Here we go … Getting real

I get it. Honestly, I do. I’m not living in the worst neighborhood, I am healthy, I own a home, and I have an amazing family and, most times, amazing friends. I am privileged. I have more blessings than I deserve. I fully and completely understand why my strife does not compare relative to that around the world, a few miles across the river or even just a breath away, sitting across from me in my office. It does not, however, change the way I feel deep, deep down and, some days, even on the surface. Today is one of the latter.

Today was my last day at a high school where I have shed literal blood, sweat and tears over the past four years. I have been a high school counselor for 12 years and, while I have received the highest “teacher” rating every year of those 12 years, have worked my ass off to earn it and, even beyond the paper, am pretty fucking fantastic in that role, live & breathe it as my primary identity, I find myself without a job after next Tuesday. I was excessed as part of the budget next year.

Our current principal cut many positions, including one of four counselors. Because my kids graduated he said, “it would be least disruptive to the student body” if I were the one to go. Even though I am the only one of the four who lives within the city of DC (allegedly worth “preference” points, am 3rd in seniority, sponsor multiple extracurricular activities, and am the NCAA person for the entirety of DC Public Schools). It makes no sense.

I made today my last day because 1) my kids are gone 2) the school is empty and unwelcoming without them 3) the only things I have left to do rely on central office and they are profoundly incompetent 4) I do not have a job in this school system next year so there is no reason to save my 11 days of leave for 6 remaining days of my current contract 5) walking into that building now makes me want to fall to my knees every morning, and 6) fuck the principal of that school. He made this decision. I do not kiss ass. It’s anathema to me. Plenty of people do and they have their jobs. Maybe they are better than me after all.

I am a school counselor in the very soul of me; you cannot separate me from that role even outside of the building, especially now, twelve years later. I have loved, loved, loved getting to know thousands of young people over these years in education, including two amazing graduating classes (the most recent of which was three days ago, this past Saturday). I simply yet profoundly don’t know what to do next.

I find myself rudderless and more than a bit flabbergasted at the notion that I cannot sit indefinitely in this fugue state. A huge part of me does not want to stay in education. I don’t know how to give any less of myself but that’s what it takes to make a difference for these kids. If I give less, it’s not fair to the kids. If I keep giving this much, it’s not fair to me. It obviously doesn’t behoove me to continue to give — no one has my back but me. That’s now painfully, painfully clear.

I am devastated to lose my job. I wanted the personnel committee, who included people I considered personal and professional allies, to take a stand against a truly terrible and vindictive woman who holds a sickening degree of perceived power over students, parents and fellow colleagues alike. But she keeps her job as a counselor and, because I had the bad luck of having seniors this year, I was the one cut? I don’t understand it at all.

I did my best. I gave everything. It wasn’t enough.

So what do I do now?

Tiger Lily Vegas

What does it all mean?

Tiger Lily Vegas was the name of a cat. In college, maybe senior or super senior year (victory lap), my small and beloved group of guy friends and I illegally had a cat in the dorms for a few, gloriously scandalous weeks. Considering virtually everything was against the rules at our tiny, conservative, Christian college, this was a very big deal.

I wanted to name her Tigerlily. Natalie Merchant was my muse at the time, I think. The guys wanted to name her Vegas (we were unabashedly into the movie Swingers then). “You’re so money baby and you don’t even know it.” Maybe we should have named her Double Down. Anyway, we compromised on Lily Vegas and, after a number of adventures and learning what it was really like to have a cat, illegally or not, in a confined space, we got caught. Probably the smell although, I don’t remember those lesser details now, fifteen years later. Lily Vegas lived out her days on my family’s farm, having babies, killing rodents and living the life fantastic until a car squashed her. I’m not a cat person, or even a pet person, but I had an affinity for Lily Vegas, for what she represented, the memories, the subversion.

I have so many memories and stories like this in my head, upstaged in volume only by thoughts. I like to write but rarely do it, except in the occasional, introspective, wordy and admittedly obnoxious social media post about whatever is rankling or inspiring at that moment. After college, I had a blog and it was cathartic and I met great “friends” there, a few of whom I am still connected with through social media. Some days, especially when I’m walking the 2.5 miles to or from work and my mind wanders or I’m lying in bed unable to sleep, I think about how I wish I had someone to turn to and talk about all these random things. So here we go. Buckle up.