Saturday, August 31, 2013

Making Change

I wrote this entry back in June on my last day at my former school. I have never been a journal-keeper or a feelings-writer-outer, but that day (and encouragement from some important people in my life) made me think it was time for me to think out loud on [virtual] paper. That is my sole purpose for this blog--to think out loud, to figure things out. And to be funny.

I left the first job I ever truly loved today. Thirteen years ago, at age 33, I was hired to teach English at the high school known in our county as the “tough” school. I was warned about the kids there (mostly by people who have no connection to that school): they’re thugs, they’re from bad homes, they can’t learn--the usual mindless word drool. The building was old, smelly, and experienced the occasional biblical plague (locusts, snakes, Hardee’s-biscuit-sized cockroaches, floods, fires, mold, helicopter parents).  I have never been happier anywhere than I have been in that building. I became a good teacher there. I made friends there. I made a difference there. My sons have had a wonderful high school experience there. I’ve been crying for months because I don’t want to leave. Why on earth would I ever leave?

I left for many reasons, all of which are good ones, and several of which are easy to explain and for others to understand: I am taking on a different kind of role, I wanted to take a more active role in supporting teachers while still teaching kids, I feel like the time is right for something new, I’ve been here a long time, blah, blah, blah. The fundamental reason I am leaving is because I realize now something I’ve been fighting against my entire adult life: change is good. Actually, “change is good” doesn’t really cut it. Change is essential. Change is inherent. Change is the only option. If I continue to do what I have been doing where I have been doing it, I will lose ground, I will not be as good at what I do, and my relationships there will become a drain on my life instead of an asset. I am not the same person I used to be anymore, and I have to stop pretending that I am.

Here’s what I see every day: humans beings fight change with all of their hearts and always lose. They refuse to evolve, even though the world evolves anyway. When we refuse to go with the flow of those changes, we are fighting the people we are supposed to become. We always lose this game because humans are born to adapt and change. Our fear of the unknown makes us cling to old rules, old traditions, old definitions of who we are and what is appropriate. Those precious antiquities keep us from seeing the world as it is and how we can best serve it; they lie to us and tell us that we don’t have to pay attention, that we don’t have to stay open and alert, that we don’t have to care. The world changes anyway, and we become embittered reactionaries wondering how we ended up in this new world, a world we never fully embrace because we have tried to so hard to keep it at bay. The people who embrace the changes are the people who can stave off bitterness because their sense of wonder at the new and the exciting is still  intact. I want to be one of them. 

Don’t get me wrong: I am scared to death. I want my beautiful, now-renovated, state-of-the-art classroom back. I want to be with the people I know, the people I can predict, the people who have loved me and my family, even the tiny number of people who drive me up the wall. But I must go. The minute I suspected I might be someone else was the moment that the universe was telling me, “You are not who you are supposed to be yet.” So I’ll be brave. I’ll change. I’ll work hard to forge new relationships and develop new habits. I’ll try to be a better teacher, a more compassionate listener, a better friend, a more patient person with everyone (I really need to work on the patience part). And then I’ll change again—because I’m not who I’m supposed to be.  

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