Beginnings (Our Endings) Are Beginnings

“We should learn to accept that change is truly the only thing that’s going on always, and learn to ride with it and enjoy it.”

“Fear is real, but so is love.”

Alice Walker

Saying goodbye is something we protect ourselves a lot from in this society.  Just the commonality of the phrase, “See you later” indicates that we like to leave things unfinished.  We like to leave people with the reassurance that the conversation and connection will continue, it’s not over.  Generally, we run from endings and closure.  There is a collective and very human fear of the unknown, and the future is not yet written which, if you think about it, can be scary.

A student of mine said to me this week over our Senior lunch outing as we were talking about growing up, and life, “I know that I have to grown up, Miss.  I just don’t like the idea of it.  I’m scared to graduate.”

I get it.  Change is often scary because we lose the false sense of security and control we have built around ourselves in most situations in order to feel safe.

But what if, rather than avoiding, fearing, or dreading endings, we learned to see them another way?  What if we saw endings as beginnings, as the chance to have a fresh start, to begin anew stronger, bolder, better–with all that brought our last conversation, adventure, relationship, situation, to it’s finish.  It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone if a part of us fears we will never see them again, but what if we knew that separation is an illusion, that everyone we’ve ever loved is just a thought away at any time?

This is the way I’m choosing to see the end of this school year.

This year, throughout the year, students from all eras of my teaching life have come back to visit which I just love.  I’ve received surprise DMs with photos of a yearbook note I wrote five years ago.  I’ve been asked to officiate weddings for kids I taught so long ago they are now approaching their mid-twenties and rapidly moving toward a phase of life where they know who they are and how they want to serve humanity.  I’ve gotten late night requests for homework help from students on the verge of graduating college–and I’m honored that of all the people they could ask, they would choose me, that teacher they had that one year (or in some cases several years) in high school.

All of these encounters remind me that the love I have for them and the memories that we’ve shared don’t ever die, that our relationship, though no longer technically that of teacher and student is a reciprocal exchange that will go on infinitely.  I know that my students, and the experience of being their teacher, will be a part of me wherever I go, and forever.  I know that for many of them, the feeling is mutual.

This isn’t going to be a long, or complicated blog post because

  1. I’m in the middle of an INSANE amount of projects and collaborations that need my attention and energy.
  2. The message is simple.  I don’t need a lot of words to say it.
  3. Whatever reading this post does for you will be your own medicine.  I have no simple tips or tricks for this lesson in letting go, because I’m still learning it.

I will say that as we finish the school year, and all kinds of feelings of nostalgia descend on our hearts, making them tender, let’s just remember that endings are beginnings too.  As our relationships with our students transform into whatever they are going to be, we serve ourselves and them best by being open to transformation and by remembering to express gratitude for all the lessons we have learned through being a part of their stories.

It’s a strange thing to meet someone, pour all that you have into nourishing, loving, hoping for, challenging, cheering on, mentoring, and doing your best to inspire them.  It doesn’t take long for that connection between teacher and student to be forged.  Then, (I’ll use the Portuguese because I like it ‘de repente’) suddenly, the year is over.  It’s time to say goodbye.

I cannot think what my life will be like every day without Karely, Oscar, David, Juan, Daiana, Bethany, Nayellie, Emily, Christian, Noemi, Brian, Joseph, Maria, Daniel, Carolina, Monica, Giovanni, Ingrid, Julio, Gisel, Lizette, and Katya in it.  I’ll be honest.  I don’t even like thinking about it.  I don’t like it at all. My Seniors.  My people.  My lovers of Macbeth and WingStop #hiphoped and procrastination. My 2017-18 school year Period 9/10 class– met for the last time today.  I have learned so much from them.  We have shared each other’s sorrows and triumphs.  When one of us got suspended, we all were willing to go down together in order for things to be made right.  We’ve stayed after school for hours just to prolong the time together.  We’ve traveled half-way around the globe both on the pages of books and in the real world.  We’ve created a classroom community, complete with shared jokes and shared pain that belong only to us.  This is what teaching is made of.  This is the good stuff.  This is why this work is the best work, the real work, the only work.

So I leave you with this: May your beginnings that turn into endings become new beginnings.  May you find peace in transformation that comes when we learn to let go or say goodbye perhaps with a little sorrow, but with more joy and gratitude for all that has passed and with even greater optimism for all that is before us–the wonders of which we cannot yet know.

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Author: Julia E. Torres

I am a mother, high school Language Arts teacher, activist, world traveler, and reader. Here you will find the story of a woman making her way in the world and making her mark, one word, and one classroom at a time.

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