Counting on my fingers and toes

I’ve reached another landmark now.  The number of days that I will still be “going to work” can be counted on just my fingers and toes.  The disentangling continues and it is a very interesting experience.

I had worried a lot about feeling a huge sense of loss as I went about packing up my office.  It hasn’t turned out to be that way at all I’m glad to say.  How am I going about the leaving process?  Well, as usual for me, it involves a lot of pre-thinking and organization.  Last week I sat down and developed a chart that listed all of the things that I do in my job; each project I work on, each initiative I participate in, the corporate responsibilities and the work that’s on my “next steps” list.  It was a pretty long list to be sure.  I’ve been here for a lot of years and I always try to be involved in as many things as I can that interest me.  Next we had a team meeting in which I circulated that chart and we spent time deciding who would be picking up each of the pieces of work.  With that list in hand I’ve been able to start moving portfolios from my office into the hands of my capable colleagues. 

With each transfer I’ve noticed there’s a similar process.  First I have to review all of the associated files, throw out things that are no longer valuable, and make sure everything’s filed in a way that somebody could find items without having to read my mind.  That’s a bit of a walk down memory lane.  I’m flooded by images and moments and voices and faces; all of the wonderful people that I’ve worked with and collaborated with over the years.  It’s a pleasant stroll.  It’s giving me a chance to reassess the value of various pieces of work and the contributions I’ve been able to make.  Once that’s done it’s time to sit down with the person/people who are taking over bits of my job and celebrate a formal  transfer of the cleaned-up files.  With that comes a very pleasant sense of relief.  Off my plate!  No sadness.  No sense of loss.  A bit of a sigh is the most that’s accompanied this process.

I’ve noticed that each day when I leave the office I feel a little bit lighter.  It’s fall in Toronto and so the sun is already shining a bit less, but I do feel that it’s casting beautiful, bright light on me as I wend my way home each day.

The yin to that yang (or perhaps yang to that yin; whichever you prefer) is removing all of my personal effects from the office.  Because I don’t usually drive to work, on the occassions that my car is parked underneath my office building I need to take advantage of the opportunity to easily move things; move important things, my things.  They are reminders of what’s most important to me that I’ve surrounded myself with over the last 30 years as a teacher.  Last Friday was one of those opportunities so – true to my plan to do this with relaxation and grace – I got the trolley from the mailroom, loaded it up, and took it all on a long 17-floor ride down to the parking garage a.k.a. gate to freedom.  That trolley included:

  • Many of the photos of the people I love (includes husband, children, sisters, mother, grandchildren, nieces, and some friends).  Some alone, some in groups.  Mostly looking happy.  So many kind, caring eyes smiling at me whlie I work, reminding me of what’s most important in life.
  • My Grade 9 report card from London South Secondary School (writing about this led me to googling my old high school and the link took me to the 1966 yearbook which I then had to look through – page by page.  There were some remarkable educators there.  There was Roger Macaulay   the principal with whom I shared an office; I spent almost as much time there as he did since I was frequently called down to explain one thing or another.  Mrs. Woodman.  Yes … I was lucky enough to have Marion Woodman as my English teacher in Grade 12; she taught me to revel in the pure pleasure of following a thought or thinking through a feeling.  That was the year after I’d had her brother, Fraser Boa, as my English teacher and his brilliance and love of language and drama awoke a passion for learning in me.  And then there was my Grade 9 home room teacher (to remain nameless) who signed that report which has hung framed in my office for years.  It’s the one with several marks penned in red (less concern about protecting students’ self-esteem in those days) to indicate that I’d evidently been able to learn only 24% of what was expected and including the comment from my home room teacher:  “Sylvia is clearly not vitally interested in education.”  I’ve often used that report card in teacher education courses, making the point that I’m pretty sure that one of us wasn’t vitally interested in education, and I really do think it wasn’t me.
  • An old recycled picture frame that my amazing daughter made for me a few years ago when I was moving into a 6-month secondment and wasn’t sure if I’d be given an office with a window or not and she – in her brilliance – found this old frame at the curbside and painted it, and placed very large photos of her two sons peering through the glass.  The larger-than-life beautiful eyes shining with trust remind me every day of why I do the work that I do.
  • An oversize poster of three beautiful, long-stemmed roses, only the stems are barbed wire and I bought it at Auschwitz.  It reminds me of what happens when we – as humans – fail.
  • My assortment of apple “things”.  Most given to me by students.  One with a bell inside that was purchased on the Alaska Marine Highway. 

That’s enough for now.  It is all quite comforting in a way.  I thought it would be harder, but even bringing these things thta mean so much to me home again … well … that feels alright.  Don’t know where I’m going to put them though.

Twenty more days.  How will they unfold?  As the end draws near – how’s that for prophetic-sounding words – will this become more painful?  Are there still transitional experiences I should be preparing myself for? 

Twenty more days.


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