We are trains.
We are each a series of boxcars filled with experiences and memories, moving ever onward until our tracks run out.
I was on a track, laid out before me, predictable and sure, and then someone flipped the switch, and the tracks changed, and I ended up...here.
I did not buy this ticket. This is not where I’d planned to be. I thought I’d purchased a ticket to teach: I’d certainly paid for it. I got the degree. I did the student teaching. I subbed for awhile. I found a job at a school (my school) and achieved tenure.
But the tracks changed on me, and now I’m...here. Or nowhere. Or wherever this is.
After this year, I won’t have any more students at that school. The kids who go there next year will just be students.
They won’t be my students.
They are trains themselves, my students, and right now they are each at a juncture where their own tracks are changing before them, leading them into futures they cannot yet fathom, as I could have never fathomed my own.
When the tracks changed, I tried to hold on. But my train moved forward. I’ve been holding on for two years, desperate to maintain contact with the school I loved so well. But things never stay the same: Teachers retire. Administration changes. Buildings consolidate. Ground is broken for new construction. And, of course, students graduate.
My students graduate.
My arms have grown tired, reaching out to grip a memory as though I could somehow resuscitate it. But the memory is just that--memory. It’s smoke. It is no longer reality. In reality, I feel like a stranger when I visit that school. I have to wear a VISITOR badge now. My old classroom is now the fifth grade room. (There’s an awesome couch in it--I wish I’d thought of that when I was there.) The first floor now houses the elementary grades, which weren’t even in the same building when I worked there. And now I only know a handful of staff members.
My memories from that time are beautiful and strong, but they are only memories. That’s not my life right now, no matter how much I wish it were. It does me no good to face backwards and strain to hold on when I’m moving slowly away. I’ll admit, it’s more than nostalgia that keeps my hands reaching. Fear is keeping me there. It’s easier to stare longingly at what was than to face whatever might be.
So it’s time to admit that life is moving me forward and away from this, because it is now only memory.
It’s time to turn towards my new track and see what awaits me.