Just recently, I’ve been having dreams about returning to school (as a teacher). I had these for nine years. I didn’t expect them this year since I’m not, in fact, returning to school as a teacher. The dreams are mostly sad and anxious. One of the dreams I was planning units with colleagues, but I was confused as to why I worked there. In another, I was teaching there until I got “caught” and told to leave. And, as my dreams tend to do, they are making me a bit sad and anxious in my waking life.
It is strange not returning to the classroom this year. There’s a big part of me that’s relieved. I have seen “memory” posts on Facebook about how anxious I would get about it all. Of course, though, there’s the excitement of a new year, new students, new challenges. I miss my students. I miss the students I’ll never have. I miss the connections with these young kids that I won’t get to make. That was the most powerful experience for me: I got so much joy and pleasure and energy from my students. They were beautiful humans and I wanted nothing more than to be their support system and advocate as they navigated young adulthood. And then I get a bit angry. Because maybe I should have fought harder when my employer asked me to resign. Maybe I should have said: Make me.
But at that time last winter, I was in such a dark hole, and the thought of adding another layer to my struggles just seemed unfathomable. I wanted to fight, but I didn’t have the energy. I knew it was unjust and that later, when I was healthy, I would regret not fighting. Maybe I was little sad no one fought for me. I was too weak to do it for myself, but surely someone would notice and speak up? No such luck. I learned a valuable lesson there: you’ve only got yourself and you can’t expect others to look out for you. It’s fucking cliche as shit, but man, is it true. I left that school and I don’t think anyone batted an eyelash at my departure.
Despite all of this, I’m in a good place now. A much better place (mentally and emotionally) than I was last year at this time. I’ve done some really incredible work on myself, as I’ve written about before. Maybe part of that “good work” was letting go of the job — not fighting the ugly battle that would have had to take place for me to keep it. So I’m feeling really good about myself these days.
I have a job that I genuinely enjoy. No, it’s not incredibly challenging being a cheese slinger, but it does take a level of skill, attention to detail, and sincerity to do it well. I think I possess these. I look forward to going to work. Even when I work my least favorite shift I’m still happy to be going to work. I know I’m going to see people I like and respect and I’m going to do work that is important and meaningful to customers and to a respectable company. I like that I can “leave it” when I’m done (except for my ever-growing desire for expensive cheese) and I like that I’m not burdened by “higher ups” telling me how to do my job when they have no idea how to do it themselves.
Sometimes I see former colleagues while I’m working at Wegmans. Some of them acknowledge me and some of them don’t. I always feel uneasy when they don’t, like they are ashamed on my behalf. Listen guys, I’m not ashamed to be working at Wegmans. I taught high school for nine years, it was an incredible ride, and it’s not what I’m doing right now. Right now I’m working for a great company that treats its employees really well. I’m getting a taste of retail, which I’ve only experienced second-hand from friends. I know in your eyes it’s “beneath you” to do what I’m doing, and maybe it’s embarrassing for you to see me in my cute work uniform refreshing the olive bar. But guess what? I’m really happy. I’m not lying around on the couch surfing the web, eating potato chips, drinking wine, and feeling sorry for myself. Because I could be doing that instead of working. And part of me was doing that when I had what you deem to be a “real” job. I’m better off now. So be happy for me. And say hi.
In addition to loving my job, I’ve got another really great thing going: trail running.
Trail running has changed my life. [This is it’s own blog entry, which I’ve been crafting in my head. But here are some quick thoughts on the subject.] It’s changed my life in ways I understand and in ways I’m still uncertain about. And I’m just breaking the surface of it, and that is incredibly exciting for me. I’m not running a lot right now, but scheduling runs is something that takes effort. I’m still learning the craft. But when I do get out there in the woods – it’s so incredibly moving for me. I love it and hate it. I keep trying to figure out when this bipolar emotion will subside, but I’m told they’ll always be a part of you that is telling the mountain to fuck off inside your head. I’m no good at it. I’m slow as a freaking turtle. I joke that I’m like an elephant pounding along the trail. I feel that way. I can feel the thickness of my legs when I run. I can feel my midsection jiggle. I don’t get very far before walking. I’ve only recently starting running up the vertical, and again, I don’t get very far. But I’ve never had more fun in my life. I feel so many emotions when I’m out on the trail. I feel powerful and beautiful and unstoppable and weak and degraded and courageous. Mostly though, I’m proud of what my body has done and what it is capable of doing. I’m proud of my heart for getting me here. I’m impressed by my will to do it. Because it’s hard and not easy. I have a history of giving up on things that are hard. I have a history of not committing. And I really believe I’ve committed to this. I thought about it the other day. I said to myself: You’re at the point where there’s no turning back. You either need to give it all up now or you have to seriously commit to it. I told myself I was committed and there was no way I was going back to not running. So here I am. Committed and loving it.
During the time in between resigning and getting hired at Wegmans, I did some volunteering in my local community. I got to dip my toes into community advocacy, and I really liked it. I want more of it. I started to discover what was important to me: being a part of making a difference and supporting those that are actively doing so. When I was a kid I wanted to “change the world” but as an adult I realize that this really means being a voice for change in my local community. I also started to take care of my physical health: I began making healthy eating choices. I started hiking in the woods and going for walks with friends. And then soon after, I started my trail running journey.
So there’s a lot of good in my life right now. It’s not perfect, but I don’t expect that. I still have a lot to work on. I’m still struggling with certain aspects of my life. But not in the same dark and hopeless way I was before. Now I feel alive and confident and capable of working on difficulties. I’m not scared or intimidated by the challenge.
Thanks to all those in my life who’ve supported me and helped me become a much happier and healthier soul. I love you all.