Working with youth is killer. Leaving one group of youth to work with another is even more killer. It's like breaking up with hundreds of people-- that sounds kind of weird, right? But teaching is love. It's a weird kind of love, not--hopefully, please God--romantic love, but this labor of love that is very consuming.
That's what I did this school year-- my seventh year of teaching and my eighth year working with youth. I left students I truly loved in a place I was beginning to hate for a new group of students in an ideal setting. Kids are kids wherever you are, right? My current students are amazing and I'm quickly growing a new place in my heart for them. However, sometimes I think I should have moved to a new town for a job in this field instead of staying here. This break-up has been hard and I've left myself with the remnants of my first group of lovable youth: I see them everywhere I go.
I see them at the coffee shop, when they somehow find my email address and ask me if I'll revise their papers with them.
I see them at the grocery store, when they throw their arms around me and ask how I could leave and what happened and where did I go?
They're at the gas station, hopping over the counter to enfold me in big bear hugs while telling me all about college.
I see them on Facebook, when students I had six years ago wish me a happy birthday or students I had last year message me to make sure I'm alive and where did I go?
I see them sending me playlists on Spotify because a new album came out and they knew I'd love it.
Not to continue in this melodramatic vein, but it all kind of kills me.
Today I watched a mentee I worked with through four years of crazy hurricanes of ups and downs walk across the graduation stage and I nearly broke into pieces because I felt so happy. Someone touched me on the shoulder to say hi and I almost shattered from the sheer joy of that moment. When you're a teacher you hardly ever see the fruits of your labor. I felt like an effing overflowing cornucopia tonight. It's extremely difficult not to romanticize a job that treated you like shit when you loved one big part of it. After the ceremony, I couldn't stop crying-- but I couldn't decide if I was wholly happy, nostalgic, happy-sad... I'm left feeling conflicted, and to be honest, kind of homeless.
Those kids are killers, let me tell you.