When it’s time to turn the page

Change isn’t always easy, especially when you’ve become accustomed to people and ways for long periods of time.

But sometimes it just has to happen.

The past week was rather strange, because so much familiarity and comfort that I’ve known for the last seven years was slowly dwindling down. It was a week when I wanted to smile every day about what’s ahead, but I also wanted to cry every day about what I was leaving behind. I really don’t enjoy conflicting feelings like that.

It all started last Sunday when we had our annual end-of-the-year broadcast banquet. I knew it was the last time I would have all of my kids together, but I wasn’t expecting what happened that evening. I thought I was sitting down to watch a bloopers video (which we have every year), but instead I sat there stunned and humbled as I watched a video my students had made for me in which they all said some of the nicest things that touched my heart in ways I can’t explain. They even included some of my former students in the video, as well as one of my dear friends/former coworkers whom I missed terribly this year.

And it didn’t stop there.

my people
Such a wonderful surprise

After the video, some of those former students and my friend walked out of a room they had been hiding in to surprise me. I could barely get any words out, because I was so humbled by the amount of work those kids put in to make this all happen. I thought I was going to watch something that would make me laugh, and instead I was fighting back tears. I knew these students cared for me, but they really showed me how much by giving me one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

As a teacher, there are some days when you feel like what you’re doing isn’t quite getting engrained into your students—almost as if none of your work matters to them. And then they turn right around and prove you wrong. It gives you a sense of pride and humility all at once. (There go those conflicting feelings again.)

I left that banquet wondering if I’m making the right decision to walk away from teaching. I know it’s what I’m supposed to do, but sometimes emotional moments can make you question even the most sensible things. As I drove with a full heart and a racing mind, I heard a quiet, comforting voice whisper, “You’ve done your job.” And I knew it was true. As much as I love those kids, I know the tugging on my heart that I felt more than a year ago can’t be ignored.

I hope all of my students have been positively impacted in some way or another. I hope that they learned not just the standard material but more so to have confidence in themselves and to treat others well. I hope they know how valued they are, how loved they are and how much they matter.

The rest of the week was full of students and coworkers making my heart smile in various ways. I watched as some of my students I’ve taught for four years walked across the stage and into the next chapters of their lives, and I was able to be a row leader at graduation for the row with a student who has been almost like a daughter to me. I was honored to be invited to a small celebration at her home afterward with her family members.

Then came Saturday—my last day at what I’ve called my second home for the past seven years. My classroom looked completely empty and lonely. After dismissal from our meeting, I made my way around campus saying goodbye to people, and there were a few moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep a brave face on and hold back tears. As I walked out the doors for the final time, all of those blasted conflicting emotions were there again. I took a deep breath as I walked to my car, and I let out a heavy sigh as I drove past Einstein’s—a place I’ve gone almost every single workday and where they know I’m picky and let me select the exact blueberry bagel I want every morning (and even allow me to leave my $1.20 on the counter rather than wait for the whole cash register process). I’ll miss them, too.

If you ask me what’s next, I’ll have to tell you that I’m still not sure yet. Something. I will tell you, though, that sometimes God calls us to do things that we don’t understand and that make us feel like we’re being led blindly into the unknown—which is pretty much how I feel right now. It’s one of those times when you simply have to trust whatever He’s doing and know that He will provide whatever it is He has mapped out for you.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not completely comfortable with this whole uncertainty thing. It’s a little scary not knowing what my life is about to look like. I mean, I don’t even have lesson plans ready, and that’s frightening.

Which I guess means this is another opportunity to be brave—and one I hope I will take.

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