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It’s been a while but I enjoyed a moment today that I wanted to share. This is about my baggage.

One of my coping mechanisms is compartmentalizing. I box up issues and emotions, stack them neatly away until I am prepared to deal with them. Usually, time permits me to go back and examine the contents with proper perspective. Sometimes a box falls from the shelf or someone opens a box prematurely...and I occasionally lose my shit but for the most part compartmentalization helps me keep it together.

This holiday break I determined to sort through the literal and metaphorical boxes from my classroom that still remained unpacked and what a wonderful experience it has been!

The decision to leave classroom teaching was extremely difficult for me. I had envisioned being a teacher for a good part of my life and worked hard as an adult to acquire the necessary education and certifications to meet that ambition. I LOVE TEACHING and quite frankly, the disappointment and hurt that prompted my choice to leave left a deep wound and for that reason, many boxes from my classroom remained ‘packed’. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been touched by social media comments from some former students. Perhaps that’s what prompted me to start unpacking boxes and it’s been so worth it.

Today I realized that there is a long list of students who appreciated learning with me...Many young people who touched my heart and gave my life and work purpose. Tears of pride and joy fill my eyes even as I write this. I surveyed a collection of senior pictures and class projects, prom pictures and retreat letters. I found a guitar pick...a parting gift from a student who is now a friend, a book of inspirational quotes from a student who always inspired me, several handwritten cards and personalized paintings with some of my favorite Emerson quotes, an intricate puzzle designed of Dickinson poems, and a pair of wall hangings to remind me that ‘trees are for hugging’ and ‘the smallest things often take up the most room in your heart.’ I found a stack of thank you notes that I kept for boosting morale on those tough teaching days and a folder of special student essays that demonstrated progress, promise, passion and respect. Countless treasures to fill my heart with happiness… a perception enhanced by the healing of time. Today, I found boxes full of reasons not to ‘cry because it’s over but to smile because it happened’ and I am so very grateful.

To all of my former students, THANK YOU!

Be good and be careful out there.

Love and miss you. Ms. Long

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