Updated: Sep 1, 2022
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us". -Marianne Williamson
It is the last week of August. I've been noticing that the air is colder in the.mornings when I let Luna out to do her business. I should be at school with my fellow teachers preparing for the 2022-23 school year. I'm not.
It has been a couple of months now since I stopped driving my long commute to my elementary art teacher job. My commute was a good solid 50 minutes in the morning, but in the afternoon it could be from 50 minutes to an hour and half depending on the current traffic situation. I would listen to podcasts trying to learn Spanish or listen to random Tony Robbins seminars to get inspiration. The realization finally hit that I am not going to be driving to this school that I have driven hundreds of times back and forth over the last 2 years.
Lately, I find myself scrolling my iPhone photos from June of the last week of school. There is a series of photos of me posing with my Wednesday 4th grade class. This class was challenging, but a fun group of kids. They seemed much older than 4th graders and kept me on my toes with the questions that they tried to get me to answer about my personal life. I remember the day that they found out my first name by one of them looking at my school badge. "Her name is Lisa!!!", "Amy" squealed to the surrounding tables. I could not believe that my first name would cause such a distraction in my class. Those photos of that class from the last day have everyone vying to be in the snapshot. The kids are smiling and laughing. I am smiling too, but look tired.
The.next photo is a picture of the teacher next door to my classroom and myself. My "pod mate" as we referred to each other. I am old enough to be her mother, but we came in as first year teachers together and despite the age difference bonded over our shared situation. I think of all the times she made me laugh which was often. She listened to my anxieties about teaching, and brought me Chic-Fil-A biscuits on random Friday mornings. I in turn would bring the random Panera cinnamon crunch bagel to her. I look much more tired in this photo. She looks great. She is a great teacher. Watch out world because she is on fire and will be going places. I just know it.
The final series of photos are of me saying my final goodbye to my Friday 2nd Grade class. This was the last class that I had each week and the week was going to end by what happened in this class. It would either be a love fest bonding moment between me and 20 students or an explosion into a chaotic blackhole. I never knew when they walked in what could possibly transpire in the next 50 minutes.
In the final goodbye photo, all of them are surrounding me in a group hug. When I had walked in the room, they were afraid that they would not be able to say goodbye to me. In the photo, some of them are crying and obviously upset. One little boy has both of his arms around my waist, eyes closed with his face pressed against my back. The thing is that I thought that kid didn't like me and would not miss me. I guess not.
My face isn't shown in that photo. If one would have seen me at that moment, they would have seen that my eyes were red and tears were streaming down my face. The funny thing is that in my life I haven't been much of a public crier. I have always kept those emotions inside, afraid what they would reveal to others if they saw my tears. Would I be viewed as weak? For a highly sensitive perfectionist, that would be the worst thing for anyone to see. I would be exposing too much of myself.
For once, I told myself that it was okay if I cried and others saw me. I did not need to hide my emotions anymore for my students. I could show them outwardly what was behind the words that I had been saying for the last 2 years. It would show that I meant those words. I love them. I care about them. They made a difference. Especially to me.
I left my room that day not taking all the art supplies I planned to take with me. These were the art supplies that I paid for out of my own money. Money I did not have to spend, but I wanted my students to experience the best regardless of the dismal public school art budget I had been given. "Just leave them. They can use them next year.", I told myself in that moment not fully realizing that "next year" was not going to include me. Life was going to go on in this place without me. A new teacher would arrive. New projects would be introduced. Wonderful art would be created. New art "heroes" of the past would be learned about. I would not be there.
I needed to stand by the decision that I made based on the belief that sometimes you can be at the right place at the wrong time. This was the wrong time for me. Was I a perfect teacher? No. Who is? However, I believe I did the best I could with what I had to work with. As I turned off the lights in my room for the last time, I realized that nothing is final. There will be more children(maybe even adults) that I might have the opportunity to teach and make a difference with. The future is not written in stone.
The world is a scary place especially scary when you do not have a full-time job and you have walked away from the one that you had. I have all the never ending responsibilities that all adults have. I think its important to live life in my own truth. Being complacent and to do what others expect you to do is not being authentic to yourself. It was what I was doing.
So, what's next? I'm not really sure at this point. I have some opportunities that have come along. Some of them I have said "no" to. Some of them I have entertained. None of them include a full-time elementary school art teaching position which makes me sad.
I'm okay though. 2022 has been a catalyst for my artwork. Art truly does heal. I have poured myself every day this year into creating and finding out what I can do artistically. I have surprised myself at times. I have created a really good body of work that I am proud of.
Author Susan David wrote that having courage is not having fear. Courage is "fear-walking". That is what I am doing right now. Fear walking. Seeing what happens. Learning that stress serves no purpose. It doesn't change things. Anxiety doesn't make positive things happen the more I am anxious. I have friends and family that are here for me. I'm a rich person in many ways. If my path takes a turn that wasn't in the plan, so be it.
I feel so glad that I had the last 2 years. The teachers and staff at my school are incredible human beings. They are truly dedicated to teaching and the children at the school. They supported me in ways that were genuine and heart felt and for that I will forever be grateful.
Thank you for reading and for all your support.