I walked into a colleague’s classroom on Wednesday and was met with tears on cheeks, kleenex in hands, and sentimental music playing in the background. She was sad. The students were sad. And I started to feel sad.
A family member recently asked if it is difficult saying good bye to students at the end of the year, especially seniors. My answer? Absolutely, and truth be told, some more than others. But, more than being sad, I am happy. Happy for them to move out of this place and into their own skin, to find their place in the world.
I remember the last day of my senior year well: I brought a new pack of stationery to the yearbook room before school, and scribbled notes dripping in gratitude, appreciation, and, yes, lots of sappiness. Those notes helped me with the transition of change as did the newsletter I created of contact information of peers in a pre-facebook era. I tried to find distraction from the truth that life would not be lived in the same way again. The routines, rituals, and the faces of everyday would be altered indefinitely.
What I did not know then was that in the sadness of change, we grow. And in growth, we find joy. My ultimate hope for my students facing this transition is that they never remain stagnant:
When they must choose between the familiar and unknown, may fear not get in the way.
When they experience guilt, may they let it go.
When they find love, may they hold onto it.
When they discover a passion, may they do whatever it takes to nurture it.
And may they continuously pursue joy, for others, but mostly for themselves.
My own joy at school this year has come from my students, and so it is with a heavy heart, that I say good bye to them…more happy than sad during this beautiful transition. May it be just one of many to come.
And here is the end of one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems, “O Me! O Life!”, that I read to my seniors yesterday: