New Chapter


Today was the last day of my Rodriguez Elementary chapter in Austin ISD. My position was cut due to massive district-wide budget cuts. Transitions can be quite sticky. This one hasn’t been an easy exit and the last month I have fallen to pretty paralyzing tunnel vision. I don’t have an answer to “so what’s next?” “Have you landed a new job?” “What are you going to do now?” Just no answer, a smile and a shrug of my shoulder. “I don’t know.”


The end of this school year was like no other. I will miss the children I’ve served and bonded with and the teachers I’ve been fortunate enough to help tremendously. So many people at Rodriguez Elementary truly have my support and heart regardless of our divergent paths. But the end is bittersweet. I also know that while this window is shutting a brand new door is opening for me and there are many silver linings in starting over somewhere else.


As one co-worker said, “Jackie, you’ve been training your whole life for this moment!” With all my ultra running and thru hiking experiences I have put myself through highly uncomfortable and challenging situations. So when a curve ball is thrown, I have honed the skills to take it in stride. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This wild unknown that sits staring at me and awaiting me feels like a black hole that my path has been leading me towards. I have now arrived at the black hole and don’t have the answers. This void that halts me in my path can feel suffocating and paralyzing at times but also feels liberating and exciting when I relax into the choke hold of the panic and realize there is so much to give this world and I will discover my niche.


I don’t have many words of wisdom. My mind finds comfort in the easy stuff, the logistics. I’ve been playing Tetris with school bins, boxes, & materials for two weeks straight while purging 30 years worth of other people’s hoarding in four classrooms while managing an absurd amount of new arrivals and flatbeds full of trash and recycling (yes, I baked my custodian chocolate-banana muffins). In my personal life, my budget spreadsheets are beautiful, my floors vacuumed, my CityStrides project (run every street in Austin) underway, and my meals balanced, vegan and delicious. I can do. And do. And do. But I also need to figure out the macros: a sustainable source of income, new ways to contribute to society, health insurance, and fulfillment.


I think I will need to detox for a bit now that my responsibilities at Rodriguez are over and I have the mental and emotional space to chill in the void. Maybe this void will bring some clarity. Maybe more questions. Maybe nothing at first. But either way, I am entering the void of complete unknown as of today and it is a little scary.


I don’t even have a race or big athletic event on my calendar. It’s just me and this nothingness and my own mind. Of course my age and stage of life are not lost on me and while I’m young and wild in spirit I do desire some stability and normalcy in some facet. So the macro existentialism collides with the micro decisions of what am I doing tomorrow or next week and I somehow keep waking up the next day to see the sunrise and set again.

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