This summer has been hard. I’m very out of character or at least feel like I’ve regressed to some 19 year old time when I was dumpster diving for food, grabbing clothes out of the free box, getting my jukebox privileges removed at the Buckhorn Bar for playing the entire ABBA album. Those were fun times but now some of these actions seem empty. Its like I’m forming my full self through intense and deep loss of meaning. I’m not sure if I have regrets because I’m not sure what to regret. I regret fighting so violently with my (former?) partner. Anger turned into self-doubt and I figure what better way to process than to write. I’m scared to write this blog because I don’t want to be a whiny mcwhiner pants but goddamn, its gotta come out.
I was asked to leave my job in June. I go around town saying “it wasn’t a good fit” or “now I’m at the Open School” but I still feel my heart and chest lurch. I had these sneaking feelings I just wasn’t going to make it and would cry in my office to my coworkers. I had no mentorship because I had lost my shit earlier in the year and got angry at a person, not a situation. I was so overwhelmed in my tiny corner of the world not doing school counseling at all (or at least what I learned to be school counseling in my masters program) lost in gray ethics, lost in the role of a paraprofessional when I felt prepared for leadership, lost trying to figure out how to report out for my grant funded position. I fell to writing reports after school trying to define my role and my goals for the next school year. I ignored emails where folks were trying to unravel me. I sucked back my tears and did my very best.
I do think that the Open School will be a much better fit. During the interview process, I kept hearing “we know you are professional, but how will you fit in?” And I think I’ll do just fine. Turns out, at the Open School, they are already doing exactly what I had tried to create in the tiny corner called “Stepping Stones.” Place-based learning, afternoon adventures, trauma-informed classrooms. I had a couple of interactions last year that left me defeated and I suppose I did receive some mentorship. “Jen, when you are on the front lines, you are going to get shot.” And I watched the bullets fly as I tried to create community wrap around programs for summer. Lines in an email stating “this is a very conservative community and we will not create dependence on the system.” But, these kids don’t know what that means. All they know is I am an adult in their lives trying to create unconditional positive regard.
So, I won’t be dependent on that system that shames children for getting free and reduced lunch. I won’t be dependent on a system that aggravates presenting issues of personality disorders. The true reason I lost my job is that although I was a good employee—and I can show you my evaluations—I wasn’t able to please those in power. I couldn’t wrap my mind around doing family therapy in a school setting. I couldn’t wrap my mind around a parent recording our conversation and the principal backing her up. I still have significant worries about the kiddo. One of those who will shoot up the school. I can understand why someone might be reluctant to hire me even though this wake-up call makes me committed to being the best family engagement counselor ever. But I would say we all have regrets, we’ve all been given second chances. And now I have one. I am a good employee.
I’ve never been fired. I’ve always been accepted to any program, have never received an “F” on a paper. I’ve always been at the top of my class and for awhile had a streak of obtaining every job I had interviewed for. But I’ve failed at many things. I’ve failed at keeping my cool this summer with my partner after dealing with toxicity for years now. But I have not failed at standing up for myself. I’ve swallowed my emotions, swallowed insults, swallowed unfair treatment, resigning myself to a world where those in power will always have more power. Its been a little freeing to be able to blame some of my minor problems on bigger problems in the system. I ask all the time “how do folks just take it?’ And maybe that is my strength. I’m a thorn in the side of “just taking it.” And I’m a thorn in the side of giving up.
My biggest job now is to cultivate my best self. Anxiety is running high but I’ve already made some changes. My worst fears have been realized—losing my Dad, losing my job, losing myself. And now I’ve got some fire underneath me. I’ve pushed away individuals who simply do not like me, want me to fail, or in general aren’t going to build me up. I’ve pulled toward me a support system that might be on the phone, in yoga, or in a book. I’ll start running more, faster, and harder. I’ll start preparing nourishing food, find more community. Now is the time to heal and be well, recognizing that I was whole the entire time. I am whole. I will reflect and put into action what I have learned in this mountain town. I’m not sad, or defeated, but willing and ready to take accountability for whatever has caused me to lose important jobs, people, and ideas. And I will continue to fight the good fight against a system that will more than likely put me in my place again.
“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness