Yesterday we went grocery shopping at a store about five blocks away from the school where I worked for so many years. As I scanned shelves for mild salsa, I scanned the aisles for small people I might know. I wanted to see someone and I absolutely didn’t.
I would like to say I don’t avoid the area, but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t exactly avoid. I just work at finding reasons to not go that way. It’s too raw. It hurts to miss it. I wrestle with rushes of guilt. Rushes that come at me and then quickly fade away. Like ferocious stormy waves. Crashing in and instantly receding. Leaving me doused and sputtering. Checking to make sure I am on solid ground.
I had necessary reasons to leave. I mostly believe myself when I insist that that makes it okay. I stayed for more than two decades. Leaving to get away from poverty, to get away from hard, to seek refuge from trauma – those things were never going to be my reasons.
And they weren’t.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize when I have walked through a day without the intensity that deep inner city teaching brings. I feel the absence of pain. I am aware of my new found calm. I am deeply conscious of the pure ease of things that were never ever easy.
Sometimes, I just am aware.
Sometimes the guilt comes.
Soon, I think, I will be able to write about the differences. How it is really so very hard there. Hard to support the children. Hard to do the necessary work.
Not hard to love them. Not hard to care. Not hard to give everything.
Hard to bear witness. Hard to know. Just hard.
I miss it desperately. And, I am at a place where I am happy. Not happier. Happy different.
Recognizing the happy has been all about light. But it has activated the guilt. I thought I gave it away. Left it at least.
This is now the haunting.
I am letting myself feel it. It’s not scary. It’s full of remembering. Remembering all of it like it never really happened but at the same time like I am right there in it. It’s an enchanting, exhausting process.
This sometimes guilt is washing away. It won’t be here long.
It’s like how mud from a strong rainstorm is a mucky mess and then it gives way to beautiful.
I am almost at the beautiful.
But today, there has been a lot of pacing about in the mud.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.
This is a very touching, human piece of writing. I love how you go in and out of your attitudes about leaving and your guilt. Emotions are messy and you’ve done a good job of showing that in your writing. I’d like to suggest that you write more about the other school and why it was not possible for you to sustain being there. The kinds of issues you were dealing with there could burn out any teacher. When I ended my 22 year career as a teacher of ENLs I no longer had any energy left and was ready to let go. Stop beating yourself up; I’m sure you made a difference to those kids who knew you while you were there.
Thank you Barbara. I am not really beating myself up. Just being in it. It will pass.
As I read this I felt myself being pulled into a sea of emotions. Your choice was a difficult one, but you are happy now and less stressed—so I am assuming that means your choice was the right one. As time passes, I hope that you are able to be at peace with the decision you’ve made.
It was the right on. Yes.
You had to leave because without leaving you would have lost yourself. You made the choice you had to make. Don’t let the guilt gnaw you.
You are right I know. It’s not gnawing. A little nibbling.
Thank you for writing from inside.
Your touch there continues and your touch where you are was needed as well.
Thank you for this support Loralee.
As I got further into your post, I started to relate more and more. I am in my fourth year working at a high SES school, after 14 years of working in a secondary level DAEP and a Title I elementary. My new job is hard because of the size of the school, but I certainly don’t deal with the same hurdles I faced on my previous two campuses, and I feel that guilt. I am hoping to return to the Title I school someday as their librarian.
We both know the guilt makes no sense of course. The need is just so great.
My heart aches for you as you face this guilt. I’m realizing that we, teachers, are human. We must care for ourselves. We are doing the best we can in all kinds of situations. Your heart is evident in these words. Thank you for sharing them.
Thank you Michelle. I am figuring it all out.
This is a beautifully written account. I can relate to being daily on the edge of that unfillable cavern of need, wondering where to direct my small shovelful of offering for the moment. Teachers often only see the gap between what feels to them, a small impact. Their desire to make a difference allows them only to see the gap in their hopes and aspirations, and the measure of what is. But it IS those little things that allow our students to go on, to get through one day in a better place, and the next. You made a difference….in ways you may never know.
I’m sorry for the loss, Carrie, know how much you gave to those children all the years. The children you teach now need the gifts you give as a teacher too, and perhaps there will be a time you can continue helping the others in different ways? Thanks for sharing your deepest feelings.
I am planning a visit soon. I think strangely that it will be an all around good thing.
What Terje said, Carrie – it is wise and true.
I know. Really. This is just a here and there thing. Part of the processing.
Happy different is a hard place to stand. Wishing you support as you do stand.
“Happy Different” is a great phrase. I love all the imagery in here- the ocean, the mud- all so effective in revealing your inner feelings about the conflict of leaving behind a school that was such a part of you, but also a painful place to be. I think back to some of your slices last year about the children- the one on the piano, the one about the little child without a mother…I am grateful for the writing you’ve done about what it was like. There is something so very special about you, Carrie, and your teaching and your writing.
Wow Kathleen, I am honoured that you remember some of those pieces. I am also grateful that I could share while I was fully in it. I also think I need to write when I am at a bit of a distance. Shining a light.
Thank you for sharing your insides. These gut feelings of pure guilt. Such a gift you are to this community – your writing, your stories,your heart, your insides spread out on the pages for us to soak in. I’m so blessed to learn about life and teaching with you. Hugs, Carrie, as you continue to process and heal.
Michelle, you are always so kind and generous in your comments. Many thanks.