I always manage to easily fall in love with beginnings. Of love stories, seasons, the sweet colors of dawn, and watching the fireworks that spark hope and dreams for the new year. January 2016 arrived so subtly, with the hot summer light flooding into our bedroom, the sound of our little canary awaking us, and the comforting shape of Pete next to me. I smiled sleepily, thinking how grateful I am for these moments. This must be what content truly feels like. A blissful state of perfection.
I hadn't always felt this way, though. I spent most of the year before in such terrible anxiety. My dream career of being a Kindergarten teacher had come to a crashing halt in November. I adored the children, and their smiles bought immeasurable joy to my life, but I quickly became aware that I didn't... fit with the centre. I was told I was too soft, too kind, too friendly, too talkative, too bubbly... I was simply, "too much". Even though I had parents telling me otherwise, I naively let all the negativity flood to my heart. I broke down. They broke me down. This wasn't what I imagined teaching would be.
One minute I was alight with dreams of a colourful, happy classroom, and the next minute I was collapsing into a heap into all the disapproving comments. I learned very quickly that it wasn't personal, though. There were many other voices with the same struggles. I managed to survive almost a year of suffering quietly, before ultimately quitting. My mind played it's usual tricks, telling me I'd failed as a Kinder teacher, but I stitched myself back together again and decided it wasn't failure, it was bravery - because bravery means to do something incredibly scary. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff into an ocean, or was I descending into an abyss? I would never really know unless I took that leap. And I'm so eternally grateful I did.
Admittedly, I was angry and hurt after leaving (Hello ego!). I wanted closure. I wanted answers. Until a dear friend adruptly interrupted my wounded ego and said loudly, "Who gives a toss? You were miserable! Now you're free!" The truth is, stripping away the fear from myself was one of the hardest things I had to do. I could have easily stayed, remained soulless, and let them quash my soft natured personality. My fear had gripped me tightly for a year until I could barely breath. And then I chose happiness.
I made no apologies for being kind or genuine or friendly, or whatever the heck I wanted to be. That's why I became a teacher in the first place - to show children it's okay to love themselves as they are! All the while being told I was too much, I taught my 3 year olds that they were beautiful, funny, creative, smart, and wonderful little human beings. I taught them how to celebrate their silliness, their inquisitive nature, and when the four walls of the room seemed to constrain their creativity, we spent hours outdoors making our own little adventures. I'd taught them how to count, how to spell their name, and more importantly, how to love themselves when others tried to break them. I wanted to protect them from ever knowing what that feels like.
December came quickly, and I said my goodbyes, though I was only sad to say goodbye to the children I'd adored and cared for that year. Oh, and my best friend - who didn't want me to leave, but understood my reasons. As I opened the door, I thought to myself, just dive in - and begin where you are.
And oh how I do love beginnings. Even with all of it's uncertainty, I know this is all part of our human experience. I awoke the morning of January 2016 and decided to thank God for my experience as a Kinder teacher, and for all of the beautiful and painful lessons that came with it. I even thanked the difficult people who, if they had not of attempted to dull my soul, I would never have known what living fearlessly meant.
I dived back into photography, deciding that my wild creativity and quirky personality CAN actually co-exist - despite the many attempts to persuade otherwise ;). I even wrote a post-it note which stuck to the wall opposite my bed. It read, "Whenever you start to look back, remember what drove you here in the first place. You are enough."
I woke up to this post-it note everyday, until my dreams and goals grew bigger than before. And here it is. New beginnings again, flooding through my bedroom window, as I hold my love even tighter. This year I am ready more than ever.
(And by the way, I did get an apology a year later (on my birthday last year, no less) from someone in person, to which I was too stunned to reply to. It made me realize afterwards that I never really needed the apology in the first place. There is nothing to forgive. As long as we have learned from our experiences, and become better people from it, that's all that really matters).