I stood in front of the group of Seniors and even though their faces were bright and cheery, warm and welcoming, I had a horrendous feeling in the pit of my stomach. They looked at me excitedly and all started talking at once. I listened harder and urged them to slow down and talk one at a time. I couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying. The strangely familiar feeling of uneasiness grew inside me.
A girl at the back of the classroom yelled at me insistently, but I still couldn’t make out her words. Uneasiness turned to frustration and the students spoke louder and moved closer. Something within me caused me to look down and check what I was wearing. I looked up again to find an unfamiliar face directly in front of mine.
“TEACH US!” he demanded, over-articulating the two words finally spoken in English. He shoved an American History book into my hands. I grabbed for my phone and turned my back for some privacy as I tried to figure out this mess.
As I turned I found the Sophomore class piled onto my couch in my living room. “When are you going to unpack?” they said in creepy unison. “It’s going to be cold soon; I hope you brought enough sweaters.”
I started to sweat. Frustration turned to shear dread. I wasn’t prepared.
“We’re going to get three meters of ice today. We’re all going to be stuck here. I hope you have something for us to do.”
“I’m not ready,” I whispered to myself. “I’m not ready!” I exclaimed to my students.
Just as the words left my lips, the door burst open and Nic, with a huge, helpful smile on his face, ran toward me with a pickaxe. “I’ll save us!” he yelled.
With that, my eyes popped open. The first school dream.
These last seven weeks have been jam-packed with friends and festivals, coffee dates and cookouts. My heart has been refilled through encouraging words from people I love and loving embraces from friends I have missed. I have skied on Lake Cumberland and played on the beach at Lake Erie. I have driven long country roads with my windows down and have run through the city burning in the heat. I have eaten well, and it has been glorious. My time here has been great, but not every minute of it.
Too many times conversations have been cut short, and the time to go has come too fast. I’ve had to say “I can’t make it” or “getting together won’t work” many more times than I would have liked. Those moments were the worst; that is when the struggle was the hardest. Seven weeks together to make up ten months apart has been impossible, but we’ve done our best.
As I pack my bags and plop them on the scale, I want all of you to know that I am taking much more with me than can be weighed in pounds or checked by airport security. Whether we had the opportunity to lay eyes on each other or not; whether we shared a meal, a laugh, a hug, or not; whether we had enough time together or not, you have given me exactly what I needed to be able to go back: I’m filled with your love and support, encouragement and understanding. I’m empowered to know I’m not going back alone. I thank you for that.
So bring on those back-to-school dreams and let’s do another year! I’m ready.