I signed a contract this week and begin a new gig next week as a Teacher’s Assistant at a private school for public school kids with behavior and emotional disorders. The school is actually bordered on the north by the house I shared with my Ex and on the south by the townhouse where I lived after leaving him. Familiar with the skirt of the campus, I had never actually been in the school before I interviewed. We live in a very small world with deceptively high walls. And I’m about to breach them.
The job is pretty much ideal in terms of schedule (same as my dear one’s), supervisory responsibilities (nil), and benefits (jackpot). The huge plus is that I get to work with kids and don’t have the responsibility of being the teacher in charge. If I discover that I enjoy the academic setting and continue to want to teach math, the experience garnered in this position will be invaluable. The position is exactly what I could articulate as my objective as I started this search: “an opportunity to bring focused attention to projects that enhance community.” I wanted to find a position which engaged my time and talent (check), remunerated enough for our family needs (check), and allowed me to be ‘one of many’ (not in charge) in a position which is meaningful (check).
All of which is really good and feels very right.
All of which is also reflective of a major identity shift.
As I prepare to step away from the keyboard and into a classroom, I realize that the last of the familiar routines is shifting. For more than two decades I have carefully crafted a public persona, and nowhere has this been more evident than at my keyboard. My writing, my Facebook, my blogging, not to mention all of my public work in ministry, all work to build what amounts to a brand. This is what I have left, what I am still leaving. And the transition is much more mind boggling than coming out and leaving a 20 year marriage. The very foundation of who I understand myself to be is shifting. Rightly, appropriately, intentionally… but shifting nonetheless.
As I step into a new routine, I find myself wondering if my fingers will no longer find daily comfort at the keyboard. I wonder if I will lose my writing and in so doing my voice. If, on the one hand, the writer is indeed a part of the me that find root beneath the persona, she will have much new material and an important new perspective after a stint working with kids who’ve been removed from their neighborhood schools. If, on the other hand, the writer was a part of the mask that I’d developed, her silence will likely not be missed. We don’t need more words pointing towards faux reality. Simple truth, but emotionally laden.
Perhaps even more monumental in my post-church experience is the gradual but unmistakable change in the cultivation of friendships. No longer coasting on faux-relationships handed to me at church (people that I loved dearly, but relationships predicated on professional roles), I am noticing that I engage differently (more authentically) in other arenas. I hang around at the end of meetings because I am wanting to chat with this person or that. I follow up with a person that I met through another friend (also a “late bloomer”) and schedule a coffee date. And I’m noticing (which is in itself remarkable!) that friendships (the real kind) are not instant but begin in small and almost imperceptible ways. All I need do is show up, and keep showing up.
Today is a very good day, very. Typing happy words, I realize that the emotions I have include both the welcome ones and the not so welcome. I recognize discomfort, tension in my shoulders, the pull in my abdomen, tell tale signs of feeling unsettled. At the same time, I feel an canny sense of peace, a spring in my step and a smile at my lips. This new chapter that has been in waiting is now coming into view.
So before it begins, before I get in the whirl of activity and emotional fullness, before the remarkable becomes the routine, I want to pause and give thanks for the journey that carried me from there to here. As Maya Angelou says, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”