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No Goodbyes

June 19, 2009

It’s been a full few weeks. Wrapping up the school year. 8th grade promotion. Getting ready for my summer job. And leaving this job behind.

This week has been my “close-out” week, meaning: no kids (more or less, I’ve actually spent some kid time this week, but no classes). It’s just adults cleaning up and organizing our classrooms, closing out student files, running inventory, and preparing our spaces for next school year.

Of course, for me – there is no “next school year.” I’m out. Going to China in the Fall, and so I’m not part of this school’s future plan. Which is all sorts of crazy.

And so the process has been a slow one for me. I should have been finished yesterday – but it’s going to be a push to even be finished by the end of today. So I’m alone in the school, packing up my things, saving the taking-down of kid artwork from my walls for last . . .

And, in the end, it’s perfect. Because this job has been all about loose ends and a lack of closure. Kid after kid comes in here, becomes part of my life (and I their’s), and we form a relationship. Then – suddenly – they just disappear.

Maybe their family moved to try to get work. Maybe they can’t afford to live in town, anymore. Maybe the parents shipped them out to another family member in a different state. Maybe Mom is back, or relapsing, and she drags the kid back down, and they stop showing up. Maybe it’s got to do with gang activity. Who knows?

It’s literally – one day, the kid is smiling and talking about how they are “finally getting it,” and then the next day they’re just gone. No goodbye. No warning. Nothing.

And I’ve learned to get used to that. And so it only seems reasonable that that’s how I’m going out (in some respects).

For my goodbye present from my co-workers, I got a piece of artwork (framed) from one of my kids (one who I – obviously – had a close relationship with). It just so happens that he’s the same kid that got in a fight outside during our 8th grade promotion ceremony. So – the last time I saw him? As I watched him walk away from our school, pissed off about the fight. No goodbye. Not even close.

The last thing I said to another kid (a girl who never fails to crack me up) was telling her she couldn’t come back the next day (because I had just broken up a fight with her and another student). That’s how our kids go out. No goodbyes.

They knew I was leaving the last two weeks of school, of course – so I did get to close with a number of kids, but it’s the loose ends that stand out right now.

Other staff members? I’m not leaving until September (from Portland), so I’ve left them with the “I’ll see you before I leave for real” knowing it’s not true. Maybe I learned that from the kids. Maybe they have taught me that goodbyes are over-rated. People leave. People walk out of our lives. We move on.

Because – for the kids I work with – that’s just how it is. And making a big deal out of every loose end is a good way to go crazy. And – let’s be honest – we do move on. Every time. Nobody has such an impact on our lives that we literally can’t survive without them.

And so I take another lesson from the kids. I’ll clean out my room, lock the door, and just turn my back and walk away. No awkward September visit. No lingering. Clean cut. Turn. Walk.

Because where I work – there are no goodbyes. We move on.

And so – for now, at least – I’m not a teacher, anymore.

And that’s that.

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6 comments

  1. This was rather heart-wrenching to read, at least for me. I've learned to move on, most times, but I don't like it. I like to imagine a less globalized, more community-centric world where we wouldn't be expected to be okay with relationships being cut off so abruptly.


  2. You made me cry. 😦


  3. Not trying to depress people around here. Sorry about that. I'd rather have a different kind of world, but it's a matter of survival in the one I work in, so . . .

    I'm glad to see I didn't lose all my readers with my long hiatus.


  4. Not depressing so much as moving.


  5. Yeah, depressing, but seriously, a part of life. Nothing lasts forever, right? so I try to make the most out of the time I have with someone to the fullest — that way there are no regrets when it inevitable comes to an end. Also, "no longer a teacher"? Forgive me if I overlooked this, but what are you going to be doing in China? I always presumed it would be teaching English.


  6. As some one who is the quintessential Third Culture Kid, this was affirming for me. Because it is so close to my reality.

    It is easy for me to love people in the moment and enjoy the bonds that are in the process of being made as they come to fruition. But it is just as easy for me to understand the need to let go.

    Sometimes that can be freeing, because old bonds can be renewed, you'd be surprised how easily (and how often) this happens.

    I posted it on my fb page, keep the good stuff coming!



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