The end of a chapter

For those of you who don’t know this about me, I tend to put off dealing with my emotions. For those of you who have never been in the education profession, the end of the school year is a perfect time to have an excuse to put off dealing with emotions. Therefore, a lot of emotions from the last few weeks–even months–have hit me today.

Today marks my very last day at Anderson County High School. I just turned in my end-of-the-year checklist, and I’ve spent the day packing up my classroom. I’ve known this day was coming for a while, but it didn’t really hit me until today. Yes, I’ve been counting down and excited for the end of school, but today I also realize that this day means I will not be coming back. Today has been full of the tears that I haven’t dealt with in the days leading up to it. Packing everything up has a certain finality. Saying goodbye–something I’ve never really been good at–definitely makes things final. It has been a day of boxes–for packing up belongings and for pulling tissues from to clean up after teary hugs.

As I look around these walls for close to the last time, I realize that this classroom will always be special to me. It was the first classroom that was mine. And for the past two years, this school has been my home. I can’t imagine a more supportive and wonderful place in which to begin my teaching career. I will miss all of the people here–my terrific colleagues, and yes, even the students.

Today is the definition of bittersweet though, as while I’m sad to leave, I am also excited about where I’m going. This is the end of one truly monumental chapter in my life, but also the start of a whole new chapter to explore. I am so excited to be marrying Stephen in just over 6 weeks (!!!) and to be moving to Atlanta to start this journey with him.

So, I guess today is the first day of transition that I will experience this summer. Between moving, marriage, and a new career, it is hardly the last. But today, I will cherish all of the emotions I’m feeling: the sadness at leaving a place I love, the happiness for the future, and the gratitude to have had this experience.

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Living Below the Line

As many of you are aware, last week I participated in Live Below the Line–a week-long activity of living below the poverty line to raise awareness for extreme poverty across the world. For five days, I lived on $1.50 a day for food and drink. Growing up, there were many times when money was scarce and food was not abundant. For this reason, Live Below the Line was a cause that was dear to my heart. Also, I–mistakenly–assumed that it would be easy for me.

Shopping for groceries wasn’t too difficult. I was able to buy enough food to eat over 1200 calories a day (which is above starvation level). My menu consisted of: a banana, two peanut butter sandwiches a day, and two servings of rice with three servings of black beans. I’m a bargain hunter on a regular basis, so figuring out how to effectively spend my $7.50 wasn’t too challenging. I will say, however, that there were several foods I thought I’d be able to afford that I DEFINITELY could not. I figured out how to spend the $7.50 pretty quickly, BUT my choices were faaar more limited than I had anticipated. Still, I spent $7.37 for the week, so I was a success.

The first two days of Live Below the Line went well! I was excited about what I was participating in and dedicated to the cause I was raising awareness for. The third day is when the first real challenge hit. The food I was eating wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t able to afford spices or salt in my budget and black beans/rice without salt or spices is pretty bleak. When dinner came around on the third day, I considered skipping the meal. Instead I forced myself to eat it. This was the second real epiphany of the experience. I kept telling myself I could eat anything for 5 days and be okay with it, but by day 3, I was already seriously struggling. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be on not day 3, but on day 30 or day 300 or even year 3 and beyond! This was a temporary exercise for me, but on day 3 I was really forced to think of how this life must feel for those who experience it everyday. It’s not just that extreme poverty means having little money for food. Extreme poverty also means eating meals that might not taste good–and eating them a lot–but not complaining because at least you have food. It really started me thinking about how much I take for granted. I was upset over not liking the food I had to eat, when many around the world would be immensely thankful to just have that food.

Throughout the week, I also realized the abundance in my life in other ways. There were many days when I was still hungry or when I wanted a snack or when I wanted to add spices to my beans. On those days, I had options just sitting in my kitchen. Snacks and spices and food just sitting there. I never realized how much extra food and supplies I have until I wasn’t allowed to use them. It was a very humbling experience. I am a young professionally, making not-a-ton of money in my second year teaching, so oftentimes I joke about being poor, when from a different vantage point, I live a life of abundance. Something I was reminded of each day of Live Below the Line.

I know Live Below the Line is about the millions of people suffering from hunger and poverty around the world. It is a great experience to raise awareness for this group of people without a voice, and I can’t wait to participate again next year! However, it also showed me many things about myself–that I have it easier than I think, that I have more than I need, and that I have a life many people would love to have.

This experience left me with a refreshed perspective and some much needed gratitude.