89 Days of Summer
Updated: Jan 24, 2018
Somewhere in the small gaps of my history and fleeting pockets of time, I came across the idea once that happiness lies between the blurred lines and ever-shifting boundaries of patience and gratitude. If I’m honest, I’ve never really understood what that truly meant- at least I don’t think I ever really understood it until today.
Friday 27th May, 2016 marked one of the biggest milestones in the kaleidoscopic rabbit hole that seems to be my teaching career; it was the day I said goodbye to my first cohort of Year 11s. For the past two years, I’ve been wrestling with the same kids who’ve tried and tested me physically, emotionally and borderline psychologically. It seems that somewhere in the midst of petty and pointless arguments and sincere glimpses of humanity, I’ve grown to attached to these kids and their company. A part of me wishes that I could have had a small peek into the long path they’re about to embark on while the other is swiftly shooing them through my classroom door and shutting it frankly behind them. It’s so strange that the epic battles we had in the beginning are like distant memories now. They’re like waves lapping slowly on the shoreline after a long, hard day. It seems like a pretty bizarre comparison, but it reminds me of a moment in Christopher Nolan’s 'The Dark Knight'. It’s the moment when Gotham, for now, seems to have been overcome by a melancholy peace. The Joker has been defeated, the pariah has long since left and the ‘White Knight’ has been laid to rest. Nobody really knows what the future holds and everyone’s too exhausted to talk about it. That’s how I feel- not about Year 11, but about this path that's winding before me.
Being a teacher is hard. They do tell you this when you first sign up, but you're too naive to even believe that it applies to you. So, inevitably, sometime between late nights buried under piles of books, countless OFSTED visits and those early mornings when you're just looking forward to the end of the day, you can't help but wonder what possessed you do to this. Honestly, I wish I could fully explain the emotional baggage some parts of this life leaves you with, but this isn't the time or space. I guess being responsible for children was always going to be difficult.
When it comes down to it though, I see the benefits of being a teacher. I love my job- hate the paperwork- but I guess that’s the nature of life. You can’t have it all. I think I’ve come to some sort of realisation though and it’s taken events of the week to actually figure this out. It’s been a long year. I know others have had it more difficult, but hardship is subjective. If it affects the heart, it’s hardship all the same.
So lately I've been reading an ayah, something that’s loosely translated to ‘So patience is beautiful’ (fassobrun jameel, 12:83) and I keep tossing and turning the phrase around in my head. The Arabic language is so complex. It’s one that makes translation difficult. Sabr is usually perceived as patience, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. It’s not so simple. Sabr is endurance, perseverance mixed some sort of endless and unseen struggle within yourself. It’s something that nobody really sees or gives you credit for, but it’s something that overwhelms anyway. To the outside world, you have the facade of control that a very few people can see through. It’s a theatre curtain that remains closed behind the ongoing performance in front of an endless audience. It’s something that you feel stuck in, like you’re trapped.
But you trudge through it anyway because there’s a light in there somewhere and you know it.
And then you finally find it- that light. And you’re overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude, a sense of peace- like it was worth it in the end. And I think that’s what makes it beautiful. I think that’s what makes it cathartic. That moment- no matter how brief it seems, no matter how quickly it flutters past- it’s there and it’s beautiful.
I think that's how I felt- after reflecting anyway. It's what happens when you invest in something that's meaningful and you somehow see it through to the end. You can finally see clearly the relationships you've built and you're like 'that meant something'. So from now on, I’m going to make the effort to hold on to every beautiful thing this part of my life has to offer. In hindsight, just knowing I waded through without giving in is pretty enlightening too- even if I'm the only one that chooses to believe it.
I'm also going to set myself some targets for a healthier work-life balance. I guess I'll have to see how that fares in time.
* * *
Summer’s nearly over now. I started writing this piece months and months ago and discarded it somewhere in both my drive and the hoarded corridors of my conscience. I’ve learnt a lot about myself since those sixteen year olds walked out my door for that final time. I’ve grown up much more than I ever thought I would. I guess life experiences do that to you. I'm also a little exhausted again, but I know that everything passes just like it always has. I know that with every hardship is ease, even if I can’t see it at the time. And I know that with every goodbye that I’ve said to someone this summer, I’ve learnt a lesson from them- even if our paths are not meant to cross again.
And right now, I am grateful for it.