I don’t even know how to begin.
In some ways, this feels like any other year. It is in the first few days of the summer break from school. There is an exhaustion that settles into your bones in the last month or so of school. By the end of June, you find yourself barely hanging on. Dead tired but barely sleeping, physically depleted, emotionally drained, probably slacking off with the basics - eating well, exercise, self care…there just isn’t any energy left. If you haven’t lived the life of a modern educator this probably sounds dramatic or whiny. Trust me, it is neither. It is just the truth. Teachers white-knuckle their way through the tail end of the school year and drop their weary selves into July filled with hopes and dreams for the summer, but in need of some serious recuperation first. In the teacher-tired way, this summer is the same.
But it is not the same.
For 16 summers, I cleaned up my classroom and packed my things into cupboards and shelves, waiting for me to return to unpack and set up. Most years I would go and spend long days nearly alone in the school, taking advantage of the quiet, preparing my room and planning my upcoming year. I knew what I was coming back to and while I relished the time off, I also looked forward with excitement to the year ahead.
This year I look forward with excitement to something entirely different.
Over the last few years I could feel a shift happening within myself, a longing for a different life. Don’t get me wrong…I love teaching. I love the students, the connections, the magic of learning, the community, the silliness, the serious moments. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was little. I still remember how it felt to start university, to walk the halls as a practicum teacher and feel like I was so close to my dream, then to start out as a sub and then to get a contract position…it was exactly what I always wanted to do!
But it was only some of what I wanted to do.
Teaching became my identity in many ways, and often to my detriment. It took up so much of my time and energy. Even when I wasn’t at school, my mind was there. In difficult personal situations it was an easy excuse, a place to hide. I could literally always have more school work to do, forever and ever, amen. But the problem with allowing my occupation to become my identity was that it forced me to stifle all the other parts of myself that exist. And because teaching requires a great deal of physical, emotional, and creative energy it meant that even as I tried to reawaken some of those parts, I just didn’t have anything left over.
So I made a change.
I remember how risky it felt to drop from full time to teaching 3 days a week. I remember all the things people would say to me about it. If you ever want unsolicited advice, just make a big job change and allllll kinds of people will share alllll kinds of opinions that you never asked for. I remember all the little comments like “oh it must be nice to have a long weekend every weekend”, as if I was sitting around doing nothing. In reality, I was trying to build another career, working my butt off, trying to figure it all out all by myself. And still delivering the music program to the entire school to the best of my ability, just jammed into three days a week. I am so glad I had the courage to do that six years ago. It was really hard and I don’t regret it at all.
Now that season has ended.
This whole past school year I knew deep down that it would be my last at this school. I fought with myself for months over it. I would switch from being so certain I would stay to being so certain I would go, often many times in the same day. It is really hard to walk away from a place that is a second home. It is familiar and comfortable, even in the midst of the chaos and the demands of the job. I don’t even want to describe how hard it was to tell the students. I have never made so many kids cry in my whole career.
I knew it would be hard, but I also knew it was right.
I am filled with uncertainty about what this next chapter will end up looking like. As usual I have about a million ideas, but as I have learned many times over…things rarely go the way I think they should. And I am sure that is for the best.
So what now?
I haven’t walked away from teaching entirely. I will be on the substitute teacher list for the upcoming school year. It is a way for me to still be with students and be a small part of such an important thing (public education), but it affords me a great deal of flexibility that just isn’t an option as a teacher in a contract position. If the last few school years are any indication, there will be no shortage of subbing work if I want it. This sets my practical mind at ease, knowing I will be able to provide for myself.
But that’s not all!
After years and years and years of being asked, I have finally changed my answer to the question “do you teach piano lessons?” to “YES”! I am opening my own private home-based studio, Creative Minds Music & Arts! Stage one is private beginner piano lessons, Stages two through infinity are in the works!
And of course…the main thing…
I am an artist. My soul shrivels up and dies a little each day that I don’t create. If I am not in a good mental state, chances are nearly 100% that I have been neglecting my creative self. For the past few years I have not done nearly as much songwriting and other forms of creative expression as what is currently locked up inside me. That’s okay…there are different seasons of life and they rarely look the same. But now I choose to enter a season where my art (in all its forms) is a priority. If not now, when?
So I choose now.