Teaching is the closest to a mystical experience I have ever had because it is an emptying out of self. You stand in front of a group of people every day and you speak to them, and try to get them to speak to you.
And then sometimes they send you their work, and it evolves so quickly it is like watching a time lapse in text form.
You listen to the deepest sorrows that are riven through their very being, and you watch it come to life in their artwork and it makes you weep, in public, without being able to stop yourself, because they are beautiful.
When it works, you help them to create things they would never have had the opportunity had you not asked them to. And more parts of them are revealed to you, each other, and even themselves. You radiate with such great pride that you show their work to everyone who will listen.
But then it doesn’t work, and you walk through your day trailing unravelling threads that catch on everything. The tinnitus accompanies the minutes until you can spend a day with your own thoughts, although even then, their voices and jokes are like phantom presences.
It is exhilarating and exhausting. I feel hollowed out: finally the paradoxical negation and simultaneous finding of self I always read about.
After three years, I am leaving teaching. There are myriad reasons, but one of them is because I want to choose, carefully and individually, the things that will fulfill rather than hollow. I certainly have the room now.
Teaching taught me that I am not who I told myself I was. Truly becoming myself is both harder and better than that narrative. I am a teacher, and that will always be in some part of me, but I am also a writer, a musician, an academic, a lover, a friend, a mentor, a sister, a daughter, and a moving, aging, agile body in space who seeks, like my students, the Great Perhaps.