It’s been a year since I turned in my retirement papers and quit my job. And it’s been almost a year since we sold our house and moved half way across the state. I knew that I should have gotten rid of the last books from my teaching days, but I just didn’t.
We had the garage sales and we purged and tossed many things. After all, a new chapter means letting go of some things from the past.
Unfortunately, some things are harder to get rid of than you might think.
I told myself that I might get back into the profession. There might be part time work in a nearby school, or I might do some kind of consulting. Whatever the reason, I just wasn’t ready to let those books go. So they were packed up, boxed, and moved to our new home with us.
Dreams have a powerful hold over us
But let me explain why those books have such a hold over me.
For 32 years I was a public school educator. I became interested in gifted children during my first year in the classroom. Heck, who am I kidding? I was interested in them before I ever even GOT to the classroom. I’d been a kid who was bored in school and couldn’t wait to get out because I didn’t find it an interesting place to be.
One of my strongest memories about school took place during my third grade year during a spelling test. What I remember is getting in trouble because I was reading a book during the test. Now, I was always a little book worm and a good speller. And the teacher would call those spelling words out enough times that I was able to open my book back up and read while the other kids were still finishing spelling whatever word the teacher had called out from the spelling list that week.
I don’t mean for any of this to sound boastful. Trust me, if the teacher had been calling out math facts (or anything else math related!), I would have been the one searching my memory for the answer.
Once I began my own teaching career I understood why the teacher had taken so much time with each of those words. I had to do the same thing because of the spectrum of ability levels in my classroom. But as a third grader my only memory is one of “I already spelled the word and you’re still on it. Why can’t I read my book till you actually go on to the next word?”
But that wasn’t the way it worked and I was reprimanded for having my book out during the test. It didn’t make sense to me then and that’s probably where my interest in working with upper level kids stems from.
So for 32 years, both as a classroom teacher and an administrator, I had a love for, and a burning interest in gifted kids and programs for them. I even went back to school to get a PhD with a minor in gifted education – so strong was my interest (but then life intervened, but that’s another story and another post).
So those books represent both an interest and a dream. And we all know that it’s hard to let go of a dream.
However, the dream went largely unfulfilled. I was a GT teacher for several years and thoroughly enjoyed my work. But as a school administrator my dream job never quite materialized and my energies were more scattered than I’d have liked at times. I always held out hope that I’d be able to narrow my focus at some point and truly put my time where my heart was.
It never happened.
Now I’m at the point where I need to let some things go. It’s a sad fact of life that we cannot hold on to everything from our past.
Letting dreams go isn’t as easy as people think
We were taking my daughter down to the metroplex area and had some other books to take to Half-Price Books to sell (I love this store!). I felt like it might be time to let go of some of the GT books that were just boxed up and taking up precious space. But when I pulled out the first box, I was overcome with a sadness that’s hard to explain.
How does one let go of a dream? At what point do you tell yourself, “I’ll never do this,” and walk away? I obviously still haven’t figured it out because I was not able to let all of the books go.
I’m still able to come up with reasons why I might need some of those books one day.
- I might write about gifted kids on my blog
- I still might want to do some consulting for gifted programs one day
- I might need those reference materials at some point
- They’re not taking up that much space
- I have a lot of money invested in those books and I won’t get much to sell them
Looking at the list, it looks just like the reasons I’ve heard other people refuse to let go of their own clutter. And I guess if I’m brutally honest with myself, these books do fall into the clutter category. After all, I’m not using them and the odds are slim that I ever will.
So why am I having such a hard time letting go? Why does it feel like a piece of my heart is dying as I cull through them? They’re only books – but they represent a major part of my professional life. And one that was never fully realized in the manner that I’d have liked.
It’s hard to admit that a part of your life is over and that it didn’t turn out quite the way you wanted. But all of us will most likely reach a point in our lives when we examine the things that didn’t turn out like we’d hoped. Disappointment comes in many forms: relationship regrets, career lows, financial hardships, health worries, or simply the passage of time and the loss that comes from growing older. No one walks a completely golden path no matter how it may look to outsiders.
While I make no claim about having the answers – and goodness knows I’ve wrestled with the questions – I think letting go of a dream means accepting that you did the best you could, when you could, wherever you could. That probably has to be enough.