Giving Away My Old Life

Our house is currently upside down. Mayhem. With only a few weeks to go until moving day; there are boxes stacked up, cupboards half empty, and piles and piles of our possessions everywhere. In the ten years that we’ve lived in Charlton, we have acquired a fair amount. The paraphernalia from new hobbies and new dogs and new DIY projects and a new disability have filled our double garage. Plant pots and road bikes and brewing casks and puppy toys. A telescope and tents and paint brushes and hundreds of nails and screws! And as Phil and my brother-in-law are hiring a van and moving our world themselves; we need to ensure only the loved and wanted and needed make the 125 mile journey from Northamptonshire to the Peak District. So we’ve been getting ruthless with the sorting.

Tip runs have disposed of the junk hiding among the mouse droppings. The tins of paint with only an inch in them, the wood off cuts for those just-in-case projects, the empty wine bottles and rubble and tiles and carpet ends. Charity shops have welcomed the read books and never worn clothes, and neighbours and family have been persuaded to take on our other no-longer-wanted finds! πŸ˜› And Ebay and Facebook Marketplace have found homes for the rest. The old board games will now get played and the treadmill will finally get walked on! Most of our old belongings have been easy to say goodbye to, satisfying even. The remnants of our old cars or old tastes or old hobbies. But it has been harder to give up the leftovers from the life that I am no longer well enough to lead. The ski boots, the high heels, and the boxes and boxes of teaching resources.

When I was a primary school teacher I was obsessed with making teaching resources. Obsessed. With such young children in my care; I needed to teach everything through play and games and play and games. But with no budget and limited school supplies, this could only happen if I made the fun teaching resources myself. So I did. Evenings and weekends would be spent designing and printing and cutting and gluing and laminating. Hours and hours and hours and hours. And a ridiculous amount of my wages. After eight years of teaching, I had created boxes and boxes of fun learning games. Lotto and threading and bingo and snap. Phonic fans and number lines and jigsaws and matching. Dice games and flashcards and joining dots and bunting. Later, when I developed Pulmonary Hypertension and was medically retired, we piled them in the corner of our garage. And they’ve been there ever since.

I couldn’t get rid of them. Although my doctors warned that I’d never be able to work in a school again, although Phil wanted the resources gone to free up the garage; I couldn’t say goodbye to them. Teaching had been such an important part of my life, such a central part of my life; I loved it, I was good at it. I couldn’t give it up, I couldn’t give them up; I wasn’t ready. The whole time that my classroom remained in the corner, I could harbour a secret hope that one day, by some miracle, I’d be able to return to the career I once loved. Giving it all away was akin to accepting that my life as ‘Mrs Marshall’ the teacher, was over (read the previous blog about this).

But today I gave them away. At last. Nine years after medically retiring, I was finally ready to drop them off at a local school. It’s taken a lot of time and effort and tears and personal growth, to -not only- get to a place where I’m happy to say goodbye to my old career, but -more importantly- to take ownership of the decision. I’m a changed person to the one I was before PH. I have different ideas about work-life balance, different values, different interests, and different priorities. The life that I used to live no longer appeals. I no longer think about it, dream about it, or long to return to it. At all. In fact, if I was magically cured from PH tomorrow, I wouldn’t go back to the classroom. There are other jobs I’d like to try, other experiences I want to have, other things I want to learn about. Other futures I’d like to have instead. That wonderful but exhausting chapter in my life is over; and I’m happy about that. And so, realizing that, it was time to give it all away.

As I handed them over, I felt happy, relieved, proud, empowered, free. By only donating them when I was ready, by taking ownership of when to say goodbye; giving up teaching no longer felt like it had been forced upon me. By making the decision myself that it was over, by realizing I no longer wanted teaching in my future; I wasn’t a victim to my illness. The what-ifs, the question mark, the uncertainty that was weighing on me, instantly lifted. I’d finally drawn a line under that part of my old life, broken free from its chains. The door had finally closed.

And best of all, my classroom gets a second life. Another chance to be enjoyed by little ones. I’m no longer a teacher, but I’m still (in a tiny tiny way) helping little ones to learn. πŸ™‚

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