What a jumble of emotions I have been feeling this past week. As my time in the North comes to a close, I find myself fluttering amidst relief that I am finished, excitement/nervousness about the future, and most recently (and surprisingly), feeling wistful about what I am leaving behind. I have developed quite the affection for my apartment and the yard, for the woods I’ve walked in, nights spent in a camp with only a wood stove to warm and light the room, hands I’ve held, stories I’ve been privy to, nature pees, and of course the kids. But it has not been an easy journey.
At times my legs wouldn’t hold me up. I have experienced things here that have clawed at my soul and broken my heart; not in two, but smashed it into smithereens. It was here I started wearing eye makeup to hide my red, raw, tear strained eyes. However, because of the adversities, I have finally “broken open”. As Elizabeth Lesser explains, “Change and loss may still knock us off the horse, but soon we are back in the saddle, stronger and wiser than ever. As life progresses and we continue to transform and refine our consciousness, we gain more insight and humility, greater strength of character, and deeper faith in the meaningfulness of life.”
In spite of the challenges, living in the North has been enlightening. Being here has expanded my mind and my heart. It has fostered compassion. Initially prejudices were elevated only to later be torn down. At times I have lost my way and done and said things I never imagined. I have also gained the courage to do and say things I’ve always wanted to. Then came Love. Oh, how I’ve loved. A man; shockingly inappropriate, but I loved him anyway, a family that has scooped me up as one of their own, and surely at least one hundred kids, easy. Some have entangled themselves so deeply in my heart I couldn’t oust them if I tried.
Many teachers will tell you they get attached to their students. We are like a family, more so in a community like this (a First Nations reserve), which allows close contact like no other. This I cherish. I have taken many kids for lunch on a whim, been invited to share in the celebration at birthday parties and feasts, and picked up children on the street and taken them to the beach, or for ice cream. Little monsters, err… I mean darlings, come knocking at my door daily, students of mine as well as their cousins, or siblings, or former students, even kids I’ve never taught, but spoken to often. One of my best buddies in the community is my five year old neighbour who first came knocking when he was three, wanting to know what I was doing in here!
Inadvertently this place has woven its way into my soul. As I prepare to leave I remember lessons learned from past experiences. I am savouring things I enjoy and embracing all parts of my experience. I’ve taken the time to say the difficult things that needed to be said. I’m moving forward.
I’m not sure how easily I can let go, but it is definitely time to move on. I want to see what else the world has to offer.
You can check out “Broken Open” by Elizabeth Lesser: