I’ve been writing this post in my mind for over a year. When faced with certain circumstances, the right words to describe an event would flow through my mind and I’d think, “Wow. Put that on the blog,” but it didn’t happen. Mainly, it didn’t happen because the past year has been the busiest one of my life. But it also didn’t happen because I’m pretty good at making excuses. In fact, right now there are a million things I should be doing, but it just feels better to do this.
Despite my overwhelming urge to recap the past year, I’m not really sure where to start. Some things are so big they can’t be explained in a linear fashion. It’s like being asked to explain falling in love or getting sick. You can look back and see little pieces that influenced the result, but there wasn’t a beginning, middle, and end. It’s not a clean storyline. Nevertheless, here I go.
Each August, I sit on the beach and prepare myself for the coming school year. This year, for the first time in three years, I will be headed back to the same school and teaching the same subject. I will not be frantically reading the summer assignment or wondering what last minute changing to my schedule will have happened when I return to school. I cannot overstate the amount of comfort I get from this certainty. But this comfort came from a lot of discomfort. Change is hard, and it is a process.
The idea of teaching journalism only was one that sort of fell into my lap. I remember exactly where I was when I got the text about the job opening. My first thought was “People do that?” I had no idea that anywhere in the world, teachers were allowed to be “just a yearbook person” without the stress of teaching a core subject. Though my refrain for years had been a resounding “I hate the yearbook,” my attitude about it began to change when I considered how I’d feel about yearbook if a million other responsibilities weren’t getting in the way. While my friend was frantically figuring what my new salary would be, I was just beginning to roll around the idea that maybe people do have it that good — that just maybe people can love what they do at work and not have the weight of the world on their shoulders. I submitted the application. I gave my principal the courtesy of letting him know I’d applied. I got an interview. Here’s something interesting about me: I’d never had a real job interview. The two I’d attended right out of college were basically discussions about why they weren’t or were going to hire me. (The school who didn’t hire me opted out because I said I wasn’t interested in teaching science — in case you’re curious. The school who did was home for 10 years.). It was the most terrifying experience of my life. Long story short, I got the job. And that where things started falling apart (and then together, but you have to wait for that part).
Have you heard the saying “Pay close attention to those who don’t clap when you win”? I cannot think of a better way to describe the next few months of my life after accepting my new job. Of course my family was fine. My friends congratulated me. People from church said their obligatory “We’re so sad to see you go.” But I’m talking about the other people. The totally uninformed guy who told me a list of things I do that the new school district wouldn’t like. The coworker who immediately began inquiring about my job. The administrator who allowed a student to curse at me and go unpunished “because that was the kind of behavior I needed to get used to if I was going to a bigger district.” The man whose child I’d spent an entire year with in a mentoring program who wouldn’t make eye contact with me at the closing ceremony. If I was this expendable to these people to whom I’d given ten years of my life, how could I find success at a place so much bigger?
And that’s how I sat on the beach last summer — terrified of what I was sure would be a mistake. People don’t just leave home. I’d become a teacher to be at home. What was I doing? The week before school started, I walked into a breakfast for district employees and got so overwhelmed that I went back to my room, put my head on my desk, and cried. Change can be so devastatingly uncomfortable that it momentarily breaks us.
But then came the students.
I’d had the benefit of meeting a few of them at yearbook camp, but I was unprepared for a group of kids who would make me feel so instantly at home. From my first period of freshman girls who were the most enthusiastic and opinionated hard workers to the most dedicated yearbook staff on the planet, I was able to attack my work with these students with an enthusiasm and passion I hadn’t seen in myself since I’d become a teacher. Journalism allowed doorways to insightful discussion of current events while still allowing me to build writers — my strength as an English teacher. My knack for organization meshed so beautifully with the leadership abilities of my yearbook editors. Things just worked. Kids are kids, no matter the town, and I am so thankful for that.
I tend to struggle making friends though, and finding teacher-friends is no exception. I think this is why most of my friends are people I’ve known since I was younger — why make new ones when I already have these? I wasn’t in total social isolation, though. I had some ladies who would compliment my clothes, a guy who could fix the copy machine and offer baseball advice, several girls from across campus I could sit with at a faculty meeting, but I didn’t have a group. I suppose I was lucky enough to spend 10 years of my career teaching a part of a group. Sure, it changed with comings and goings, but I always had “my people.” And out of my people came Cody. You know the boyfriend that you spend the rest of your dating life trying to find someone to live up to? That’s Cody in work-friend form. Cody and I could make eye contact across a room in meeting and read each other’s thoughts. We brought each other snacks. We emailed each other funny collages. We hated who the other hated. We loved who the other loved. We laughed hysterically at rumors of our scandalous love affair. We texted constantly, even during the summers. When he took a job at a bigger school in another town, I wasn’t sure how to teach without him. I learned, and he easily made friends at his new school. Looking back now, I know I wouldn’t have ever taken this job if it meant leaving Cody, so I’m glad now that he left me first. But… while I have Cody to thank for finding my new job and being so supportive as I went for it, I also have him to thank for why I’m a year in and don’t have true teacher-friends. I’m not really sure how to find THAT. 100% transparent genuine friendship is unusual among teachers, and looking toward my third year without it, I’m not really sure I’ll have it again. This realization is hard, but “change is hard” is sort of becoming our chorus, no?
Two parents who work in different towns than the one where their children go to school is less than ideal. I depended heavily on my parents for dropping off, picking up, attending events…. Because I’d spent all 6 years of the kids’ schooling in the same district, it was suddenly like I was a world away from them. While they were always very open that they wanted to be with me, I was very apprehensive about yanking them from a place where they’d enjoy popularity in favor of a better education. I know that sounds crazy, but I was choosing their comfort over their future. As the year went on, it became hard to justify. My children want to attend school in my district. My children need to attend school in my district. So what’s the question, right? The only thing holding me back was my own fear of change.
My husband is no-nonsense in a way that couldn’t make him any more different than myself. Where I am a nervous ball of anxiety, he is smooth sailing. So imagine his confusion and frustration as I spent one year in serious mourning over a job that made me miserable. Something a simple as a Facebook post praising the teacher who replaced me or a text to an old coworker that went unanswered would bring me unreasonable concern. I am always a challenge to live with, but living with me as I have undergone one of the biggest changes of my life was no easy task for Joe.
“Do you like your job better?”
“Do you make more money?”
“Are you happier when you come home?”
“So, what’s the problem?”
Repeat that conversation almost daily from August to May. Joe was at a complete loss for how to understand or address what my problem was with the change. It was just a difficulty inside me that we were going to have to wait out.
At this point, I was already struggling with numerous changes……so, we introduced more changes with baseball. Makes perfect sense, right? (Sarcasm completely intentional.) Talan’s league team struggled to find players, and in the meantime, we met a tournament team that needed him and would give him the opportunity to meet people and gain experience. This was another exercise in uncertainty about people’s responses. I’ve been the league baseball parent, disappointed when parents take their sons to other teams, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. My hurt feelings in the past were because of a lack of transparency about the process. So I tried to be open and honest about it. I explained how we ended up where we were. I explained that we were still committed to both teams. Guess what. When people don’t like what you have to say, they do not appreciate your honesty. Who knew? It was the busiest baseball season to date — between my two kids, we had a ball event every day March through June — but it was also one of the biggest learning experiences as a parent. Talan is capable of so much more than we knew, and we met some great people.
So at this point, we’re happy with tournament ball. We’re in a place where we like the people around us, and Talan is thriving…….And the team breaks up. I’m not kidding. Welcome to my life and luck. Out of uncertainty comes more uncertainty. But I’m getting used to it by now.
The activity I’m avoiding in order to be able to write this is an entry for my Library Media Graduate Portfolio. Remember in 2015 when I decided to go back to graduate school? Well, it’s almost over. I’m going to lump that into the list of big things that are happening around here. It’s a weird feeling, really. To look back at a decision I was so certain was a good one, something I thought I wanted so badly, and to see it completely differently. At the moment, I have zero plans to pursue a library job. If you’d asked me that in 2015, I would have called you crazy. We really have to idea where we’ll end up. And I guess that’s the point of all this. Let’s look back at things I wanted versus what happened.
I wanted to be an English teacher — I am a journalism teacher.
I wanted to work my entire career at Morrilton — I am teaching in Conway.
I wanted away from yearbook work — It’s actually something I enjoy and am good at.
I wanted my children to be Devil Dogs — They’re going to be Wampus Cats.
I was content with league ball — Talan needed tournament ball.
I wanted to be a librarian — I cannot currently imagine doing that job.
Where else will I be taken that is not part of the plan?
This year when I sat on the beach, I told Joe how nervous I was about the kids changing schools. I asked when we’ll have a year where my beach reflections don’t include some serious anxiety over change. He said, “Never.” And he’s right. As long as I’m living, I’m never going to know what’s coming. I can plan like crazy, but I cannot control the outcome. I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
This year has taught me that when I come out of my comfort zone, apparently some pretty amazing things happen. Here’s to letting amazing things happen more often.
Change may not be something I’ll ever completely embrace; I am a creature of habit. However, I think I’ve come to appreciate that some pretty great things come out of changes. And that appreciation is enough to keep me excited about the future.
*Note: I started writing this post at the end of June. I clearly sat on it for even longer than I mentioned above. It just felt like a back to school post. I hope whatever this school year brings you is great and that you’re brave enough to do something different. It’s worth it.*