Today was the last day of school at Anytown High. This was my tenth last day of school, and the last one I will ever have at this job. Usually, by this point in the year I'm aching so hard for this day that every minute of it feels significant. This year, my mind is so taken up with other things that I didn't even remember it was the last week of school until I was on my way in on Monday morning. Today felt almost like any other day (apart from the deafening volume of teenagers who can't wait to get out).
It was a busy day, and as sometimes happens with significant moments, it went by mostly without thought. I did have a twinge while I was cleaning out old student files for shredding and remembering relationships with students who have been important to me. That happens every year, but it felt especially poignant this year because I won't see any of them again. Usually graduates will come back and say hello when they visit on holidays, but I'll be gone by that time next year. My final goodbyes to graduating students I've loved this year were offhand and quick - have a wonderful summer, good luck at college, let us know how you're doing.
My usual routine is to work 3-5 extra days after school gets out, tying up loose ends and doing whatever projects I haven't had time for during the year. I always do this immediately to get it over with so I can forget about social work and tears and anxiety and stress and spend the following nine weeks immersed in my business and personal life. This year, my boss is experiencing some separation anxiety because he knows I'm leaving at the end of September. He asked me to come in one day a week for the next few weeks instead of doing it all at once, and I agreed without even thinking about it. The stress of the job has lifted, knowing that it's almost over. I won't mind going in over the summer, and they won't be full days. Plus, that means I'll work next Monday on a project of my own and then I'll be free already on Tuesday.
That doesn't really sound momentous, but it's a huge difference from past years for me. It means I'm already gone in spirit, and the toll that this work takes has started to lift. This job has been good for me, and I'm very good at doing it. I took it because it was offered and I needed work, but it's been a good fit and I've learned a lot. It's taken a massive toll on me as well. I work inside a concrete box, with no windows and no fresh air unless I go out for a walk (which I try to do at least once a day if I can). That's contrary to everything in me. I need light. I need air. I need to know what the weather is doing. I've heard more terrible stories than I can possibly enumerate, both first hand from students and second-hand from therapists who needed to unload them. I am stop number one for therapists who need to unload what they hear. In the past ten years, I've lived through student suicides, accidental deaths, one appalling murder, overdoses, family violence, stories of incest and abuse, the deaths and professional downfalls of colleagues, and the suicide of a friend and member of my department. I'm fucking tired.
It felt strange to arrive at the end of the work day without some kind of fanfare, but it was a good day. A normal day, which seems like a fitting way, after all, to mark the occasion. I backed up my files. I pulled all the materials that need to be shredded. I answered email and voicemail and made a list of what needs to happen on Monday, and what needs to happen in August when I come back to the office. I hugged my coworkers and wished them a good summer. I walked out the door and went home to what I think of as my real life, the one that's moving on to something new.