1st Day of School & 2 Year Reflection
Two years ago, sitting in Medellin, Colombia at a coffee shop, I nervously and candidly chirped away on a Zoom “interview” for a job I wasn’t seeking.
After a decade of dedicating my life to two very special and underprivileged elementary schools in east Austin, I was burnt out. I took a sabbatical in 2018 to hike the AT and crew queen Robbie's Transcon. But in 2019, divorce slapped me in the face and I needed the structure of my “home” at Rodriguez Elementary. I went back to work to be in an environment with colleagues and children I knew and had relationships with. Familiarity, friendships, purpose, and routine got me through the days. In March that year, the pandemic happened. I stayed another year to see teachers and students through that scary time. Again, I didn’t feel stable enough to make any changes with so much unknown in the world.
But at the end of the following year, I left my job at Rodriguez, the only work I had ever known, as an educator at Austin public schools. I did not have a contingency plan, but I knew I needed a change. I sublet my apartment for 6 months and packed a backpack and fled to the Continental Divide Trail to latch onto Red Stripe’s thru hike. I hastily threw together a very loose plan for my resupplies and trusted I would just figure it all out while on trail.
Physically, I was fit and strong. I didn’t have issues throwing down 30+ mile days. My feet and legs held up just fine. But my heart was wandering. My “why” wasn’t strong enough to dedicate half a year to “figuring it out” on a thru hike. I felt like I was running away to something that felt easy (a thru-hike isn't easy, but it is simple in many respects) instead of facing the big questions I needed to face in my life. Thru-hiking wasn’t going to magically show me the answers but served its purpose in revealing that I needed to be off trail to face my life. Somewhere in Wyoming, I got horrifically sick after I had already made the decision in my heart to “quit.”
I got off the trail, flew to Colombia, and still didn’t have a plan (or an apartment to live in!). I got a message from a mentor-figure and former teacher of mine inquiring if I would be interested in teaching high school economics. Two things I felt I couldn't be less qualified for; I knew NOTHING about economics (and still don’t!) and had never taught beyond 5th grade. But something inside me sparked. For some reason my curiosity was piqued and I pursued the gig. It was a last minute hiring situation a week before the first day of school and with zero background in economics the school and I took a chance on each other.
I buried myself in my work, knowing I had to work triple time just to become semi-comfortable with the content. I moved in with my parents until my sublet was up, but when it came time to renew my lease, I had to contend with a 50-minute one-way commute and a 35% increase in rent. I couldn’t justify it. I stayed with my parents while I house hunted during an all-time high housing bubble in Austin and creeping interest rates. I felt like a first year teacher again. With no cash flow and imposter syndrome, I was burning the candle at both ends. I knew this was not sustainable, but I also knew I wouldn’t be a first year teacher again the next year.
That year, I realized I was not burnt out on being a teacher. I LOVE BEING A TEACHER! I have found so much purpose and joy by engaging with young minds and hearts in the realm of personal finances and financial independence as well as telling their story through personal narrative essay writing for college admissions. I had discovered passions in both the content I was teaching as well as guiding the teen age demographic.
My second year at the high school (last school year), I developed and refined my curriculum and found some semblance of rhythm. I also took it upon myself to preserve my fertility abroad, which had ripple effects into every part of my being and life, emotionally, physically, and hormonally. I did not see that coming, but I’m glad I did it and it is in the rearview mirror.
Now, entering my third year as a high school teacher, I feel as energized as ever to weave together the curriculum I know and love with the students I have been with for 2 years now. I had the privilege of taking a trip to the Grand Tetons with this year’s senior cohort when they were sophomores 2 years ago, and I serve as their class advisor. They have a special place in my heart and I am grateful I have the opportunity and energy to continue to hold space and structure for their academic exploration and curiosities.
The first day and week of school are never easy. I always feel a little excited/nervous. And as I enter my 3rd year with this endeavor, one I never saw coming, I am grateful that I listened to my intuition and opened my heart to possibilities during a time when I was lost and unsure about everything. This is more of a reminder to myself to pay attention. In listening and being open to opportunities that present themselves to me, and saying "yes," I have discovered so much about myself. I have made significant waves in becoming more me and more in love with the life I am building for myself, thanks to not being willing to force something not meant to be and working hard to receive openly all the messages around me every day.
Say "yes." Stay open.