After a one year leave from school to follow my bliss, I have officially returned to my post, nearly ready to welcome students in just a few short days. The questions I’ve been fielding most often are “How does it feel?” and “Are you glad to be back?” To which my most honest responses have been, “so far, so good…a little awkward.” And “yes, I am glad. I really missed the kids and being around people most of the day.”
Here’s what I’m noticing and may well be contributing to the awkwardness I mentioned: While I was gone, the school did not stand still. Not only was someone else in my position doing a great job, new ideas were adopted, the curriculum has been reformatted and spectacularly annotated, our smaller, less attractive teaching station has been revamped to become prime learning real estate. All this happened in my absence.
My reception has been extremely warm and affectionate. Colleagues across all divisions have hugged me and shared their happiness that I have come back. This has been so very heartening and affirming. I was missed and several people have let me know that.
Still, this awkwardness nags me. What ego tricks is my mind playing on me? The situation has made me think more deeply about change. It’s easy to say we want change. But I suspect we often leave out a critical caveat: I want change as long as I can control it. Changes may entail some elements which are within our control, yet often harbor other aspects which are not at all under our control or influence.
And now some irony: as I write this now, I am using both eyes although one is nearly swollen shut. Through a freak accident while clearing mats, I whacked myself in the nose and eye with a plastic pole, slapstick style. Thankfully there was no blood and at the hospital an x-ray confirmed: nothing broken, no concussion. What a dramatic change I am facing! (pun fully and unapologetically intended.) I am back and currently look as if I entered a boxing match and lost quickly.
Yes, I like change when I can shape it, pace it, contain it, and turn it off when I’m ready. But change doesn’t work like that and neither do we. And thank goodness. “Eyes wide shut” strikes me as a particularly amusing phrase in this moment.
As I work a bit to find my way in “the new order” I will try to remember that already, with my return I am creating a newer and different order. I am also reminded that I am not alone in this order. We are in fact many: colleagues, students, parents. My return belongs to other people’s change. There’s probably a lot of awkwardness going around these days.
We are all change, whether we like it or not.