The New Girl, Part 2 (Growing Pains)

 

In our early weeks here, as we took part in the crash course-orientation that was to serve as our launch pad before students arrived in mere days, our Head of School said, more than once,

“I always remind my teachers that new teachers are new all year.”

(Almost) three months in, I see what she means. Life at our school is a seemingly endless set of rules and rituals, each and every one of which is brand new to me. There are the basic rules, the daily and weekly rituals — some of which I am still learning — and then there are those that accompany special days and weeks. And in the nine weeks we have been in school thus far, not one of them has been normal: American system tests, International Baccaulaureate assessments, British system tests, holidays (American, British, Catholic, and Japanese), professional development (often tucked in and around a school day, as some grades are holding class, and others are not), seasonal celebrations, spirit days, pep rallies…the list goes on and on. And for each of these, a whole new, detailed set of unspoken (and often unwritten) rules.

At a certain point, it gets exhausting.

In a recent PD workshop, we were asked, “What one characteristic is most important in international teachers?”

Can you guess what it was?

…Yup, flexibility.

Growing up, I was a rhythmic gymnast. With ease and thoughtless grace, I could twist, spin, arch, leap. I can still clearly recall, with that peculiar thing that is body memory, the feeling of spinning…releasing…flipping…looping, up and down, in and out, on the uneven parallel bars. My favorite event (next to artistic tumbling). As a young adult, the ultimate centering and relaxing, for me, was in yoga poses — which I executed without thinking twice, dubbed, laughingly, “gumby girl” by my beloved teacher.

In recent years, that thoughtless flexibility has been put to its test. I have experienced my first back injury, finding myself suddenly locked up (By fear, trauma, or actual injury? Hard to tell. …Is there a difference?), experiencing pain and limitation where I had never experienced anything but flow previously.

And then, of course, there was last month’s fall, which put me out of commission for a few weeks, but is now, thankfully, a slipping-away memory. Suddenly, though, every step was a struggle; gravity and the earth, long my trusted friends, turned abruptly treacherous. As the flow of humanity surged around me — in the street, on train platforms, on stairways — I toddled unevenly, fearful I might be knocked off my feet, or fall again.

Am I flexible enough? The question occurs to me now, as I sit in bed in the early evening, pajamas on at 5 p.m. in hopes of staving off what feels like a fever. The hardest part of this most blessed adventure is how much I miss my people: those that love and know me well; who I can call on a whim, and walk with, or sip tea with, laugh, cry, talk books, and drink prosecco with.  And those that are bound by blood to love me, if nothing else (and truly, there is so much else).

As a child, I attended over half a dozen elementary schools. To this day, I could tell you the names, favorite games and family stories of my best friends in each and every one. And yet I never saw any of them again, once we moved away. Thousands of miles from home, I grieve these losses all over again. Losses lived, over and over, by the Third Culture kids that fill my school. They are brilliant, they are cooperative, they are charming…and like me, there is a bit of a reserve to them, a reluctance to give too much of their heart, too soon.

And so we bide our time. I dive into books, the place I have always found comfort, my most faithful friends. I find myself rediscovering beloved series from childhood, at the same time that I am catching up on the books everyone is talking about, the winners of various awards, those made into movies; continually adding more to my list. In the less than three months we’ve been here, I have read at least 30 books — one every two or three days, sometimes more. At school, I long to sneak off to a corner and read (and often do); one of my best friends in the building is the high school librarian. I sink into literature as I always have, finding old friends rather than making new ones.

The girls — our students — look at me out of the side of their eyes, ask me unexpected questions that let me know they’re paying attention, even when I don’t know anyone sees me. Their curiosity is at once comforting and exhausting. I wish we could skip this chapter, and go to straight to the part where we love each other wholeheartedly. I count the minutes until I can go home to my husband, then find myself too tired to explain myself even to him.

The time has come for me to write a book. And I know that, but am not sure I know how to begin. More and more, I am drawn to writing children’s literature — after all is said and done, my very favorite kind — but am feeling more serious now than ever, and am not sure that that is the best place from which to begin a book meant to console the lonely little person I was, and perhaps still am. And so I turn to those authors that did that for me as a child, finding in their words not only solace, but also inspiration, as I feel my way towards this promise I made to myself decades ago.

And that is the beauty of being the new girl. The chance to invent myself anew, to rewrite the script. If I have the flexibility and grace to allow it. May it be so.

❤ , The New Girl

 

7 thoughts on “The New Girl, Part 2 (Growing Pains)

  1. I’m enjoying your introspection.
    Start your book anywhere. When you think of a part where you know what you want to say.

    After you have some sections written, you can take some time out to think about the structure, how you want to begin, where you want to get to by the end. Don’t wait until you know all that to start.

    I’m eager to read your book.

    Like

    1. Thank you for reading, Karen! Glad you’re enjoying it. And thank you for the advice…I’m going to give that a try! Novel writing month is coming up…let’s see what I come up with. ❤

      Like

  2. Oh I love this entry of yours. I too am eager to read your book, and second Karen’s advice about just starting anywhere whenever you know something you want to say!!!

    Like

    1. Is this yo mama as in my mama? Who are you, woman of mystery? Thank you for reading! My challenge to myself now that the weather has turned cold is to buckle down and write…can I do it daily? We shall see!

      Like

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