It’s All Over Now

abby and rugLeaving is a familiar feeling.  I’ve done it many times before.  But this time it seems different.  I’m trying hard to process it all.  To stay in the moment and feel all the complex feelings that come with closing one door and opening another.  It’s overwhelming.

The first time I left to go live abroad, I left my mother.  I left my boyfriend.  I left my dogs.  I had just graduated from college.  In a lot of ways, I was so young and unexperienced, I didn’t really understand what was going on.  I knew it was big, but I didn’t fully understand the significance.

Tonight is my last night in San Francisco.  I lived here, in this apartment for nearly 10 years.  This is the apartment I first lived in after my mom died.  It’s where I lived when our dog Kenya died.  It’s where I lived when I earned my teaching credential and my master’s.  This is where I brought Abby home to.  It’s the longest stretch of time I’ve ever lived in one place.  It was an important 10 years.  I came to the Bay Area 11 years ago because my mother was very sick.  I did the only thing I knew how to do.  I stayed.  But my life was interrupted.  I was in the middle of living my life as an expat, traveling the world as a teacher.  I didn’t know what the world had in store for me, but I knew I wanted to go see.  When I came here, I left a little bookmark in that other life I was living.

During the last 10 years, I developed a career, made some very strong friendships, and strengthened my relationship with my brother and his wife.  And then when they had kids, it became so important for me to have a strong bond with them.  These past 10 years have been wonderful.  But now it’s time to open back up to that bookmark again.  I’m not being interrupted anymore.  I can go see what the world has in store for me.

I don’t actually leave America tomorrow.  I’m just leaving San Francisco.  But this is the end of this era for me.  I am so excited to open my new chapter, but boy is it hard to leave this one.  Tonight I went to my final session at my process group.  They remarked about how I chose to spend my final night with them.  With women who are a part of the process group, but aren’t (and can’t) be my friends outside the group.  It struck me as well.  But I was prepared.  I spent time with each of my friends during the past few weeks.  I am already packed.  Things are in order.  Going to the group tonight seemed like the right thing to do.  The group would force me to process this major event in my life.  They’d force me to reflect and to be present in it.  I wanted that.  And it was a really great session.  We did a farewell ritual.  One woman brought in a wooden heart for me.  They passed it around and reflected on my time on the group and some of them talked about how I affected them.  It was a really special way to spend my last night in San Francisco.  I think most people who go through this don’t get to have this type of experience.  I’m really grateful I had this.

I’m sad tonight, but only because it’s hard to say goodbye.  It’s hard to let go.  And I’m letting go of a lot here.  But letting go is one of the most important parts of life, and I’ve learned to do it pretty well.  I’m allowed to feel sad about this while also feeling so happy and excited to move to Sri Lanka.  But before Sri Lanka, there is America!  Tomorrow, Be and I are going to set out on our road trip.  We’ll go up to Tahoe, then to Idaho, and Wyoming, followed by Montana, then South Dakota.  After that, Colorado, Utah, Las Vegas, and back to California via Big Sur.  It’s an epic road trip, which will bring us through a lot of parts of America neither of us have ever seen.  And more importantly, it’s a chance to spend some quality time with a very important friend.

When one door closes, another one opens.  Here we go!

luggage

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The End of an Era

Last Day CakeI’ve been hearing this from people for a few months now:  “it’s the end of an era”.  I’ve worked at this school for 9 years.  I started as a paraprofessional in the k-2 SDC.  After spring break of that year, I was asked to take over the 3-5 SDC as the teacher.  I built a really great program for students with emotional disturbance.  We changed lives.  But this work has an expiration date.  It’s hard, hard work.  I loved it while I loved it, but once the trauma started to seep into my skin, I knew I had to leave.  This kind of trauma changes you.  It’s not just being attacked by students or being called names.  It’s the darkness that some of theses students have.  Yes, the extreme behaviors make an impact on you from day to day, but over time, it just gets harder and harder to cope with their hardships.

So last week I closed the door to my classroom for the last time, and it absolutely is the end of an era.  I am really sad to go.  I have made some great friends at this school.  I have learned so much during my time here.  And in a way, I used this job as a way to cope with the death of my mother.  I came to the Bay Area almost 12 years ago.  I had been living in Turkey teaching English when I got the call we all dread when we’re living abroad:  “Mom is on life support, please come home”.  She pulled through and survived for another year.  I moved in with her and took care of her during this time.  I worked 2 jobs to support us, and began to consider what types of careers I could pursue in San Francisco.  Teaching seemed to be the obvious choice.  So I began to apply to credentialing programs in the area.

After my mother died, I was devastated.  I was overwhelmed.  Luckily my brother and his new wife lived near by and they were really supportive.  They gave me their apartment to live in (it was so hard to find a place to live with a dog).  My sister in law gave me her car.  But the emotions I was feeling tended to be too strong.  I looked for ways to stuff them down.  I ate.  I drank.  I got a very intense job.  It was the job that really helped keep my emotions at bay.  Teaching kids with emotional disturbance is so extremely intense.  It is so easy to get completely immersed in it…especially if you’re trying to escape some pain in your own life.  And that’s exactly what I did and that’s exactly why was so damn good at it.  And I was.  I really was so damn good at this.  But once I realized that I needed to leave this job, that this job was starting to chip away at me, I knew I had to take another look at my mother and who she was and how she died.  And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past year.  And now I find myself to be very ready to move on.

So you see, it’s not just any old teaching job that I’m leaving.  There was so much wrapped up in this job.  My mother is in there.  My pride is in there.  For a long time, my personal identity was in there.  I know I’ll find that breaking away from this job was really good for me.  Moving abroad again to live as an expat will also prove to be really good for me.  But oh boy is it hard to say good bye to all this.

Last Day of School