Warning: heavy analogy use ahead.
You know how they say that after you experience a major change in your life, like a divorce or the death of a partner, or a job loss, you should wait a year for things to sift out before you make any major decisions? I think I might have some insight into why that's a really, really good idea.
When my school closed last fall, after I'd been part of it (and it a part of me) for close to seven years, I grieved. It felt, truly, as though a sister or a very close friend had died. I think part of the reason might be because I'd been deriving much of my identity through my work at the school. I was a teacher first, and a mom second. Offering progressive education in this decidedly non-progressive city felt like a really important mission, and much of the meaning in my life came from my work. When I was exhausted from work struggles, I could at least know, at the end of the day, that I'd done more good than harm.
When it died, all that was gone, and last year was a very, very difficult time. I didn't know what to do with myself. I felt that I wasn't really accomplishing anything, from day to day. An important character in my life story had just been vaporized. I felt like I'd lost my best friend. I kept waking up in disbelief, only to have the reality of it crash around me once again.
Add to that the particulars of the death: it wasn't as if my beloved friend (the school) died a natural death, or even a sudden death. It was protracted, and painful, with much dissent among family members about when and even whether to pull the plug. The years leading up to the end of my school were agony.
When it ended, I felt profound relief, but then I had to figure out what to do with myself. Homeschooling was no more than an emergency, stop-gap measure. I would gladly have gone back to teaching if I could. I worried that I was doing the wrong thing: that I really should be working my ass off to create a new school in this community, that it was a fool's mission to focus so heavily on my own children, when they will, more than likely, be just fine, no matter what kind of schooling they receive. My "real work" had been working with other people's children, and it felt somehow morally wrong for me to turn my back on them.
And now, suddenly, a year later, everything has shifted. It's not so much that my life and my work are now suddenly imbued with moment and importance. Editing and tutoring are hardly the stuff of profound meaning; if I don't do these things, someone else will, just as well or better. It's more that my perspective has changed. I can handle it, suddenly. I can face a long, crazy day of running around to lessons and playgroups and teaching commitments with peace and a smile, rather than a groan. I don't need quiet, quite as much. I'm not finding myself sitting on the couch escaping into a novel, day after day. I don't feel sad anymore.
It's been a year, and I think I'm ready to put the school behind me.
This imbues everything I'm doing with a new sense of purpose. Now that it's clear that TSS is really, truly gone, and isn't coming back, my most important work is clearly the work I do with my own children. I'm excited about homeschooling this year, and more relaxed about it at the same time. I want to make their early school years what they really should be, and I'm ready to find out about how to do that.