A few months ago a current student from my former university called to request a donation to the scholarship fund. We had a short conversation about majors and favorite classes at the small residential program in which we both participated. I made a donation and then went back to making dinner.
She was so enthusiastic. She reminded me of myself at 20. The world full of possibilities. Spending time thinking and learning and making meaning of these experiences. The excitement of what was to come with adulthood. I had big plans for myself. They were rather undefined plans but somehow I was going to save the world, make a difference, do big things.
But from the moment I saw my son being lifted out of that white Range Rover in Ethiopia, my world shrank. For the past three and a half years, my family has been my world. It has been enough. And probably one of the biggest reasons the re-entry into teaching was a major fail in the fall.
Teaching at-risk, urban kids in a start-up school 45 minutes from home requires a huge commitment. Time and energy that I had once given fully for nine to ten hours a day. Given happily. I love(d) being a teacher. This fall I just couldn’t make it all work. Realizing I was not mothering or teaching well was disheartening. Going into my principal’s office to give my notice was tough. Several months after leaving I was still having dreams about the school. Processing it. Most of my self-pep talks fall back on the much used phrase “I had to do what was best for my family.” As much as I want to believe I’m a rockstar teacher, I was replaceable. But our family was struggling and no matter how we tried to work it out in our minds, there wasn’t a way to make it all happen in a reasonable way. For us. At that particular moment in time. (And I know that we are lucky that we can make decisions like this at all.)
Now, we’re re-evaluating how we want to balance work and family (with all the factors related to Jose’s work, childcare, the start of kindergarten, etc.). This means letting go of what happened in the fall and not comparing myself to other mothers who seem to balance family with awesome careers. This means being okay with not living up to my 20 year old self’s expectations and not holding tightly to my identity as a teacher. This means new things might be around the corner if I can just be open to them.