I went back to Not Cleveland last weekend. Not Cleveland is the city where I took a teaching job at a charter school, only to be laid off one month after I started. I spent the rest of the school year substitute teaching before I moved back to Cleveland and found a non-teaching related job. I still call it Not Cleveland because I didn’t want it to be obvious which school it was. I am always hesitant to burn bridges.
When I left Not Cleveland, I swore to myself that I would never go back. Ever. It was such a painful time for me. I was so depressed and anxious there. I had no money and I was very lonely. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in the future. Being laid off is a terrible and humbling experience. I never wanted to be reminded of it in any way.
And yet, four years later, I felt the urge to go back.
I was curious to see if anything had changed. I also have a new car, so I feel safe again to take longer trips. Plus, I wanted to see my friend from the school. So off I went.
It was familiar, and yet novel. I was staying in a suburb of Not Cleveland, a couple of streets away from where I lived. I picked up a tourist flyer for the city. I didn’t get to see any of the city, but I did spend the day with my friend at the zoo. We saw wonderful animals. I didn’t get very close to the elephants.
Last time I was at the zoo there, the elephants came very close to me. It was the spring, and I had taken the day off from substitute teaching because I was totally empty inside at the time. I sat there, staring into the elephant’s eyes, willing myself to be present in the moment, to quiet my mind and simply be be in the space with the elephant. It didn’t erase all my problems, but it helped. While I don’t have many happy memories of that time, that is a good memory. Not a happy memory, but a good memory.
This time was much better. I was far more relaxed, even though it was a hot day. We enjoyed seeing the gorillas and the bears. At one point, my friend talked about how she is planning to leave teaching as well in a year or so, when she is done with her Masters degree. She is concerned because she has never thought about having any other career other than teaching. I sympathize with her. Still, change can be a good thing. Sometimes we need to let go of who we are in order to become who we can be. My friend can and will do that.
As I drove around Not Cleveland, I knew that I am a very different person than the person who was there four years. I am earning more money than I ever thought I would at that time. More importantly, I have skills I didn’t even know existed at the time. When I gave two weeks notice this past December to leave for a new job, my former manager told me I have a great skill set. A potential employer told me that too. 🙂
When I left, I knew that I wanted to come back to Not Cleveland again. There is a lot I would like to see. It was good to make peace with the past.
Lastly, a song for my friend and I, because victory is in our veins.