*image credits: Dimitris Primalis, for ELTPics
It’s hard sometimes, to begin. It’s even harder to begin again. And very often you don’t even know where to begin. You must do so, though; for all that is expected of you, for all that you can do and give and above all, for yourself. For everything that you can learn and achieve. You can take small steps, you can try a long jump, you could even fly forward. But you must.
Two years ago almost, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life; and having been ‘at work’ ever since I was fifteen, that was quite the strike. Things hadn’t been going well anyway, the absence of my DoS should have been a clue, not being paid properly, on time, or at all should have been signs, but I clearly wasn’t paying attention. I was in the almighty comfort zone. Exactly the point where things decide to hit you, and they hit hard. And, in any case, no matter what goes on behind the scenes, I would never just get up and leave my kids behind. I think it’s exactly that trait we teachers have that makes us vulnerable. We’re fierce when it comes to doing the right thing for our students, but we’re much more lax when it comes to what is right for ourselves.
A step, I thought, I need to take a step forward. How hard can a step be? The problem there was not so much the step, but the direction in which it should be taken. The word ‘safety’ kept appearing around me, because we didn’t just sprout from the ground, there’s family, there’s friends, there’s a whole world around us. And I gave that word some thought. Are we ever safe? My answer was simply ‘no’. We might think we are, it might feel as if we are, but we are not. Because we (thankfully, in my view) don’t have a say in every single thing. Because our work depends largely on people and people, as wonderful as they might be, always find a way to surprise us.
I kept options open. And it was quite a sad moment when I realized that in my crisis-driven country, education was the last thing on people’s minds. Education in its proper sense I mean, not the certificate-hunting culture that has always stood strong. The education that takes you forward, that broadens your mind, that makes you active. I turned stubborn. There was no reason to work for anyone who didn’t agree with me. No reason at all to be employed and paid if I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. Suddenly, the world came together and all was clear. We can do what is good, what is right, even if there’s only one person there to listen to us. And good and right things have the tendency to multiply, remember that.
The rest of the world stepped in the scene. All the things that had happened up until my first day as a freelance teacher came together. Both the good and the bad. Everything that you call part of you, your life, can give you the opportunity to teach yourself and others. Yes, you need to keep yourself open to everything. You need to see whatever comes your way as a chance to learn and stand ready to share what you have learned. You’re certainly not always right, so listen, ask and talk things through.
When the freelance ‘me’ came to be, I felt totally unsafe. And that was liberating. We can’t know everything, but we can try it all and see where it takes us. I still don’t feel safe most of the times, but I refuse to stop. Because I’ve seen first hand that we can make a difference, even if it’s only in ourselves; which it isn’t, trust me.
You can start at any given time. You can restart, as well. I started again by doing the exact opposite of what I used to do, but there’s no rule. Just decide and keep going. Keep open, first to yourself and then to others. Only good things can come out of that.
From a step, that could be a leap, but turned into a magic carpet ride. There’s more to come.