joy, gratitude, grace.

The title of this post comes from Brene Brown, whose book Daring Greatly was recommended to me by my therapist earlier on in the summer. Aside from kicking me in the gut on various pages (my copy is already dog-eared and wrecked up with hundreds of underlined and highlighted passages), Brene has offered me so many different ways to fully assess and understand my life from a different angle. The full quote is thus:

“I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”

This year has been…well.

How does one really come up with the words for when your life is absolutely ripped up from the foundations, and everything changes in the span of even three days, let alone the 14 months it’s been since I last sat down to write a post? When we last talked – for I really do see these posts as conversations, at least, I try to, when I’m not ranting and raving about something – I was feeling good. My life was stable, and safe, and I was looking forward to a few different things on the docket. The plan was simple – keep teaching at UConn, do some plays, work on some writing projects and keep freelancing. I had learned to embrace my stressful, slightly overloaded life.

Well, you know what they say – when you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.

Last November, while sprinting across the UConn Storrs campus to teach a class, I got a text message from the head of the English Department at my alma mater high school. I had applied to teach there two and a half years prior, and while I didn’t get the job, they had promised to reach out if any other openings came along. I thanked them and promptly forgot about it. Well, they hadn’t; one of the teachers needed a long term substitute for maternity leave, and the department head reached out to me. The offer was to teach 9th and 10th grade English for the spring 2018 semester, with the possibility of a full time position for the following school year.

I stood there reading this text message over and over again while my college students wrote responses to a prompt on the gender politics of Thor. I texted my Mom and one of my best friends who had just had a huge life change involving her career. I showed them the text from the Department head, and while my Mom immediately flipped out and told me to do it (proving that it is indeed possible to convey tone through text, if you use the right amount of exclamation points), Lindsay was more direct. Do you want this she asked.

I don’t know I replied. I do because holy smokes it would be amazing but I’m also – I’m really scared.

That was putting it mildly. I had just settled into a pretty good routine. A safe, orderly, structured routine, but that appealed to me tremendously. Lindsay, though, had me with her next point. Remember when I said the same thing about taking that job, and you told me to go for it? Well, it’s my turn. Do it. DO IT.

Friends who kick you in the ass are necessary. I messaged the head back after I got out of class and told him I would love to meet with him.

A week later, I had a meeting and demo. That night I received a text from the head: Welcome aboard!

I sat back in my chair, unable to fully comprehend just how much my life had changed in those two words.

I was ending my job at UConn (where I had worked for six years) and I was taking a chance.

I don’t do this. I don’t do ‘taking chances.’ I pontificate about that stuff, sure, but I don’t actually do it.

I started in February, and while the difference between high school and college is stark, the students and faculty were amazing, the workload actually got a little lighter, and it was incredibly rewarding and wonderful to have a full week of work. I felt challenged, supported, clear-headed about what I wanted. The curriculum was so much more fulfilling than anything I had done at UConn, because the students cared about what they had to say in my classroom. I was also so amazed at how elevated they all were! They were caring about things I definitely didn’t at that age. I learned how to ask for help, how to really work with my colleagues, and I tried to let go.

In May 2018, after three months of falling more and more in love with my work at the school as well as my students and coworkers, I met with the chief academic officer. After some small talk, he slid a piece of paper across his desk. Written on it was my contract to become a full time member of the faculty for the 2018-2019 school year. I had impressed them enough to secure a spot in the department.

I sat back in my chair, staring at the piece of paper, my hand at my mouth, while the academic officer talked about how happy he was that I was coming on board. But all I could think was – Eight months ago, I had 100 dollars in my bank account. Eight months ago I was working four jobs just to break even. Now? I was going to get a full salary. I was going to get health care.

I put myself out there. I said yes to a random text message in the middle of a November rainstorm. I said yes.

But was the universe done with messing around with me? Oh no, it was not. Not by a long shot.

Right after I got the job (I’m talking, like, a day later), I was speaking to a girlfriend, and I mentioned to her “I want to get better at casual dating. I’m not good at it. So this summer will be the summer I just casually date a bunch of people and see what happens with it. No attachments, hashtag single life.”

I don’t want to say too much, but about a week after I made that proclamation, I was proven very, very, very wrong.

I took a chance, again. I put myself out there, again. I said yes, again.

It’s super hard. Vulnerability is never something that comes easily to me, despite my reputation of word vomiting onto the internet. But I’ve lived more in the past 9 months than ever before. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking and so utterly worth it.

This was the year I started actually saying ‘yes’, instead of just talking about it. And I hope to continue that pattern.

You might not see a lot of updates from me in this space. I want to keep a clear line between professional and private matters, especially now that I’m teaching at a high school. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of, but there’s a different type of work that comes with HS, and I want to make sure I’m presenting myself well to the students and faculty.  When I do update, it might be different from what you’re used to seeing from me, but I promise you. It’s still me.

Nine years ago when I started this blog I didn’t realize what my life was going to be like, but I had a very clear plan. Plans are meant to be changed.

Life is crazy. Grab a rein, and try to hold on.

ally

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