Have you ever just said, “Fuck this, I’m out,” and really done it?  How often have you looked back at a relationship gone bad, a thankless, draining job, or a parasitic friendship and asked yourself, “Why did I stay so long?” 

Welcome to 2024, the year I embraced being a quitter. For over 17 years, I taught high school English. For the last six months of that career, I taught high school math … with less success. I had a good career. It was hard work, but I was dedicated. 

I taught with love, and I love what I taught. I saw each young mind in front of me as an individual world. I found an insulated place to store my ego while I kept my heart wide open. I watched students walk away, sometimes at graduation, sometimes sooner. I welcomed news of students moving on to Ivy League schools or new countries or the simple life they wanted. I celebrated the students who finally found their tribe after years of feeling alone in high school. I treasured the moments when they returned just to say, “Thank you.”

Sometimes the news was grim. I would hear that the kid who struggled for years died of an overdose, drowned in a river, had their fragile body destroyed in a car accident, got arrested for dealing drugs, or had their partner arrested for domestic violence. I let myself feel those wounds and accepted my limitations. That is part of the wisdom of keeping your heart on your sleeve and your ego in a box. I knew that my role was limited – the world would continue to happen as it would, and kids would continue to make their own choices. As much as I cared about each one, I let them go when they walked out the door. To care is vulnerability.

I left work each day knowing that I had added more to the world than I had taken away. It felt good, but it also felt draining. Increasingly, it felt like a one-sided relationship. The background noise, the disdain for teachers, and the general devaluation of education grew louder. Occasionally, I would hear these attitudes from my students. That stung. 

One bad day, I decided that this part of my life was done. I could cling to a few more years, and retire like a responsible adult, or I could just walk away and start something new. I walked away. It is not easy for those of us in the caring professions to embrace selfishness, but I did it, and I am excited to see where “Act III” will take me. I am at a point in life where I have the privilege of choices – this leaves me humbly thankful. 

Too often, we forget that we are not just what we do, even if what we do is honorable. Life is fleeting and uncertain. Too fleeting and uncertain to subsume ourselves to external identities. Too short to skip opportunities to grow and change. So, welcome to 2024, the year I remember that I am not what I do, that I am a growing, changing human, the year I humbly, and happily say, “Fuck this, I’m out of here.”

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