Yeah, it’s been a long time.
I didn’t mean to stop writing – not officially anyway – it just happened. I wrote my last entry, and then didn’t feel like doing it anymore. I wasn’t tired of writing, I wasn’t bored with it, I just didn’t want to do it. And I knew if I didn’t want to do it, it wouldn’t be worth reading – if anything I do is ever worth reading.
So I stopped.
About the same time, two of the other blogs – this one and this one – I read whenever they were published were shutting down.
I thought about starting up again, but every time I was going to sit down and write, I did something else. I watched hockey, I went for walks, I tried to read, I drank and played darts, but mostly I slept whenever I could.
Heading into the spring, I got sick of reading articles in the paper about my profession, and about how my colleagues and I were lazy, overpaid, greedy, irresponsible people hell-bent on bankrupting the province with our ludicrous demands.
Of course, I see things a slightly different way.
But whenever I sat in front of the screen, I found myself drifting to news sites smearing us with half-truths and outright lies.
And then I went on strike for three and a half weeks.
The strike was fine. People bound together, the comradery was good, and we walked the line – usually in the baking sun, and thankfully only a few times in the spring rain – determined to improve our working conditions and the learning conditions of our students.
The school boards had other ideas, however, and they took us to the Ontario Labour Relations Board. The OLRB decided our strike was unlawful – not illegal, but unlawful – and sent us back to work for two weeks so that we could ensure that our strike met the conditions they decided it needed to meet in order for us to continue.
In the meantime, the government decided enough was enough and legislated us back to work. They declared that “the school year was in jeopardy”, which proved to be a complete fabrication because in the weeks that followed, the school boards cancelled exams, cancelled major projects, and determined that there was to be very little learning – and hardly any meaningful assessment of anything substantial – in the remaining weeks of the semester.
This was hardly surprising, to be truthful – nothing in education is anymore – but it was hard to accept. I didn’t have a lot of drive for most of the rest of the school year, and I could feel morale plummeting in many corners of the building.
I’ve never lacked work ethic, but I found it incredibly hard to summon during the last four weeks.
In what I’m sure isn’t a completely unrelated coincidence, six of my colleagues retired at the end of this year. I’ve worked with five of them for thirteen years. I liked all of them for different reasons. I was close to most of them, and three are friends.
One is also a neighbour – a very good thing in a case like this – but I’m still troubled by the thought of him not being in the building next year.
Yesterday was the last day of work, and at the end of the day – after the luncheon, the retirement festivities, the speeches, the cake eating, the have a good summers, the drinks – I felt an emptiness I haven’t felt for a long time.
Like a zombie, or a husk, or a shell – pick any simile you want, I won’t find the right one anyway – and, despite the help of several carefully selected fine beers, and good company, I didn’t feel any better as the night went on.
I tried, but it just wasn’t happening.
I wasn’t physically tired.
I was completely emotionally drained.
In addition to the six retirees leaving the profession, two of the people in my office were unable to secure work with us for the fall, and another one chose to pursue a different job at a different school – and I’ll miss them too.
Two of my friends at work are extending their extended leaves for another year, and I’m not sure if they’re ever coming back – but I don’t blame them. They’re onto other things now, and they’re able to do them now. Good for them.
I’m trying not to dwell on the eleven people I won’t see at work next year, and I’m also trying not to think about the two or three others that will leave next year.
So here I am.
600 words in and half a glass – half-empty – of just-purchased single malt Highland Scotch later.
I’m hoping if I put this all down that there’ll be some sort of cathartic effect, and maybe there will be.
The school year will start up again in September as it always does, but this time there’ll be more job actions, another strike, and/or a shitty legislated contract – all of those things are weighing on my mind too.
It’s one thing to end a year that way, but it’s an entirely different thing to begin one with bile and blame and bitterness.
So what to do?
I work with great people. I’m lucky. I like most of them. There are fewer of them now, and I’m trying to convince myself to focus on the bright side. I do something I still enjoy a great deal – somehow, despite all of the increasingly nonsensical enraging bullshit that comes with the territory – and I usually have fun doing it.
Or at least I try to.
But there’s something about the old guard leaving that really bothers me.
I’ve written about this before.
This year definitely hit harder than most. The retirements of so many excellent people, the unpreventable departures of a few more, and the unsettling unrest created by the government and the school boards – all of these things have taken a lot out of me.
I’m trying not to complain. I know I do a lot of that around here. I’m just staring it all in the face.
There’s two months of summer in front of me.
I know there’ll be a lot of good things to enjoy in the coming weeks.
I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and friends doing fun things.
I’m looking forward to reading, and I hope I’ll look forward to writing.
There’s a medicinal quality in all of that.
As for the future of one page (almost) every day, I think it too may be retired.
I don’t think I’ll be writing one page (almost) every day, and I’ll feel like a fraud for trying to maintain that falsehood, so I’ve been thinking about starting up something new.
But nothing’s certain at this point.
Thanks for reading and listening.