Today is the first day of work for the 2018-2019 school year.
For the first time in 4 years, I'm not there.
Just like it has been the last 4 years, TJ and I have been up in Canada with family leading up to when work starts. Instead of cramming in everything we can with family then rushing to get back to Seattle, always late at night, to tumble out of bed exhausted to head to the usual pre-retreat gathering over coffee that marks the beginning of our time as professional staff, this morning is like any other of the past 5 days.
Earlier this morning, I woke up blinking my eyes open, looked out at the (sadly) smoky mountain that I have been waking up to since we've been up here, rolled over, and kept sleeping.
This time last year I don't think I could have anticipated being where I am right now. I say that "I don't think I could have" because there is a part of me that wonders if deep down at this time last year I actually knew, but didn't want to acknowledge it.
How do I walk away from the most amazing part of the work that I would (mostly) do for free? The privilege of hearing stories and participating in the moments, silly or seemingly insignificant or important and profound that I know will be remembered for the impact they had and the impression they left. I can't predict which moments hold meaning and memories for students, but having been shaped by certain staff during my college days, I can safely assume that these moments I have shared with students over the past 4 years have held something special in them, even if only being able to share life and learn from each other.
To the students that I have walked alongside for an entire year (or two or almost three) and to the those that I had a short conversation, or those that sat in conduct with me, and to the ones that we navigated a crisis together, and to the ones that I may have never known but would see around campus and at least got to say "hello" to, thank you. Thank you for sharing space with me, for teaching me and allowing me to offer some of who I am to each of you. There was a lot of good, there was some bad, and through it all, you have been the ones that have sustained and inpsired me to continue to share my heart, energy, and time to do what I could within the system that I worked, to support and advocate for you. As I am sure you each know, I messed up, a lot. I still have so much to learn, especially as a white woman with exceptional amounts of privilege. I also know and believe that there was goodness and beauty in the moments that we shared, and I can't ever forget any of it.
I walked into a storm and somehow figured out a way to jump in and help navigate the threatening seas in an effort to provide safety, care, and direction to our students from watching the example each of you set for me. Prior to this role, I had no clue what I was getting myself into and had to discover the joy and the pain and the richness and the exhaustion and the reward and the politics that is student development. Each of you showed me something different and provided phenomenal insight and wisdom, creative ideas, a safe place for debriefing and making sense of the craziness, and the constant reminder that we aren't in it alone. Someway, somehow, we continued to sail the stormy seas and find our way to shore, even when it seemed impossible.
It was also you as staff that showed me how to know when enough is enough, and it's time to jump ship.
And that's why on the first day of work, I am still in Canada.
There is no new job offer waiting for me, no applications submitted at this time, no idea as to what is next, and no clue as to what I need. It became increasingly obvious that my time had come to step away from the work that I deeply believe in and enjoy, to care for myself, and to choose an environment where I can be appreciated for who I am, what I offer, and the work that I do. After 4 years, I'm exhausted of the same cycles, the same behavior patterns, being treated differently as a female, and finding little to no hope of a shift. It's as if I was being shoved underwater and the moment that I swim to the surface for a gasp of air, I find myself being shoved under again.
I recognize that it is an incredible privilege to be able to quit without having another job to go to, and I do not take that lightly. I also recognize that it is humbling for me to tell people that I just quit.
It's not just a job I left, it's community, it's meaningful work, it's my literal home--quitting my job meant losing my housing. I don't know where I am going to live, I don't know what's next, I don't know where to give my time and energy...and time doesn't stop.
I can feel like a failure, I can feel like I bailed on my students for next year, I can feel like I should have been stronger, I can feel like I am the crazy one and I didn't really have the experiences that I did, and that I've made a mistake. These are real feelings for me.
Today, on this first day of work which happens to also be my technical last day of work, I am choosing to end this without a hopeful manifesto or something inspiring for you (which actually is really just written for me). Today I am naming what has been, sitting in what is, and eventually will unfold into what will be.
I think today I just need to grieve.