For the last 5 years I have been working with a program in Chicago Public Schools through a children’s theater company. For the past 3 years, I have been the Coordinator and Facilitator of said program. And yesterday was my last day at a school.
The program deals with violence prevention and involves both performances for the students with my company and education and counseling services with our partner organizations. My leaving is partly due to exploring other avenues (i.e. writing) and partly due to the subject matter. They say that there is a shelf life for people who work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence and it became apparent to me over winter that my expiration date was approaching. I actually gave my notice back in January, as this type of position needed a longer training period than what is typical, but knew I would be sticking it out through the end of the school year. As no one likes to book anything the last week of school, yesterday was the final performance and on site day.
I’ll actually still be working there through the end of the month, but what I’ll be doing is more setting down the bones for wrapping up the program for this year. The meat is in the days that we are on site. And while I’ll still see some of the people I’ve worked with and still be doing things for the program, yesterday really feels like the culmination of many years of hard work.
There are so many reasons this is a risk. For one, I have been able to work in an environment that promotes helping others, allows me creative freedom, allows me to make my own hours and work from home, so many things that many people want in a job, myself included. It has also provided me with the chance to work with amazing people. Now I know people say that their co-workers are nice, but I can’t begin to express to you my fear that I will never again find a situation where I have such a wonderful group of people to work with (and they don’t know about this blog, so you know I’m not lying!). From my chill boss that trusts me unquestioningly to the hard working, joyful people at our partner organizations, everyone is so committed to what the program stands for and helping these children out.
Now there are things I will not miss. Public school employees are stretched so thin right now. And when I’m are trying to coordinate something with them, that fact makes my job treacherous. Also, because of the subject matter and how it allows children the chance to talk about violence, I will also not miss having to leave my schedule open after a performance day because I have no idea if something will cut through the rough exterior that I’ve created in order to hear the horrid things that children go through. And, big time, I will not miss the way violence has seeped its way so fully into my life that I see potential violence everywhere, feeling like everyone around me was abused as a child. I will not miss how those thoughts sometimes taint my mind so badly that I can’t find the mental and emotional room for the things I love to do.
Really the risk yesterday in leaving has more than anything to do with choosing me. Later, at dinner with the hubby, I expressed how sad it made me to think of all the schools I didn’t get to bring the program to, all the students who are being abused that I wasn’t able to reach. I expressed the guilt I feel over not being able to stick it out any longer. And, always taping into his inner sage, he reminded me that I’m choosing myself here. That yes, all those things were true, but the effects this has had on me and what I want to do in life are huge. Many parts of my life have been put on hold, in small and large ways, in order to push through and make it to another school. And now it’s time to focus on me.
As I sat on the train tracks after leaving the school, I found myself tearing up. The past few years have allowed me to see human nature in it’s truest forms, both the seemingly awful and the heart lifting. I’ve heard stories of people inflicting pain and suffering on another person, but I’ve also gotten the chance to watch so many children save their own lives or work to save the lives of those they love. As I reflected back on my day, on the last few years, the tears starting flowing, and got caught in the crevice of my smile lines.