"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wildness Delayed

I've hit a bit of a funk.  Or a lot of a funk.

You know how when someone makes the decision to leave their job, they give two weeks notice?  You know how difficult and sometimes awkward those two weeks can be - going to work every day in the place that you and everyone you know knows you're leaving soon?  I think there is a reason that two weeks is the standard time allotted for this business.  Two weeks, and no longer.

Imagine how it might feel for that two weeks notice to be 10 months notice.

As all of you readers know, I went on a transformative road trip out west last summer for a month, living out of my car, my tent, and in the homes of strangers.  I backpacked with grizzlies, bathed in rivers, and gazed at the brilliant night sky as it can only be seen that far from human lights.  At about week three, it became quite clear to me that this needed to be my life, instead of just my vacation.  I knew in my core that I had reached the end of my time in Maryland.  I knew this in the middle of August, 2011.

I had already signed a contract for the upcoming school year, not only as a teacher, but as Head of the Middle School.  As much as every cell in my body was screaming to be allowed to stay out west and not return to the traffic-filled rat race that is the D.C. Metro area, I just couldn't bring myself to back out of that contract at such late notice.  I love my students.  I respect my boss.  And. . . I needed the money.

I held off giving my official notice until the end of October, because I wanted to be sure that I really, really wanted this before getting everyone going on a job search.  But I knew in my heart from the first day of school, that this would be my last year in Maryland, and my last year in a classroom (at least one with four walls).

In the beginning of the year, I was sentimental and teary about a lot of what we did.  My last first day of school, my last camping trip to Catoctin with the students, my last Halloween parade, etc.  I was grieving in a healthy way; letting go slowly of something that has been an influential part of my life for the past seven years.  Appreciating each aspect, then kissing it and sending it off into the breeze.

Then winter break happened.  Oldman and I took an adventurous, 16-hour road trip down to New Orleans to visit his family.  We slept in his truck.  We hiked.  We explored new places in this country for both of us.  I felt that familiar, crazy freedom of allowing myself to blow with the wind.  I saw the lines of the road disappear underneath me mile by mile, and I wanted to just keep going, and going, and going. . .

And now I'm back at work.  Getting up at 6:30am every day, before even the sun (which no one should ever have to do - if the sun is sleeping, so should you!!).  Working eight to ten hour days.  Handing daily crises.  Discussing curriculum.  Proofreading documents.  And I just don't give a damn.

Please don't misunderstand.  I love the school where I work.  I believe in it.  I think it is filled with curious students and inspiring teachers, all doing work that really matters in the world.  I am nothing short of grateful and honored to have worked there for seven years.  And I'm done now.

  • When I realize that I need a haircut, I usually make an appointment for that same day, because once it is clear that it must happen, it must happen immediately.  
  • When Oldman and I decided that we were leaving Louisiana the next day, within an hour, we had pushed our starting time up to right after dinner that night; deciding to drive through the night instead.  Once we knew our leaving was imminent, we figured - let's get it on.
  • In reading The Grapes of Wrath, the Joad family did the same thing.  As soon as they decided they would pack up and leave for California the next day, everyone got antsy and decided to pack the truck and leave immediately, taking shifts driving and sleeping through the night.
  • When our eighth-graders know what high school they're going to, they begin to lose motivation to be at our school - "senioritis," if you will.  It's not that they are bad kids or hate our school, they just realize that they're done, and they can see their next destination in sight.

The night before my first day returning to work after winter break, I slept in an awful fit.  I was so stressed at the thought that I tossed and turned and ground my teeth all night.  This is an old habit that I haven't done since college.  But I ground my teeth all night, and woke up with a swollen jaw muscle so fat that I haven't been able to close my jaw completely or chew since Monday.  I've been gumming and tonguing soft foods and juices for six days now.  I'm hungry and tired all the time, because it takes too much effort to eat.

This jaw injury is a great teacher for me.  It is reminding me to slow down.  It is reminding me what happens to my body when I don't remain balanced; when I allow stress and worry to overtake me.  Every time I forget and accidentally bite down on a piece of food, a sharp lightening rod of pain jolts up my face and into my ear, screaming "Stop!  Slow down!  Be here!"

I'm not sleeping well.  I'm not eating well.  I'm not smiling a whole lot.  And I'm pretty unmotivated to do much of anything.  I guess I'm depressed.

I honestly don't know how I'm going to do the rest of this year.  I was going to wait to write this blog entry until I was at the other end of the tunnel.  That way, I could write "I had been depressed, but then I realized blah blah blah, and now I'm happy and have it all figured out again."  But I'm not there yet.  I'm right in the middle of the stink, not sure where to go next.  I'm sitting at the window, gazing out at the big mountains that I know lie miles and miles beyond 495, not feeling very wild at all.

1 comment:

  1. A very wise woman once told me birth is painful. Bringing a child from the womb is painful. As new shoots spring from the earth after winter, earth splits and cracks--it hurts.

    The rewards are indescribable.

    A human child takes about 9 months to prepare for birth. For mom: Your organs squish together, your skin stretches...as baby grows, there's seems to be less space for you. Toward the end, the waiting, the waiting, the waiting...goes on forever. You can't sleep, you can't eat more than three bites, you can step more than 3 feet away from the bathroom...

    Then your water breaks and you realize how much you have left to do and, for a few moments, how completely unready you are.

    Can you imagine being an elephant?