What strikes me on a daily basis is how much I relied on my role as a teacher to cement my sense of a purpose in this world; that is what I miss the most about teaching. Under the blanket of paperwork, bureaucracy, media criticism, district policies obeyed or ignored, I could always point to a significantly positive interaction with at least one young person. I didn’t take it for granted, and I knew that it was rare in this greed filled society to be able to have something so simple and authentic. Talking with a young person to clearly communicate to them that they matter, that you have hopes and goals for them, that you want to see their dreams come true – that shit has no monetary value.
But the exchange rate was exhaustion, complete and total exhaustion, of my physical body and soul. I know that sounds like hyperbole, you can only judge if you or a loved one is living it; those are the people who commit their lives to others in an all encompassing role – social workers, public defense attorneys, youth psychologists, emergency room doctors and nurses etc. Because it is not simply the labor itself, it is the sense that your choices have real and devastating consequences, that a wrong move could lead to tragedy and yet failure was all but guaranteed. Everyone trained in these fields is told multiple times something along the lines of “you can’t save them all” to which we want to respond “well we probably could if you gave a shit, if everyone else did just a little more then maybe I wouldn’t have to be killing myself over here.” These are not moments of wallowing in self-pity, it is in those failures that we see all the holes and dark stains in the fabric of our society. If we didn’t have such crummy homeless services, if addiction wasn’t treated as a crime, if we could just call a time out and give this family some time to process, if the adults in this young person’s life had stability, if past trauma was not framing this situation, if the cops were actually interested in helping to prevent crimes, if I could just take this person out for a cup of coffee every day for a month, if poverty was not an acceptable norm. And the greatest challenge, at least in my view, was waking up the next morning and tackling another day as if all those conditions were not blazingly true, that my obligation was to still try my best.
I am terrified that I may simply not have the optimism or the resiliency to continue in the field where I have to stand and yell in the face of treacherous, ugly underwater hidden beasts that rule our society.