Just to set the record straight, I’d rather be writing about the psychology of my cats, the life cycle of a canker worm or why boys obsess over their penises. I’d rather be revising one of my novels or finishing any one of the too many writing projects that I have on the go. But I can’t do any of that this week. This week I need to write my blog about what it means to me to be moving on.
I don’t like saying goodbye. I find it’s like trying to hold molasses in my hands; sticky, awkward with the possibility of sweetness, but even more of a chance of making a mess. Growing up, there were no big goodbyes, no emotional outpourings. It was quick and clean if not always painless. There was no one to wave to, no one watching me go, and so I never learned to look back.
Not until I was in my late twenties and my family circle grew, did I start to learn the importance of looking back and saying goodbye. Suddenly, the departure from an evening meal had become an epic event. There was hugging and waving every single time (in my family, hugs were dispersed sparingly and mostly for special occasions). It was a little bit of a culture shock, but overtime I adapted, and maybe even came to like it. I came to understand that having that awkward molasses feeling wasn’t all bad, that sometimes showing some of the sticky mess, was about connection, affection and acknowledgement.
Over the last decade as I have added kids and more kids and a wife to my life, they have each taught me something about all of those parts of saying goodbye. About the need to look at the moments as they pass through my life, even if they feel a little unbearable. Well, I may need to put some of these lessons to work this week, because at the end of this week I need to say goodbye to more than five hundred people. People who have made up a big part of my world for the past five years. This month, I’ve already moved off of my street and away from the friends and neighbours who surrounded my home. Now it’s time for me to leave my school.
Leaving a school isn’t like leaving any other job that I’ve ever had. Leaving a school is really moving out of a small town where you’re extra cozy with your neighbours. I see and interact with 150-175 people everyday in my small town, and suddenly almost all of those relationships will just disappear from my life. The hugs, high fives and excited shrieks of, “Ms McDonald!” (or “Captain Unicorn!” as one of the kindergarten classes likes to call me) that follow me through the halls will be replaced by quiet furtive glances and occasional smiles when I start in at my new small town in a couple of months.
My heart feels achy and sore when I think of the pull of the little people I know and love that I will be leaving. There are so many small shiny faces that swim to the forefront of my mind. So many stories that we’ve shared.
Then there’s the pull of the new little people, the ones who will be the core of my world in my new small town. I wonder how all of those little personalities will fit together in my room. This year I see around 480 kids in a week, next year I will see around 20. This year I speak in English all day, next year I will speak in French. I could go on. There will be a lot of differences between this year and next year, but the pull of why I do my job is always the same. The pull of sharing, connecting, of growing, changing and learning together.
The small town I’m leaving isn’t only populated by kids. Sure, the ratio is a little skewed, but there are also many adults who will stand on the sidelines saying goodbye as I walk away from this small town and move 3.3 km up the road.
In the small town where I work right now, I have a place and I know where I fit. Everyone knows that I am a queer non-binary mom in a blended family. Everyone knows that I am (a little too) honest, straight forward and opinionated (maybe even pushy). Everyone knows that I have a passion for stories, equality and human kindness. I feel very accepted in this town. As the town scribe and story teller I have been embraced and feel sad that it is already time to let go.
But there is no choice. There are only so many minutes that are not already filled in a week, only so much time to build relationships by proximity into friendships that can endure. The reality is that most of the relationships that I enjoy in my daily work life are relationships by proximity. They are people that I truly care about and enjoy, but reality still dictates that as the proximity changes, these relationships dissolve into the distance (or become cyber based glimpses into each other’s worlds).
Ugh, that sticky molasses feeling is almost stifling and I can just barely bring myself to write about the friends I am leaving behind. I know you think that if they are friends I shouldn’t really be leaving them behind, and I hope that you are right. It’s hard to bridge a relationship by proximity into a friendship, it means finding time outside of the hours of work and family to eat sushi and spicy noodles, build play structures and play pool. It is the difference between having a support network down the hall, to having to juggle responsibilities and have-tos just to clear a large enough window to have a conversation.
It means change and change is hard.
Of course, change is also the key to life. We need to change, evolve and grow. As much as I feel like I wish I could crawl into the safety of the familiar, make a little nest and stay forever, the reality is quite different. My reality is that I want to be open to new ideas, people, places and experiences. I want to feel the safety of those who have supported me, and use that strength to move forward, even if it means changing and changing and changing again. And so, with love and gratitude to where I have been and where I am going to, I am moving on.