Life is full of change, completions and beginnings, starting over and moving on. I attended a college graduation party this weekend. We had senior awards chapel this morning in school, and in a little over a week, those seniors will graduate high school. This is the time of year that we celebrate all that. This is the time of year that we acknowledge achievements and impart advice for the next step.
So here’s what I’ve learned:
Life comes in seasons. There will always be change. There will always be goodbyes, transitions, and new starts. I’ll admit that my life is an extreme example of this, but even without constantly relocating, life will never stay exactly as it is now. And that’s OK.
I started thinking of life this way in my late teens and early twenties, before the nomadic life took over. I tend to mark my seasons by my education, employment, and location. It began with childhood and two years of high school in Texas, followed by my first cross-country move to finish high school in Maryland. Next came college in Wisconsin, marriage, and my first year of teaching. By now you know most of the story after that – subbing in Seattle, teaching and optometry school in Boston, a year of travelling filled with more subbing, teaching third grade, and even more subbing. Now I’m back to my roots at the school where I first student taught. Next, I’m not sure of the details. I know generally where we’ll live. I know what my husband will be doing. I don’t know what’s in store professionally for me, but whatever it is, it will be its own season with its own blessings and challenges.
Because that’s just it, isn’t it? No matter how amazing or challenging, no matter how well it fits our dreams or different it is from our plans, every season has something to give — new learning experiences, friends, comfort zones, and communities. Remembering that is how I’ve survived the last few years. I take each new experience and appreciate it for what it is. I make new friends knowing that only a handful of friendships last a lifetime, but that doesn’t decrease the value of the friendships that fade with time. In the moment of each situation, I invest because people are worth the investment for the time that I have to give them. I look for opportunities to grow in each new job, and not just because it makes my resume look better. Subbing made me a better teacher. So did building a program at a school that overloaded me with stress and frustration. Teaching third grade made me appreciate the work of elementary education on a deeper level. Travelling has assured that I won’t ever take the idea of “home” for granted.
I see the value of the seasons of life. That doesn’t mean I’m excited about every change or that I always see the blessings right away. I’m riding a weird emotional roller coaster right now. Within a given day – or even in an hour – I shift through being frustrated at being let go, grateful for my time at this job, exhausted with my work load, weary with the job hunt, and curious for what’s next.
Right now, I’m thankful for all my transition simply because of the habits I’ve built to deal with change. It’s the habits that are sustaining me, helping me put one foot in front of the other every day. I fight for my career – send out the resumes, fill out the paperwork, update my teaching certificate – out of habit. I’d be in a very different mental state now without those habits. It hurts, too, though. I’d thought I’d finally broken the pattern of constant change in my career. It is a tiring way to live sometimes.
Teaching is a piece of you, you know. The classroom, the kids – they’re your world for eight hours a day, more if you do extracurriculars of any kind. You decorate the walls, fill the bookshelves, bring in supplies from home, build your niche and space in the school. The kids swarm in and out all day, bantering or staring blankly, engaging in lessons or focusing on their phones. They’re the whole point of what you do every day. The lessons, the grades, the passion poured into the work – it’s all for those kids, specific faces and names, even if they hate you for it sometimes.
In a week I’ll watch the kids leave one more time. I’ll say goodbyes and they’ll be fine. They always are. In a week I’ll take down the posters and save all my files and leave behind four walls that were my classroom for five months. I’ll sit through the final faculty meetings and try not to let them get to me as they plan for next year, as they discuss moving forward without me. And I’ll try to figure out what I’m supposed to do. Maybe next year will be a new start in a new school. Maybe it will be another year of subbing. Another season I can’t see. Another step into the unknown.
It’s weird, watching the seniors embrace this time of change after dealing with so much change myself. It’s a big one; I’ll give them that. Most of them are moving out of their parents’ house for the first time, with no one to answer to but themselves. It’s a defining stage in life. And at the college graduation party I attended, I hugged my sister-in-law and told her “Welcome to the adult world. Have fun with that.”
Adult life isn’t easy. It’s filled with change. It’s scary sometimes, frustrating, and disappointing. But it’s also exciting, with new adventures around every corner and new blessings to impart, if you’re open to looking for them.