Just this morning I was saying how I really should feel more sentimental about leaving than I do. I was surprised and glad I was feeling uncharacteristically calm and nonchalant. Maybe it’s because I really am deliriously happy I no longer need to deal with all of the bullshit this school puts its teachers through. Maybe it’s because a part of me is still in denial about having to leave these people I’ve grown to care about. Maybe I’ve compartmentalized my emotions in a way to keep sorrow away. Whatever the reasons is, I was dubious of my seeming lack of caring about the fact that my last day is looming. It felt fake to me. It felt like pretending, and I knew it was just a matter of time before my true self took over.
And I was right because now I’m feeling quite opposite. All it took was one simple conversation. A conversation in a situation that had been such a normal part of my work experience for the last four years. Nothing special, nothing monumental. All it took was simply one of my colleagues, whom I have been particularly close to since he and I began here together, to come in, sit down as usual, and fill me in on details from a meeting he was a part of. It really took all of my focus and energy not to tear up because it felt like my insides were on fire. It felt like the end. Finally. And it made me surprisingly despondent.
I tried to push away those feelings. I don’t want to cry. I want to leave here with my head held high, with my pride. I don’t want someone see me cry and assume it’s because I feel badly for having been essentially fired. That’s not it at all. I’m sad because I’m no longer a part of this close-knit world I was such an integral part of for so long. These people have seen my kids grow up, particularly Ollie, who was only 4 months old when I started. They’ve been with me through so many ups and downs. So many laughs and tears. So many drinks, and plans, and inside jokes. They’ve been my consolation, my rocks. And now I’m no longer a part of any of it.
I walked into my best work friend’s room to tell her how I was feeling because I knew she’d understand and not make me feel silly for almost crying about something seemingly so trivial. But instead of being able to lament, I was faced with a room full of everyone else. This is not abnormal. Her room has been our central meeting place since we all began here together four years ago. I shouldn’t have felt surprised about it. But when I sat down in order to join in on the conversations, I soon realized they were talking about next year after having had meetings about it today, meetings I didn’t attend obviously. And though they couldn’t help but leave me out, and they definitely didn’t do it intentionally or to make me feel badly, I couldn’t help but feel so alone. They have no choice but to leave me behind. Just in the same way that I’m leaving them behind to move on to whatever it is that I will now do with my life. But in that moment, it was more than I could bear and I had to escape. I’m the tough one. The one who cries, yes, but only when severely provoked. To start crying over the fact that they were making plans for next year seems outrageous. And it would make them feel bad, which is unfair of me. So I left.
And I came back to my room, for one of the last times. I tried to read my feelings away. Didn’t work. So I took my computer out, and decided that maybe writing would let me process through everything so as to not lose it. Failed again, I think. I can hear their voices through the wall. I can hear their laughter. Laughter that I used to be a part of. And laughter that I could still be a part of if I could handle it, keep my emotions in order. But I know I can’t.
So I will go home in an hour. And I will congratulate Lily on her successful completion of 2nd grade, and marvel over having a 3rd grader. And I will be happy for her. I will be happy for her because she deserves it.
And I will come back here for four more hours tomorrow, and then walk away forever. And I will think of my future and what it might hold. And I will hope to see them all again, but deep down know I won’t. Friendships between colleagues are tenuous things, especially teachers. You’re the best of friends when you’re in the trenches together. But as soon as the war is over and you go back to your lives, you realize you no longer need these people as much. And you move apart. And that’s fine, I suppose. It’s natural and expected. But it still makes me sad.
I’m going to miss them so much.