The Liberty of Leaving
I made chains to count down to Christmas every year in elementary school. Usually red and green, glued with paste or rubber cement that smelled like medicine. It helped to visually see time pass. The chain started out SO long... felt like I'd never make to the end, to the final rewarding day it symbolized. Yet, I needed it. I had to make the countdown tangible to keep my sanity. Well, I made another one recently, to get me to the finish line of my career. I am a teacher, ready to step aside and work on my other passion full-time: writing.
And it's certainly not that I'm unhappy at my school, in spite of a year that went sideways and upside down with exposures and technology glitches during the pandemic. Yes, I'm deep-inside-my-soul tired, but I actually love my job. I love the students, my colleagues, the quarry in the back where kids fish, the geese and their fluffy, yellow goslings all in a row-- not to mention the food. We have the best cafeteria food you can imagine with homemade soup, salads, sandwiches, and hot specialties every single day. I am surrounded by people overflowing with goodness and brilliance, the appreciation of art and reminders of virtues, that fill me up every day. It's a safe haven built of education, providing so much more.
Yet, since I gave my notice, I have felt more free. It's not that I have given up either. I now push back deadlines when the kids ask me to, stick up for what I think is wrong, and tell parents to give their kids more space. You see, when you don't want to risk your job, it can hold you back, make you bite your tongue, but now I have become a waterfall, going with the natural flow. It's freeing. I have also been praised more than ever by students and co-workers, telling me how much they appreciated hearing my great ideas, pointing out that the kids learn so much in my classes, and "Remember the time when you told me I could write well? I didn't believe it, but your voice echoed in my head, and now I do." I didn't know any of that until I announced I was not returning in the fall.
The problem is, now that I have the liberty of leaving, I am doing what I should have done all along. And the others, well, maybe they should have told me about their admiration at the time they felt it instead of waiting until I'm almost gone. Yet, every moment, comment, and gesture are like gold pieces that I am cherishing, collecting. Even the turtles blowing bubbles in the quarry and the sound of the choir warming up are gifts that I am putting in my pocket of remembery. And as I tear away each chain, I also think of what I'll miss-- I am subtracting and adding at the same time.