I’m down sick big today for the first time in Never, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take some time for this post well fitting of it’s title. A TLDR, but worth it…hopefully.
When my daughter started preschool inside her current elementary school, she was provided a partner paraeducator to help her transition into the new environment. At the time she was still having very regular seizures and needed help writing and focusing through her tremors. This was an extra set of eyes, ears and hands for her that she desperately needed at the time.
This blessing of a human was named Jennifer, and she relieved a great deal of stressors for both my daughter and myself. She was in the process of completing a specialized teaching degree and had been placed with us originally, and specifically, as a sign interpreter for events, meetings and conferences. For three years, she helped Joey find her footing and confidence in her new world. And stood by our family in all our challenges and struggles as well as our growth and change. A true Right Hand for helping me navigate a hearing school for my child, as well as a protector and guide for Joey.
This past summer, there were high hopes that she would be our second grade teacher this year. These hopes at the end of last school year were met with a lot of mysterious, I don’t know’s, we’ll have to see’s, and see you in September’s. Before heading up North in August, which is when we typically recieve teacher assignments, we dutifully went to Target to stock up on 2nd grade school supplies. While sitting in the café together, weeks before the first day, I recieved a very unexpected, apologetic email from Jennifer that began with “As you know…” and included phrasing like heavy heart and this next chapter of my journey. My heart sank. I’ve come to truly dislike these types of emails. Goodbyes without a Goodbye. And I have never, never enjoyed surprises. While we will, of course, support her future growth, I felt like we deserved more than being in the dark about something that had clearly been in the works for quite some time and would affect us so greatly. Far more.
We had worked together on developing a family literacy project for the school during our second year there before I started actively teaching again. And shared a love for the advocacy of children with communication barriers. Something I know well from both sides. I knew her career would eventually lead outside the school. We were prepared for that…to an extent.
Time, as it tends to do, marched on and we have adjusted to the loss of the presence of this close family friend. A presence that has yet to be replaced or provided for us. One we had to learn to do without. For the past four months I’ve been struggling with a lot of emotions surrounding this. I was dreadfully jealous of others who’s lives she would now be a part of. I was angry that I had been left out of the loop. I felt disregard for my daughter who relied on her so much. I was excited for her adventures ahead as a fellow teacher. I was envious that she had discovered her career niche while I was not quite sure of mine. I was honored to work with her. I was proud to have known her. And pissed as hell that I wouldn’t anymore. Though her work with my family had helped her get where she needed to be, in her life path, our part was over.
And then I realized, I’ve felt this before…and that this is what leaving a mark on someone’s life feels like. All these things are what that means. This confusing and often painful mix. It truly is the experience of being touched by another. This is both the joy and storm of dependence, admiration and having held space for another. Perhaps, I just needed to allow it to be a positive. And be inspired outward from that point. This understanding has helped me be at peace with some other things in my life. Still, I felt a need to feel that I was more than utilitarian. And hopefully, I am getting on the proper path in my life to one day be seen as more than that. To one day have this same space held for me somewhere. To one day leave a mark of my own. To have an impact for the better. I can and I will. This may be a good time to get to my point..
In my neverending search to balance the good with the bad, and in reflecting on the deeper meaning of some of these unseen life trajectories, I have opened myself to some changes for this coming year. I was approached a few weeks ago with an opportunity to step away from my classroom for a while, and, well…back into a classroom. Many, if all goes well. I’ve been offered to add on to my Education Masters, this time with a focus on literacy and language based learning disabilities which will always be immeasurably dear to me. Along with continuing to advocate for children and adults with barriers that often include hearing loss or difficulty. In sparse free time, I started re-examining these passions for specialized education a little closer. In careful scrutiny of a course schedule and classroom immersion timelines, I finally felt those much needed butterflies again. The nerves. The excitement. The fear. The purpose. Again.
Three years ago, I could have never forseen myself today. I was a shell. Maybe only a shadow of that shell. I have had to grow my own light in order to be capable of ever being one again. Because, in all my mistakes, that is all I’ve ever wanted. I would hope anyone who has crossed my path has seen that. In some measure. I can’t know. I can only consistently grow to be that which I’d like to see. And, in that, there can be no failure. I am beyond grateful to see this day.
We all serve roles for one another. And I suppose the value of that depends on how deep a meaning we assign to ourselves and others. And to these life events. I happen to believe that everything and everyone holds a deeper than surface meaning and importance. Somewhere. At some time. Every wheel sets another in motion. Some stay in place. Some meet back. Some are perpetually catapulting further away from us. It is easy to forget, or never know, the impact we are having on one anothers lives. What gets left behind. How far the wake will travel, and for how long. Who can say. Does it matter? To this, I would absolutely answer Yes. Forever. It matters. All of it. All of it stays close to my heart. I have hope for all of it.