Thoughts on the Last Day
Today is my last day as an employee of a public school. It’s probably the last time that I will ever set foot in the district where I have worked for the past 14 years. It is likely that I will not be in the same physical space as most of the people that I have seen on an almost-daily basis during the last 14 school years. It’s over.
How is one supposed to feel about this type of thing?
There’s an expectation that people who leave jobs are supposed to be sad about it. The thinking goes like this: If the work that we do is meaningful, then the absence of that work is equally meaningful in the opposite direction. I can understand that logic, but I don’t agree with it. Particularly in my case, where the responsibilities of my old job will be replaced by those of my new job within a month’s time. I’m not offloading a work burden. If anything, with the move back to the classroom after two years of administration, and the pile of “new experience” items that come from moving halfway across the globe into an entirely new school culture, the work burden is set to increase sharply. But even if none of that was the case, even if I were retiring after 30+ years in this job, I don’t think there’s too much to be sad about when moving on. Life is very good at expanding to fill a vacuum, and I have to believe that holds true at the end of a career.
So I’m not sad, about most of it.
As far as I can tell, the only thing that makes me sad is the loss of proximity to those relationships that I most care about, both familial and those that have grown from my working life: The comfort of having one’s parents nearby all the time. The pleasure of friends who I deeply appreciate, and who I look forward to talking to and working with. These things are going to change, and “sad” seems to be an appropriate label for how I feel about that. In some selfish dream, I would take everyone that I love with me to my new job. What could be more fun than spending life always within physical reach of the people we care for? Losing that is a true sadness, but it’s an unavoidable one, at least if a goal in life is to continue to grow and develop as a person and pursue new experiences. There is always a strong urge to keep things as they are, to remain comfortable in a life that, while not immune from difficulties (granted— Suburban Long Island Public Educator life is already pretty difficulty-free), is a life well-known and understood. In many ways, it would be easier to stay, and less sad.
Actually, probably not. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had passed on this opportunity. What does the opening of a school year feel like to someone who is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something awesome, and who decides to take a pass and stick around? I don’t know, and I don’t want to. In the overall picture of my life, it’s important to me to avoid having that particular regret. Leaving friends and family is difficult, but passing on an endeavor like the present one would only be more so.
Which means that as sad as this transition is for reasons of family and friendship, that sorrow is counterbalanced by the excitement of doing something amazing (here I am speaking literally— what we are about to do is an absolutely amazing thing). I have no regrets about how I have spent the last fourteen years of my life. I’m very proud of the work that I did and of the people that I did it with. I don’t really have the words for the gratitude and love that I will always have for them. They have all helped to make me a who I am, a person that is inarguably better than the 23-year-old version that first started teaching kids science in Deer Park High School.
And I'm a person who has to go now. New things are waiting.
Thanks to the entire Deer Park community for allowing me to have the best 14 years any educator could ever hope for.