Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trying Not to Listen

Unsplash via Pixabay
I overhear a lot of things at Starbucks. I don't try to eavesdrop, but when I'm sitting and writing, random -- and not-so-random -- snippets of conversation filter in, distracting me from the task at hand and, instead, pulling me into someone else's life.

And sometimes I hear things I shouldn't.

Today, for example, a case manager -- a behavioral specialist, most likely -- is having a meeting with a mother and son about his behavior plan at the table adjacent to mine. After nearly three decades as a school counselor, I'm a bit uncomfortable with access to this information, but everyone at the next table seems totally unperturbed. If I were the parent or the child, I'd insist that this be taken elsewhere. If I were the professional, I can't believe I wouldn't see this as a breach of confidentiality.

But, this post isn't about what I should or shouldn't be hearing. It's about what I miss, and what I don't.

Next month marks five years since I crafted the letter of resignation that took me from employed as a school counselor to retired from public education. I made a lot of friends over the years -- colleagues, parents and students alike. I love staying connected to these folks, whether it's via a coffee date at Starbucks, other intentional social opportunities or a chance encounter (often at Starbucks). And, although I keep in touch with many of these folks via social media, I miss the day-to-day, face-to-face connections that were an integral part of the job.

But there are a lot of things I don't miss. I don't miss behavior plans and faculty meetings and paperwork. I don't miss driving from building to building, lugging a crate in the rain or waiting to see if we'd be released as the snow fell outside.

I don't miss emergency drills. Or assemblies. Or in-service days.

I don't miss teaching, either, but that's because I've found a new way to fill that void. Teaching young adults is quite different from teaching elementary school students, but once I found a way to channel my inner elementary school counselor into my dealings with my college students, I began to feel at home in my new endeavor.

It's been four and a half years since the retirement that didn't take. I'm teaching more, and counseling less. Writing more and parenting less. Finding the core of who I am and acting on my goals and passions in a way I never expected in the middle of my life (God willing), and finding that new horizons are everywhere, if I just open my eyes and remember to look up.

And when I hear conversations like the one at the next table, I'm grateful that there are some things I won't ever have to do again.

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