September has always been my personal New Year’s Eve — a month-long farewell to summer and the year that came before it, and a celebration of the year to come. I attribute this to being raised by two teachers and to my love of all things ‘back-to-school.’ The changing of the calendar at the end of December never had quite the same appeal. This year in particular, September has been a month of massive changes in life around here, and as I look ahead to the ‘new year,’ I have been thinking a lot about the past several months and what the next months will bring.
For starters, my daughter transferred colleges, leaving behind the small liberal arts college that turned out not to be a fit for her. She’s closer to home now, not that Connecticut was terribly far, and living in her first apartment in Boston with two other transfer students she met online. Over the past month, they have moved in, figured out where to put the dishes and who each other are. They have registered for classes at a new university and in my daughter’s case, in a brand new major. My daughter, typically one who needs time to acclimate to her surroundings before taking the participation plunge, has tried out for and made a club team, has signed up for and begun three other extracurriculars, and has found herself with more social plans than she has had in two years. By requirement and not by choice, she has found herself in a public speaking course, and for her first extemporaneous speech, chose the topic of how she ended up as a junior transfer, owning her experience before her fellow communications majors. She is settled, happy, and thriving. Even her occasional eye rolls and small gripes have a different quality to them. I am thrilled, relieved, and more than a little in awe of her. Go get ’em, sweet girl…
My changes are a bit different and as yet less easily defined. The short version is that after nine years in a job I fell deeply in love with, I left. The decision was mine and mine alone, though supported and to a large degree encouraged by my family and friends (including colleagues who also gave their notice over the spring and summer). For a little quick context, I was the head of school counseling at a small middle school for boys, where I had the tremendous pleasure to spend my days with the energy and good humor (mostly good, anyway) that is particular to the species known as adolescent boy. I’ll say more about my work with them at a later date or two, because they are a part of my heart and will be forever. I have lots to say about them and the state of mental health support in schools and in the world…but that’s a story for another time. I’ll say less about what fueled my painful and complicated decision to part ways, but my differences of opinion with the administration of the institution forced me to the proverbial fork in the road. It was time to take the path I had once assumed I’d take when I retired. With the company of about a dozen colleagues, I gave my notice over the summer and find myself for the first time in a long time with no actual ‘back to school’ of my own.
Except that isn’t exactly true… I am, not unlike my daughter, ‘transferring’ at an unusual time. While jokes have been tossed around about my ‘retirement’, I am far too young for that (at 49). I also find the word to have a finality to it that doesn’t quite fit where I am. I may or may not ever return to the kind of work I was doing, so considering myself retired seems premature. I am, however, learning. A lot. The giant independent study project that is this year is still in the preparation phase — research, outlining, spit-balling ideas if mostly in my own mind. I promised myself ages ago, while I was still working full-time, that I would write more. I started this blog as a way to do just that. I started with all of the positive energy and best intentions and natural nerves…and then found too many reasons to push the pause button and step away. Then, when I had time to return, the apprehensions kicked in. I think it’s safe for me to assume that my daughter inherited her need to observe before acting from me. Well, I can learn from her. Sometimes, you just need to jump in feet first. Start swimming around. See what there is to see and who there is to meet. Find out what you are capable of creating.
Change is hard. Change can also be the mini miracle of our own making.