In the agricultural world, farmers often will leave a field fallow, or plowed and unsown for a season, so that it can rejuvenate and become fertile once again to be planted with a different variety of crops. Bystanders, unfamiliar with this practice, often view these fields as failures as they pass them, assuming that whatever the farmer planted in them during the course of that year failed to thrive and grow. Fallow doesn't mean failure, however. It is a time to rest and renew, and to cultivate something different to ensure the success of the farmer and his fields.
This last season of my life has been particularly challenging and I have been struggling to thrive. I made a commitment to myself last year that I would set out each day with a positive attitude, looking for the positive things and not focusing on the negative. "Find the joy" became my motto, and it was something I really challenged myself to do each day. That school year struggled along, and then I was moved to yet another new school, and like a newly sprouted plant, I fought to reach toward the sun each day. The weeds of despair, unhappiness, and stress began to grow large around me, blocking the life giving rays of the sun, and each day that went by just complicated the situation more.
Instead of being able to say, "I have survived xx amount of days, there are only xx amount of days left", I was barely keeping it together enough to get through each individual day. I cried on the way to work. I cried on the way home. I tried to come home and do my college work, and for the first half hour I was home, I would sit in my desk chair and just stare out the window. I was paralyzed by the heaviness of it all, and was barely keeping my head above water.
To complicate matters further, I started coughing around Thanksgiving, and developed a tightness in my chest when I was outside for recess duty or in the cold. It ended up being pneumonia, which didn't clear up for the rest of the winter. In early February I got sick, and then during February vacation, I got sick again, but much more severely this time.
Still fighting lingering pneumonia, never ending exhaustion, and on the brink of an emotional breakdown, I quit my job on the Sunday night at the end of February vacation. I was at such a low point that I could not figure out how I was going to manage to get out of bed and go to work the next day, forget the 3.5 months that were still left ahead of us. It was reckless and a little crazy, and more than anything it was desperate. My closest friends said it was brave. Almost two months later, I still can't believe that I did it.
It was single handedly the hardest decision I ever had to make for myself. I loved my job when I first started. I loved working with children, and helping the ones who needed that extra support be able to thrive in the classroom. I didn't love where my job had ended up these past few years, with the focus on passing the test, and geared more towards behavior management. I don't miss that part of it one bit. One of the little boys I worked with this year sent me a card the week after I left that said how much he liked working with me, and that he loved me, and it about broke my heart. It is nice to know that I have made a difference in the lives of kids over the last 11.5 years, but it was coming at too high of a cost.
So, I am taking a break from education. I found a fabulous job working in a church office in the next town over. I might stay there just until I am finished with my college work, or I might stay there until we decide what the next phase of our life looks like. I don't know yet. I know that it's calm, stress-free (compared to school), and I am happy there. I know that I will get back to teaching, because I want to teach at the secondary level, but right now, I need to rest and renew, much like the fields.
I don't consider myself a failure for quitting, even if it was 3/4 of the way through the school year. It was an act of self-prervation, and perhaps the first thing I've done solely for myself in a long, long time. I am looking forward to recharging and finding myself again. I know that in time I will emerge stronger, healthier, and replenished, much like the crops that come out of the once fallow field.