Yours Truly

I changed my mind.

draupadi1There is a story about a woman named Draupadi, in the Indian epic of the Mahabharata.  In a nutshell, she is gambled by her husband who loses his bet and he has to give her up to some evil men.  In order to prove she is not worthy of respect any longer, they immediately try to disrobe her.  She is clutching her sari tightly and screaming for help.  This goes on for a while, until she can bear it no longer.  She finally lets go, and throws her arms up in the air.  As the men continue to pull at the garment, the god Krishna comes down in the form of a never ending sari, and all that is left is a pile of fabric that grows bigger the more then men pull at it.  As soon as she let go, the universe provided for her.

Remember that time I didn’t sign my contract to go back to teaching preschool?  I was meant to be free, and find my purpose, and not get punched in the face by children less than half my size (more on this later.)  When I chose not to sign my contract, I made myself promise to be open to hearing about every opportunity that came to pass.

Well, open I was.  During a conversation with a former college professor, he asked if I would be interested in teaching somewhere else.  I said, half jokingly, that someone would literally have to hand me a perfect position. Fast forward AN HOUR. I kid you not. ONE HOUR.  An email arrives in my inbox from my prof asking if he could introduce me to the principal at a small elementary school in rural VT.  They need a 1st and 2nd grade combined classroom teacher, and he thinks I’d be just perfect.

Turns out, I am.  I signed a contract this very day, and I couldn’t be more excited to go from Danielle to Miss G, come the autumn of 2016.  The past two years were very difficult for many reasons.  Most days I felt like a bad teacher, like I couldn’t serve children the way they needed to be served, simply because they needed more from me than I could give to them. I am not a special educator, (although I am happy to support those children in my classroom who need one), a therapist, a board certified behavior analyst or a child psychiatrist.  However, I know in my core I am meant to work with children in some capacity and I need to make sure I don’t miss that window.  I couldn’t turn this job down.

This year showed me that teachers with the best intentions and lots of love for their students get hurt at school.  I didn’t expect a child to give me a bloody nose that wasn’t an accident.  Restraining a four year old for my and their own safety was not on the list of things I imagined when I wanted to be a teacher.  I know what it feels like to have to “lean into a bite” in order to free your arm from a child’s mouth.  It’s not like these things stopped, I just got better at blocking and defending myself.  The hardening that you have to do in order to be able to do that kind of work, was something I couldn’t reconcile.  I was being told to stay two feet away from my kids.  Impossible.  They are four! FOUR.  They need closeness.  At the same time, the physical abuse on a daily basis was traumatic.  I sought therapy, and I felt ridiculous for doing so, because I essentially admitted that a bunch of children beat me up, and that it made me leave work crying every day.

That’s when I knew it was time to walk away.  Perhaps someone can do this better than I can.  Perhaps someone else has the capacity to handle this, where I can’t.  I hope someone does, because I love these kids, but I also value my sanity.  When I say I love them, I mean, I also cry at home to my partner about how I wish I could do more, but I have no idea what else to do.  And if you know me, you know I’m not standing there wringing my hands.  I have exhausted all of my resources and all of my reserves.  At the risk of becoming resentful, I had to step away.  When I let go, without an exact plan for what would happen next, I stepped into Draupadi’s shoes.  They feel good.  I feel good.  I don’t know what else to say except that I changed my mind.  I’d apologize for throwing everyone for a loop, but this is who I am.  I am a teacher, and I will never be sorry about that.  Stay tuned.

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effort versus ease

Student mind, student mind, student mind, I am silently chanting to myself.  I am in an all levels, vinyasa flow yoga class, in Denver, Colorado.

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(Look! Denver! Continental divide!  It snowed for the entire time I was there. Womp womp.)

Brushing off my dear friend’s warning about Denver yogis being “athletic” and “competitive,” I rolled out a borrowed yoga mat, and got ready to be the student, instead of the teacher.  Why am I chanting this little ditty to myself?  Because as a teacher, it can be so difficult to let go and just be the student.

The class is decent.  As a teacher who is obsessively passionate about safe anatomy and alignment, there were some hiccups (transitioning from Warrior I to Warrior II. Owwies in your hip!! Frog Lotus Yogis, you know what I mean.), but all in all, I enjoyed it.  I let my body flow, and as I tuned into the energy in the room, I noticed something that doesn’t happen in the classes that I normally teach and take back home.

Effort. Efforting. I’m using that made-up word right now.  Efforting.  Because no one in that room was in a state of ease.  Surrounded by pushing, and huffing and “Work your core for bikini season, ladies!” I realized that was what seriously lacking here, was a sense of ease; ease to balance out all of the effort.

Now, while this is happening I’m thinking “Should I approach this teacher after class and give her notes?  As a teacher I love getting notes from other teachers.  Is that rude? Look at this student.  I could totally help her alignment!!” and so on and so forth.  I was mentally meddling with this class and these students!  I was in teacher judgement mode.  I WAS being rude, if only inside my head, but still. Spiritual yogi party foul, for sure.  I silently apologized, and found deep gratitude for this teacher, because she was teaching me something else very important.  Long story short, I finished the class, thanked the teacher and left, slightly embarrassed by the acrobatics of my inner mind.

What I am reflecting on now is this:

Effort must be balanced by ease.

This relates directly to my teaching journey.  I have spent the last 6 years efforting.  There has been little ease.  Few times, have I actually felt like I was using my true gifts and abilities.  When I told my teaching mentor that I was planning to leave, she looked at me wisely and said, “I understand.  You’ve had a rough go, and you need some wins.”  I believe she meant: You need some time to feel good at what you’re doing, to be in a state of flow, in a state of ease.  Not that it’s meant to be easy, but that there must be a balance, and that it’s not just effort for effort’s sake.  There is a time for that, but not every day in a teaching job.  Teaching is thankless, without a doubt, but being in despair all of the time, negates the effort.

Since I resigned, I’ve had countless offers pouring in, for all kinds of jobs and projects I never imagined.  It’s still scary, I still feel strange trying to explain to people why I have chosen this path.  But every day, I feel more ease, it becomes more easeful (another made-up word. you’re welcome.) and I am continually grateful, surprised and in a state of wonderment.  Thank you Denver yogis.  I bow in gratitude to your wisdom and your effort.  It is profound.  May you find ease, and killer bikini bodies.

“so, what are you going to do?”

Obnoxious sunshiney optimist that I am, I forgot about this part.  Now that I’m telling people that, yes, I am voluntarily leaving my profession for an indeterminate amount of time, they want to know what I’m going to do.  They look much like children, eyes wide and mouth slightly agape, as if I’m telling them the Easter Bunny isn’t real.  They don’t ask why I’m leaving, only what will happen next.

Perhaps this is because I have been the village preschool teacher for the last 6 years of my life.  By “village” I mean that I have taught in 4 different programs, all within a half hour of each other.  I know everyone’s kids, and I can barely walk down the street without a child running up behind me to give me a hug.  I’m many parents’ first experience with a teacher and putting a child in school, and they remember that.  So, I’ve tried on a lot of different settings. But not trying them on in any lackadaisical way.  Really trying them on.  Throwing myself in headfirst.  When they didn’t work, I left gracefully, but learned what I would and would not stand for.  (That deserves its own post, note to self.)

This is how my community knows me and it must make them a little nervous that this seemingly, steady stable woman, looks like she’s taking a deep dive into unknown waters, maybe with sharks. Ah! Sharks!  In college, people called me “the yoga girl” because I was the one teaching yoga and talking about it all. the. time.  Now, I am a preschool teacher by day, yoga teacher by nights and weekends, multi-tasking queen of the universe! (Okay, I made that last part up, but come on!!  We all need a pick-me-up.)  But soon, I am to be neither of these things.  I imagine I will teach more yoga, but who knows what that looks like?

When I lead women’s circles I tell my participants to come as they are, to drop the veil and that being seen is not about what you do.  What you do does not directly inform who you are.  Let me say that again.

 What you do does not directly inform who you are.

You are not just a mess of skills and degrees and years of experience.  Be proud of those accomplishments.  I know I am.  But remember that they only make up a part of who you are.    You are multifaceted and you have a soul.  As a culture we need to remember this.

Sometimes I get caught up in the scary idea that my worth as a human being and member of my community is contingent upon what I do.   Am I only valuable when I have a socially acceptable 9-5 gig?  When I am an adult with a 401K and a salary?  When I am coming from my place of knowing, I know this is crap.   I know that I have a use and purpose that I am still uncovering, and that is terrifying and and exciting and then terrifying again.  This is okay.

Today, my dentist (and my eye doctor-whatever, I have a lot of appointments before my health insurance runs out!) asked me “What are you going to do now?”  He’s a nice guy.  His wife regularly attends my yoga classes.  He was genuinely wanting to know my plans.   So, how do you answer this question?

Here’s the best part: You answer it however you want, with honesty.  I used to try to rattle off a laundry list of THINGS, I’m not going to do that anymore. It takes courage to say “I’m not exactly sure, I have some other opportunities, but this is the best decision for me right now.”  And as if I had spoken an ancient incantation, or had hit the right password, he smiled, wished me well, and off I went.

xo

 

begin again.

I’ve always loved beginnings.  There is magic there, in opening a new door, proverbial or literal.  Unfortunately, I’ve been hitting my face on the door for a long time now, and when I finally stepped back (because, ow! that hurts!), I saw the doorknob.  And it was shiny.  Very shiny.  I really  wanted to turn it.

Flash forward:  It’s taken me almost 5 years to turn the doorknob.  I’m turning it as we speak because I’ve just resigned from my job.  My very stable, benefits enrolled, socially acceptable job.  After obtaining two bachelors degrees and a masters in Education, I am walking away, simply not returning, for another year of being an early childhood educator.  After teaching preschool in 4 different settings, I came to the shocking realization that THIS ISN’T WORKING anymore.  It wasn’t sustainable for my mental health, and perhaps someone else could do it better than I.  (This thought is still hard to stomach, because don’t we all want to be the best at our given profession?)

I will not take this first post to tell you the myriad reasons why I am leaving this job (with lovely wonderful people committed to the growth and well being of children with special needs and in crisis.  Shout out! You are the hardest workers!).  This space now exists to tell you why it’s okay to make a change like this.  Why it’s okay to go to school for 7 years and then decide that you just want to be an innkeeper, or a beekeeper, or a keeper of anything else than what you originally had planned.  Why it’s okay to forge your own path, and ignore anyone who deems it socially unacceptable to choose SOMETHING ELSE.

So I’m still turning the doorknob.  I have not one clue as to what lies behind this door, but I feel hands at my back and support that makes this decision not easy, but the right one.  There is though, a small buzzing, a hum, that is getting louder.  It’s warm in my ear and in my heart.  This makes me think that there is swift movement coming my way and that the years I’ve spent cradling other peoples’ little babes, has not been in vain.  I’m not turning the doorknob because it is shiny.  I’m turning it because there is nothing else I can do now that I’ve stepped back and seen the whole door.  In all honesty, even if the doorknob was old and rusty, I’d turn it anyway.

So enough with analogies about doors and open hearts and trusting the universe and every other thing someone leaving their job has said.  I have to go figure out what to do with 3 degrees and 2 teaching licenses.  Maybe place mats would be nice.

xo.