I survived Term 1 of my first year of teaching. 1 down, 3 to go – it’s the little things, you know?
And it’s been a tough one. Overall, it is fabulous, but everything they say about the first year being super difficult and filled with self-doubt and feeling like you’re barely keeping your head above water is 100 percent true. At one meeting for the first-year teachers at my school, we got a handout entitled “Phases of First-Year Teaching” and it basically went through the roller-coaster of emotion first year teachers tend to experience. Well let me tell you, I skipped pretty quickly to “disillusionment” – a few weeks ahead of the curve (but maybe that’s typical of my overachiever style…).
Naturally, through the craziness of it all, I’ve been forced to reflect on friendship. After making the switch from living in the same building or apartment as many of my best friends to moving back home and spending lots of time on my own, it’s been a very, very lonely time, which seems like a ridiculous statement when you take into consideration that I am in the presence of a room full of people all day, every day. But I miss being with those who really know me. Know when I’m not really ok even when I say I am, and who can give me the best hug in the world when all I want to do is cry. Know me enough to celebrate with me over each little success and improvement. I feel like I’m wandering around and still trying to feel like I fit into this place just a bit more snugly. Adjustment takes time, I know, but sometimes I just want to fast-forward through this year and just have more experience under my belt and stop feeling like the needy and unknowledgeable first-year teacher. And so I long so much more for my friends. Some of the people who had consistently been there for other times of struggle in my life were not – one seems to have chosen not to be there, and another had her own big burdens to carry. Life gets in the way and makes regular check-ins sometimes close to impossible. But others have been there and listened and reassured and guided and prayed.
Yes, faith, too, has been my friend during these times. I pray for peace and reassurance. I’m in the process of saying a 9-week novena for one friend, and I consistently pray for others. I stop by one of the campus chapels after my grad class and sit and reflect in one of the rare instances of peace and quiet I can seem to find these days. No matter how lonely it may feel, I have my faith to bring me light.
But when people ask how faith is possible even when there is suffering, I find it hard to give an articulate answer. “Why do some people experience no pain, while others do?” and “How can you justify tragedy?” one asked. Somehow, my mantra of “Everything Happens for a Reason” seems insensitive in cases like these. But then I remember that everything does happen for a reason. Pain makes you who you are, tragedy prepares you for the future, challenges make the next round easy. Love and friendship and happy memories are the rewards.
This year is hard for a reason – to make the next one easier. I miss my friends for a reason – to realize who is really there and who I may need to reevaluate. I’m lonely for a reason – to enjoy and cherish the time I do spend with my loves so much more. And it will get easier, but it will take time. So I’ll just have to be patient.