, Belong, Commit message and once a week or so you have something else to break up the monotony of the day to day life of a teacher.
When the hard days are hard and you think why the bloody hell am I living here – think of every day as a new day. In 2013, after a hard life challenge – I was sitting at Poppies Restaurant in Bali drinking a lime soda and waiting for my satay to arrive when a friend of mine inboxed my facebook. It was simply a picture of a container full of coloured pieces of paper. She said it was a posijar – a container that had all of the things you were grateful for or a positive experience. That every time you have a win – you write it down, fold it up and pop it in the container. Now being in Bali and very aware of precious luggage weight I decided no time like the present. I went to the local Bintang Supermarket and bough a plastic container with a lid, a pack of coloured square paper and a pen. I started there and then.
All year I added to the jar – when times were hard I pulled one out, reminding me that not everything in your life is negative. On a warm balmy New Years Eve in Kalbarri, I sat with my husband on the bed of the motel and emptied my container. Oh the memories – the things at the time I thought were positive enough to make the jar and now seem so insignificant as times through the year changed along with my mindset. An almost daily recount of the good – even on the bad days. I continued my jar into 2014 where I added trinkets to the jar – a positive pregnancy test and a pair of booties, a volunteer pin and a piece of granite rock.
All of these things that had significance and meaning to me – a reminder to treat each day as a new day. Smile Teachers have been proactive with writing down or vocalising your wins – take up the challenge! It’s a powerful tool to combat the hard days out bush.
So my top 4 tips for building resilience and getting through the tough testing times.
1. Speak up – people will listen
2. Dump the mum (or dad) guilt in the bin – your children will be okay!
3. Act, Belong, Commit – make the time to better your mental health
4. Treat every day as a new day – find the positive in the darkness
Be Happy, Teach Well
Smile Teachers is so grateful for the contribution of Mrs. Davis to our community. We love her passion and inspiration.
Join our community to connect with other like minded teachers and don't forget about out Bali Teachers Retreat happening this January.