This morning, for the first time since I was six, I DIDN’T have my first day of school.
It was so strange—getting the son up and packing him a lunch and rushing him out the door, and then…not having anywhere to go myself. Not having anything to do.
Because I’m not a teacher anymore.
It’s so weird. I felt this immense freedom when I initially quit my job, and now…I’m embarrassed to admit this, but when I go into a store and see a school supply display, I nearly break down and cry.
I can’t stop thinking about everything I gave up.
I catch myself lesson planning in my sleep—I wake up with brilliant ideas about my classes, and then I remember that they’re not my classes to teach anymore.
I keep running into former students, or getting texts or emails or actual paper letters (from old coworkers, from past students, from parents of past students—I got the nicest one from a mom whose son graduated in 2009. That’s FIVE YEARS AGO. I bawled.) A 2014 graduate and her mother volunteered to help us decorate for my sister’s wedding and let us use their beautiful things. (And trust me when I say, that wedding would not have been possible without their help.)
So, instead of heading off to school today, I spent quite a bit of time staring at the inside of my closet instead.
There, on the walls inside of my office closet, I have erected a shrine to commemorate my teaching experience.
It can only be called a shrine. It’s pretty spectacular—all my nerd posters, a ton of pictures, student artwork, encouraging notes, the wooden top of my first podium (autographed by the graduating classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009), and the bookshelf that was repaired and painted by the late, great David Sukalski. I have a drawer full of letters and cards and thank-you notes and blessings and well wishes. All of the “Welcome Back!” signs the kids made me after I was gone on medical leave are there, and, of course, the “We’re going to miss you…a lot!” poster that a bunch of kids signed for me on my last day. (Which totally warmed my heart, even though “a lot” was written incorrectly as one word.)
It’s hard to open those doors without shedding a few tears. It’s overwhelming, seeing all of those emotions/love/memories in one place. It’s nostalgic. It’s beautiful.
But I had to shut those doors.
It’s one of the reasons I put the shrine in my closet. (The main one was a lack of adequate wall space.) But it ended up being a pretty cool metaphor: I needed to remind myself that those doors are closed now. I can always open them up and feel that rush of emotions/love/memories, but they must close, so I can walk through the next door in my life.
And now, I sit here, alone, in my office, writing.
Which is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do.