For the past 25 years, I have observed the first day of school in one way or another. That first “first” day was my daughter’s beginning of Pre-School. The years that followed took us through Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, High School and College.
These years also included all my first days as a teacher and principal. When my girls were in school it was great because it signaled the beginning of routine and the coming of fall. When I was teaching it was exciting to meet a new group of students and know I was embarking on my favorite subject matter yet again (United States History!) Principal-ing meant a whole different set of emotions as I felt a responsibility for so many beautiful children.
No matter which year it was though I had a love/hate relationship with the first day. Summer for a teacher is why we have teachers. If teachers didn’t get the time “off”, they’d never come back. When you are principal-ing, you don’t really get a summer, as there are too many things that need to be completed for the coming year. While this was not the main reason I chose to leave education at this time, it’s hard when you feel like you never get a break.
So now I am no longer in the education profession. This was a conscious choice I made and while I initially thought I might go back into the classroom full time if a History job was open, I realized quickly this was not what I wanted anymore. In addition, my personal obligations are such that I need some flexibility right now. My family needs me in a more present way.
Realizing a Change Needed to Happen
The burnout I felt was real and when looking deep inside myself, I realized my heart could no longer be in a profession that seems seriously flawed on so many levels. While I loved the “teaching”, the additional pressures put on educators were killing me. And let’s not even get started on some of the parents. I LOVED the kids. Absolutely loved them – even the ones who at times were quite unlovable! I loved the teachers I worked with. They were my family and I hope still are. But, I knew it was time to move on.
I was lower than I have even been in my life (and I went through a divorce!) Each day was a struggle to make it through without crawling in my closet and crying nonstop. My mind went to a place I wasn’t sure I could get out of. I had to start taking an anti-depressant. I was awake all hours of the night. Then, at the depths of my despair, I decided to slam my teacher door shut. God didn’t necessarily close that door to open a window, I did. And I did without any idea of what I was going to do. I just knew it had to be done. The door had slammed shut and the window was far from opening – it was dirty and quite stuck.
The fear and uncertainty was a bit overwhelming, but I knew it was the right choice at the time. I took one day at a time and leaned on my family and friends. I cried and mourned a career I thought I was in forever. Then, I got up and started cleaning that window inch by dirty inch.
Finding My Way
I started putting myself first. I reconnected with friends and activities that had been put on the back burner. My backyard was renovated. I traveled a little and plan to do a lot more. I slept like I haven’t slept in years.
As the first day of another school year is upon us, I am more at peace than ever. I am no longer awake at all hours of the night. I am no longer constantly unable to remove myself from work (I know, my problem!) I am no longer feeling dread on Sunday nights about facing circumstances I have no power to change. I might miss the excitement and jitters as kids enter the classroom. I might miss the fresh new workbooks and sparkling clean white boards. I might miss the camaraderie that is unique to teachers. I might miss the routine. And then again, I might not.
I am in the best place I have been in a long time. I will love seeing the Back to School photos my friends share. I will reflect on the many years of First Day photos I have been a part of. Perhaps I will take a different First Day photo this year. This one will reflect the Mary Beth that is content, happy and in the best place she’s been in a very long time.