Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Leaving it Behind

Yesterday I went into my old school for the first time in over a year. A favorite teaching friend of mine (I used to call her my "work mom") is allowing me to use her students to test out some work for my thesis. I got dressed (and double checked that I looked okay with my mom) and then  left JaiseAnn with my mom-almost like I was going on a date. I had butterflies in my stomach and I was a bit anxious, though I couldn't pinpoint why exactly. 

The drive to work came back like second nature. I know that drive like I know the back of my hand. Every weekday morning and every evening for six years I drove to school using that route. It all felt very normal and natural. But when I arrived at the school, I parked in the visitor parking lot. It felt so strange to park there. Like I was a stranger in my own home. 

It seemed I didn't belong in the place that shaped and formed me. In the place where I walked the halls without an engagement ring on my finger, and then the place where I proudly wore that ring. The place where my name and title changed on the nameplate above my door. The place where I literally carried my daughter for nine months--up and down the halls. It's even the last place I was before going to have her. So much of the person I am now was built inside of those walls. 

I walked down the halls with an odd feeling of foreigner and native all in one. My head flooded with memories, each one fighting for my undivided attention. I wanted to stop and indulge each one. Lack of time and a desire to avoid too much heartache kept me from fully embracing each memory. Instead, I stuffed them away. Hoping they wouldn't get too dusty and that they'd still be there, waiting for me when I was ready. 

When I walked past my own classroom it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. It didn't really hurt at all. In fact, it was almost poetic the way that little area had changed so much. I didn't feel like I was the only one missing. More than just my absence was recognizable. A lot had changed and that made it feel like I wasn't missing, but I had moved on--just like everyone else. 

Getting back in my car I thought about it all. I thought about my feelings going in and my feelings leaving. I think I honestly felt a little guilty going in with such conflicted feelings. Like I shouldn't be sad to have left those memories behind to start new ones at home with JaiseAnn. I should just be happy. And then I thought about a post Bailey wrote earlier in the week about leaving things behind and giving things up to get married in the military. 

I did comment (you can't see it because I accidentally commented on my phone which had me commenting on Blogger-Bailey saw it but you most likely won't.) I wanted to assure Bailey that she had a whole world of adventure ahead of her. That she should focus on all the opportunities that might await her. I congratulated her on her potential engagement and just explained to her how much I have loved staying home and what an honorable (but maybe unappreciated) job it is to make a home. 

But I didn't tell her that it was okay to be sad. And that she might be sad off and on for a while. And that that's okay, too. I didn't tell her that being sad didn't mean that she couldn't be fulfilled and happy at the same time. 

I think we're all compelled to have a resolution whenever we have feelings of sadness, discontent, or even anger. Whenever something doesn't make us feel 100% happy, we want to fix it, change it, analyze it, and more. We want closure. We want to tie it up with a happy bow.

I did it to Bailey and I had to stop myself from doing it while I was back in my old school. I had to fight attempts to either justify or shut off any feelings of sadness or just maybe missing certain aspects of my life. 

But life isn't that clean, as I'm learning. The truth is, I honestly go to bed every.single.night so excited for the next day. I love being home with JaiseAnn in a way that I never loved teaching. Never. And that's okay. It's okay that I didn't love teaching the way I love being home but it's also okay that I still miss parts of teaching. The truth is I am not sure I will ever want to return to the classroom, but I still love the memories of being there. The truth is I left some people behind there that I thought I'd never miss and it turns out that I have a place in my heart for them--in some miraculous way. The truth is I feel like I have so many more opportunities now that I'm home with my daughter--I have freedoms to learn and grow in a way I never had before. And I love it. But sometimes I miss the routine. And the boundaries. And the safety that came from being just a little less free. 

This is the part where I should tell you it's all okay because I love being home more than I loved teaching and far more than I miss teaching. And that's true. It's incredibly true. But that's not the point. 

The point is that I think I've figured out that I don't always want to tie it up with a bow. I don't always want to give everything closure so I can move on. If my heart aches every time I walk back into that school until I'm old and gray--well then so be it. If it doesn't, that's great, too. But I'm going to ride out those emotions and allow them. It doesn't mean I'm not happy and not fulfilled. It most certainly doesn't mean I wish I could go back.  If I could tell Bailey one thing, it would be this:

Leaving things behind is hard. It will always be hard. And while you may leave behind the thing you'd have an easier time leaving behind, it doesn't mean that it's going to be easy. It will hurt. There will be growing pains. And it might hurt for a while. Moving on is fun, too, though. Those pains you have about leaving things behind don't mean you made a bad decision--they just mean you're moving on. Moving on is hard--but also so so good. Embrace every opportunity you get to move on, but don't try to tidy up the grief of saying goodbye to the things you leave behind. Allow it all. 

I'm coming to find that those feelings--those sad, excited, unsure feelings you get when making changes--are what life is all about! 

Do you ever feel compelled to tie things up for the sake of closure? 

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