Goodbyes and feeling human

*deep breaths*

This week I started saying goodbye to my 3rd graders at my main school. Today I had to say goodbye to four classes (my Thursday kids), and next week I’ll say goodbye to my Tuesday and Friday kids.

This isn’t “bye for now, see you after summer vacation!” This is “bye, I will never be your teacher again!” Next semester, as I’ve mentioned, I’m teaching 1st and 2nd grade only… and then the 3rd graders will graduate to high school and chances are I’ll never see them again.

And that is incredibly sad.

Last week, the reality of saying goodbye to these kids hit me tangibly – a huge anchor dropping from my heart to my stomach, a crushing weight of helplessness at the inevitability of it all, a rush of sweet memories from this semester mixed with the bitter wish that I had learned more names, asked them more questions. How cruel it is to make me switch grades in the middle of the school year. How much I want to be there with them when they graduate and head off to high school.

So, that night last week, I lay in bed for a good half an hour in the dark, literally crying over losing these kids, thinking back on all the laughter and the inside jokes and how proud I am of them and how smart they are and how sweet and how much I love them. #noshame #okayalittleshame #waitnowhyshouldibeashamed #stopwiththehashtags #okay #talkingtomyself

I’m sure some readers will think this is melodramatic of me. That’s fine. I am melodramatic. Ever since I can remember (so we’re talking like 5 or 6 years old), I’ve been romanticizing things in my head – not necessarily in the amorous sense, but in the sense of the word’s second definition: “of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality.” I’m an idealist and an optimist at heart. Hence, I am far more likely to put rosy spectacles on for every aspect of my life, particularly when it comes to human connections. So, yeah, I’m gonna cry when I have to say goodbye to my students, even after only knowing them for 4-1/2 months. I love them fiercely.

I can’t explain this well and probably sound crazy now.

Enough navel-gazing.

Anyway, my mantra this year has been to live life to the fullest – to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing – and I believe I have been doing that. In that sense, I don’t have any regrets. It’s just that in the face of saying goodbye, I regret not having more time with them. A regret of what might have been, how much more I could’ve learned about them, how much more I could’ve taught them, how many more laughs and jokes and conversations we could’ve had. I’m sure the 1st and 2nd graders will be delightful… but I’ll be starting from square one with them. No trust, no relationship, no relaxed chatting and banter.

In a way, this feeling is an echo of what I went through when I left America. Leaving my family and friends and taekwondo school this past February felt like ripping my heart up by the roots, in spite of my excitement for this new adventure. Before I left, there were many sleepness nights full of tears as I agonized over leaving. I knew it was the right decision, I knew it was time for me to embark on a new chapter of my life, but still it was the most painful thing I’ve ever deliberately chosen to do.

But this time it’s a little different; my students aren’t my family and lifelong friends. I’m not uprooting my life to move to another country and culture. Actually, I’m not “leaving” them at all per se – we’ll still be walking around in the same building for another 7ish months. But on the other hand, this forced goodbye feels so abrupt and premature. I’m losing that special teacher-student bond with them almost before either they or I realized we had it.

I walked into four classrooms today for the last time, and I heard their joyful chorus of “Hello Teacher!” for the last time, and I looked at their smiling (or sad, after I told them it was our last class) faces for the last time, and I made eye contact with as many as I could for the last time, and I laughed with them for the last time. Seeing them for 2 seconds as I pass by in the hallways just won’t be the same. (Besides, my office is on a different floor; I rarely have occasion to walk down the 3rd graders’ hallway.)

So basically, I’m sad.

I’m really, really sad.

I didn’t cry today, but I know there are nights ahead during which I will. Buckets.

I’ll save writing about how the actual farewell lesson went for next week, once I’ve said goodbye to all the kids. I’ve done enough moping for one day. But it’s a good kind of sad, I suppose. The kind that makes you feel human and lets you know that you’ve made meaningful connections with other humans. Because if you didn’t have that type of connection in the first place, you wouldn’t feel sorrow about letting it go.

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