I love my job. I've been working in alternative secondary education in one degree or another for my entire career. In fact, I've mentioned to a few people that I have felt like my work is similar to a calling from God. I don't serve perfectly and I don't serve always the way I think I should but overall, I believe I was led to what I do and through Him I've made an impact on some people. As they have on me.
The only constant in life is change and it's been blowing in for awhile. The structure of the school where I am working as a counselor is dramatically changing next year. Something inside of me has also been itching but I've just wanted to swat it away. My work life has been the constant sustaining part of my life when other things have gone south. Not that my job is without politics or problems but I have navigated through those choppy waters and continue to drive to work every day and I like doing it so much. But that tickle has been getting stronger and stronger until I knew something was about to blow through right about the time I was leaving for Maui. His Tender Mercies were such that all was in place as I flew off into the sunrise (it was 4:30 in the morning, you know) and thought about work only long enough to text a colleague to taunt her.
On Saturday morning I was snorkeling and listening to the whale songs. On Sunday morning I was stumbling toward the snow covered car. On Monday morning my boss and I were having a serious discussion. There is a budget set for next year to cover two counselors. We have two and half. I am the half. Kudos to my boss who could have easily pulled rank and told me Aloha. She didn't. She placed the situation in front of me and was willing to transfer our latest hire, Ashley, her former secretary and good friend, and hire another part-time counselor. Her superiors would cock an eyebrow but she would have done it. In the end, I saw the bigger picture and listened to my internal itch and told her I'd transfer. But if she had a say, could she put in a good word to a school closer to my home? Then I continued my denial by talking about Maui, showing her my shark teeth earrings when something sharp jabbed my heart. I stopped, acknowledged it and told her I was going to cry today. I think I'll go home. She teared up and said she would to and told me to go.
I went home. I didn't cry.
Tuesday I went to work. I still didn't cry. There was simply a quiet acceptance in the office of what was happening. We didn't talk about it. But I knew it was lurking and waiting for the most inopportune time to open the floodgates.
Wednesday morning my boss called me. She told me how her meeting went. How former administrators had stepped up and sold my charming personality (omitting my sarcasm and wit) to my new assignment. I'm going to a school very close to home. I thanked her profusely and hung up. I still felt conflicted. I went as far as to drive to the school to introduce myself to the principal but he was in a meeting. Then I called Scott while I drove to work.
Laying it all on the table, the pros and cons, I can make a great argument for the change. But walking into the new school it all became much more real and unsettling. As I talked it through with my pragmatic husband, I finally said the sentence that needed to be uttered in order to rattle open my tear ducts. "I'm not ready to go." One mile from work and I finally have my first big cry. Isn't that how it always goes?
I realized then that it isn't whether or not the change is good or bad or how I feel about moving schools and forging a new career trail. I am grieving the loss of an entity I have loved. It's not the school or the structure but each individual interaction and person over the past 18 years that has been a source of support and consistency. When someone retired, we ordered a cake, had a party, and signed a card. When a couple of people have died, we cried together and grieved deeply. This time, however, I am grieving alone. I think I will be missed and there will be tears shed by others but then they get to go back to their positions, surrounded by the same people. I am leaving alone.
I did pull myself together long enough to work but I was emotionally exhausted. Once in the car driving home I picked up right where I left off. I cried and felt grief. For a moment I thought of those little blue pills in my medicine cabinet for anxiety. This situation certainly merited it yet I felt a certain amount of comfort from my grief. I wanted to feel it and experience it completely. I want to acknowledge the reality of it, accept it and then, when I'm ready I'll stop crying.
I want to grieve. It means that my heart is breaking. It means that I love enough that it hurts in absence. It brings my priorities into focus and clarifies edges. I realize how lucky I have been. Except I don't really believe in luck. It may not be important to anybody else but my work environment has been important to me and He has been aware of this and watched over me. I was hired a few weeks before I found out I was pregnant with my first child. We opened the school a few weeks later for the very first time and I was running to the bathroom to throw up. Miserably, I wanted to die. Also miserably, my colleagues sometimes had to hear me retch up my toes. That same year, it was determined that staff would be able to use the daycare for a fee. I started the following year with my newborn who wouldn't take a bottle but I was just up the hall. After sixteen years, I no longer need a daycare. It's still onsite but my kids are in school. And now I am leaving. I won't be just up the hall but I will just up the road so when my son remembers he has a NOVA graduation in fifteen minutes, I have the option of going.
I love my job and I love my colleagues. I will miss them terribly. I will grieve for the loss of those relationships. But when I am finished grieving, I will dry my eyes and be grateful that, once again I get to parent my children and work on the side. My work relationships have made it possible that my commute will be cut from 45 minutes every day to 10. The money I save in gas alone will pay for my daughter's computer when we send her off to college next year.
So excuse me while I cry for a bit. Nothing is broken or needs to be fixed. I am simply feeling deeply and living life.