Closing Time

Because moving on is part of moving forward.

Today was quite the day, you guys.


It was my last official day as an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor for Niangua R-V High School. {And before you say anything like “shouldn’t you already be off for the summer and toes-deep in the sand on some beach somewhere sippin’ a pina colada?” please note that ag teachers are on a 12 month contract from July to June, which basically means we are running on auto-pilot 24/7, 365 days a year. We also drink our coffee very very very very black, eat drive-thru’s on the daily, and have mastered the art of sleeping with our eyes open. True story. }

So June is already here and gone. This morning I took my last hour-long drive through all those hills, curves, and miles of countryside that I’ve come to know by heart – as they have carried me in their arms this entire year, pumping me up for my mornings and winding me down at the end of another long day. I threw away the last poster from my wall, peeled sticky tack off my bulletin boards, and cleaned the rest of my highlighters and sticky notes and bobby pins and scented Germ-X out of my desk. I loaded boxes and boxes of all my lesson plans, family pictures, Hobby Lobby decorations, plaques, and my old FFA jacket in the back of my car. I unplugged my coffee pot and emptied the mini fridge that hid my jug of sweet tea when I needed an afternoon caffeine boost and all my chocolate for when I needed that little sugar rush while staying late grading papers. I hugged some co-workers goodbye…and may have also left sappy notes in their mailboxes.

{ Yeah buddy, I’m THAT girl. }

I watered the greenhouse and swept my shop floor one final time. I turned in my keys for the new teacher coming along and took my name tag off my door. And I sat one more time in my squeaky chair and stared at all those empty desks that not too long ago were full of the students that became “my kids” this past year.

Right here in this little room that was home for so many of us who desperately needed it.

We did a lot of learning and growing in this tiny classroom. We lived, we loved, and we laughed.

Also, we killed LOTSSSS of spiders.

We had heart-to-hearts before the morning tardy bell sounded and deep life discussions before the last bell of the day rang. A lot of “your mom” jokes were fired {okay, so I’m not the most “politically correct” teacher there ever was…} and many General’s Orders for saying cuss words out loud were written. In this room I prayed in desperation, cursed in frustration, cried in defeat, smiled in proudness, and celebrated in triumph. In this room I sat in this very chair one year ago as a first year teacher – so fragile, like a paper airplane in a hurricane – thinking there was no way I’d survive it all.

But, here I am, still soaring.

Last year’s beginning is already today’s end…and I really can’t believe it.

And I won’t lie…I’m a little unsteady about what’s coming next for me as my identity will soon completely change from a high school ag teacher to a middle school math and science teacher.

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However, as this bittersweet conclusion to a beautiful journey I’ve experienced this past year has officially drawn to an end, I know it’s now the start of a new and exciting chapter in my life story. And for that, I am happy.

I am really, genuinely happy.

In a month I will hang different posters in my new classroom and decorate new bulletin boards. My pictures and plaques and little personal touches will be unboxed again, a million new nail holes will plaster the walls, and new students will soon come rushing through my door. My Pinterest Lesson Plan board will slowly evolve from “parts of a cow” and “welding tips” to all things osmosis, phases of the moon, solving inequalities, and the Pythagorean Theorem. I will exchange all those red staff polos and Cardinal’s T-Shirts in the back of my closet with purple and gold ones that say “Hermitage Hornets” on them. I will make new memories, befriend new co-workers, experience new challenges, and achieve new and greater heights.

And above all I will keep learning and growing and loving all those kiddos on my new class roster, even if I do roast them with a “your mom” joke from time to time.

{Don’t worry, I DO know when there’s a time and place for it…** insert eye roll here**}

I know good things are ahead for this girl, although some amazing memories and that old weathered “Welcome to Niangua” sign will soon be in my rear-view for good. 

It’s hard, but it’s time.

It’s time to roll the windows down, crank those speakers, and let my hair fly in the breeze as I press on down this new road, because after all; moving on is part of moving forward.

And what a coincidence that the song jamming on my playlist this very moment by one of my all-time favorite 90’s bands just happens to be the perfect summary for it all.

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So, what more is there really left to say?

Except…

On to the next adventure.

 

Oh yeah, and I also need gas…

 

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Tough Decisions

“Dear Mr. Bransfield…”


There I sat, blankly staring at my computer screen in my classroom with sweaty palms, trembling hands, and a heavy heart that felt like it was going to beat itself right out of my chest no matter how hard I desperately tried to hold on and told myself to just breathe.

In a matter of minutes I would be printing that letter and sealing the envelope – no, my fate – to the profession I loved so dearly and worked so hard for since I graduated high school five years ago.

I was about to officially resign my position as the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Niangua High School for the next school year.

And the scarier thing? I didn’t have a clue what my next move was going to be.

For weeks my husband and I talked about this after he received an amazing and unexpected job opportunity for a new line engineering position in his company that would allow us to move back home to our family and the farm over an hour away, which we’ve always wanted from Day One. As new and exciting as we knew this journey would be, it required both of us giving up the current jobs we loved and excelled at to take a new path in a new place that was well out of our comfort zones. For me it was even harder, as no other ag teaching positions were open in the area we were moving to and I didn’t know what I was going to do for income the next year.

Now if you don’t know much about Cross Timbers, Missouri, I will simply tell you this. I absolutely love love love living in this little corner of the world. However, finding good job opportunities here is hard to come by and often times requires about a 45- 60 mile commute no matter which direction you go. Welcome to Small Town, USA! (And don’t even ask what happens when you run out of milk or toilet paper…)

So, yeah. To say I was a bit stressed out is the understatement of the year.

Do I quit? Do I tough it out and stay at Niangua and drive almost an hour and a half every day one-way? Live with my grandparents in the town next to where I worked or buy a small apartment to live in just for the week? Become self-employed and pick up my photography business again? Substitute teach? Go back for my Master’s Degree? Do we start a family and I just stay at home for a while? Can we even afford that right now?

Wait, wait, I’ve got it. I’m going to make my break and audition for The Voice. Problem solved.

Or at least it would be if I could sing.…

Dang. **Back to the drawing board**

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People would stop me out and about and ask me all the time what I was going to do when they heard the news about us leaving and starting this new journey. I would just fake a smile and tell them I wasn’t sure, but was trusting it would all work out. I replied kindly and tried to hold it together, but in all honesty I just wanted to curl up in a ball on the ground and cry…because as much as I knew people meant well by asking me all these daunting questions about my future, their words also felt like daggers ripping through my chest.

Because the truth was I was completely clueless.

For weeks it was endless days and nights of deliberating at the kitchen table over dinner. Weighing pros and cons in the car on our way to the grocery store. Thought-crunching in the shower. Praying and asking God for any ounce of enlightenment while updating my resume and desperately stalking the moteachingjobs website. Dancing around like fools in our living room as we were celebrating the fact that we were packing boxes for the LAST time to move into our forever home. Holding each other and crying together in bed wondering if we made the right decision when the reality of it all finally hit and we both said our goodbyes to the co-workers that became friends and students that became the kids that weren’t ours but we claimed as our own anyways.

Yeah, it was hard, I’ll be completely real with you. And I’m pretty sure we kept the Kleenex company in business during those long weeks as I boxed up my classroom and he cleaned out his work truck and we took this giant leap of faith into The Unknown.

I’m not even sure Siri could define the perfect word for how we were feeling about this situation without having some sort of technical/robotic/psychotic breakdown trying to sort out all our thoughts and feelings.

We were no doubt riding front seat on the emotional roller coaster of Adulting and Life. Hands in the air, screaming at the top of our lungs, full-speed through all the loops and drops and turns that lay outstretched before us.

Which is kind of ridiculous considering that leaving is definitely not out of the ordinary for us. I mean, we have packed up our life and moved for our jobs literally every year since we got married three years ago, so we’re basically experts. Seriously, I should have some sort of professional certificate in cleaning rent houses, painting walls, and patching drywall. (Ugh, WHYYYY do I even bother using a hammer and a nail when we are going to just leave again in nine months and I’ll have to take it all down again…)

And as for packing boxes onto trailers and using ratchet straps? Let’s just say U-Haul ain’t got nothing on this homegirl…

#NeverUnderestimateAWomanWithDuctTapeAndASharpie #AlsoAddProfessionalWineDrinkingAndFrozenPizzaEatingToMyResume

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This is nothing new. We’ll be fine. We’ve quit many jobs before and have moved a million times, and it’s always worked out, we kept telling ourselves. But somehow…it was different this time. We both felt an uneasiness about not knowing what would happen next for me and what that would mean for our upcoming finances with investing in a farm and renovating a new house. But, we tried to write it off as much as possible and just keep riding on faith and gas station energy drinks.

That’s when I got the message.

Remember when I listed off all those things I considered doing with my life this next year? How ironic it is that the one thing I never considered would be the next opportunity to come knocking on my door, or in this case, popping up in my inbox?

A good friend of mine who I’ve always loved and respected as a professional in the education field informed me of an opening at her school district for a middle school math and science position that still remained unfilled for the upcoming school year, which I was very apprehensive about at first. She explained how they needed someone passionate and energetic to step up to the plate and kindly encouraged me that she felt like I would be a great fit for the job, even though it wasn’t a content area I was used to teaching and would require quite a bit of a learning curve on my end.

“Would you have any interest in applying at all? I would love to talk with you about the options!”

I about fell out of my chair.

Options?

Here I was, feeling all bitter and defeated that I was giving up a job that I really enjoyed with students I really loved to just sit at home for a year until another agriculture teaching position came open close to home – whenever and IF ever that may be. Don’t get me wrong, I completely supported my husband and was thrilled for his new adventure, but couldn’t help but feel slightly envious deep down that I didn’t have an exciting opportunity lined up to help fill the void of missing my old job and no longer contributing substantially to our income. I had given up all hope and accepted the reality that I would just have to leave the profession of teaching for a while and make my living by some other means. Then suddenly I have…options??? Options that were only FIFTEEN minutes from my doorstep for that matter???

Could I really do that? Teach something….new? Different? Hmmm…

The next day I received a phone call from another school district with similar news, asking me to consider applying for another possible job opportunity as a high school special education co-teacher.

More options? Sweet Jesus, it’s like Christmas!

So once again, my husband and I found ourselves carefully weighing the pros and cons of each position, just like all those nights before when we deliberated about whether or not he should consider his new job offer. It seemed like yet another impossible decision, as both were such great and unexpected opportunities that each came with their own set of challenges. No matter which way I went, I knew was going to have to face change.

And change is, well, scary.

Needless to say, after two interviews, one LOOOONNNNNGGGGG weekend, many sleepless nights, several phone calls to friends and family, and a rather detailed pros and cons chart later (yeah, yeah…I’m a nerd, don’t laugh…) I decided to trust my gut feeling and accept the middle school science/math position.

Now, I tell you all this not to ramble on for over 2,000 words and waste five minutes of your life reading about two complete strangers and how they’re practically driving the struggle bus off the nearest cliff. (Yes, I’ve been told I’m a bit dramatic…)

I tell it because in the aftermath of it all – through all the tears, heartbreak, excitement, and fear of the great unknown –  there were lessons learned. Lessons worth sharing because my guess is like us, YOU too have experienced your fair share of tough decisions in your own life. And if you haven’t yet? Well saddle up and get ready, because your wild ride is sure to come around someday!

So, basically there are four morals to this story worth talking about. And I’m not the most eloquent or profound writer ever, so I’ll just borrow a few quotes from the pros to summarize my general thoughts.

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#1 ~ There will come a time when you think everything is finished. That will just be the beginning. – Louis L’Amour.

I won’t lie. It got pretty dark for me there for a while after I turned my letter of resignation in. I felt like I had just signed my death sentence. I knew it was all a blessing in disguise and we were making the best decision for our future by making this big change, but I thought it was all over for me because I didn’t have a job lined up at the end of my contract with Niangua. I was really going to miss my students, the community, and all my work friends. More importantly I was going to miss the sense of belonging I had by impacting students lives every day – so much that it broke my heart and I balled like a baby every day on my way to and from work. I felt like I somehow failed when I walked away from it all, even though I obviously couldn’t control the fact that there wasn’t another job opportunity waiting for me when we moved.

But you know what?

Opportunity found its own way to me in God’s perfect timing. And the end of that chapter is just the turning of a new page for what’s coming next in my story.

I can feel it.

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#2 ~ Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. – Meister Eckhart

When my husband and I decided to make the big switch with both of our careers, we realized how overwhelmed and under-qualified we probably were, but we didn’t let that stop us from taking the risk anyway. We knew were both about to become something that we weren’t, something that we never had experience in being, and something that we would both have to work our absolute hardest to become if we were going to do it right.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are both still VERY nervous, but somehow we both know it’s going to be okay. We are willing to learn from mistakes we make today so we can be better tomorrow.

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#3 ~ The weaker we feel, the harder we lean on others. The harder we lean on others, the more we grow. – JJ Packer

Stop it.

Stop thinking that your problems are yours to face alone.

Stop  thinking that you can’t ask for help, because it’s a sign of weakness.

Stop thinking that just because you’re an adult in the real world you have to make all the big decisions yourself, because after all it is YOUR life.

Stop feeling guilty about expressing your fears and worries to others because their problems are way more complicated than your own.

Just stop.

We would have never been able to reach a rational decision that we felt good about if it wasn’t for the outpouring love, support, advice, and prayers from our loved ones and co-workers. We thankfully didn’t have to do it alone – and neither do you!

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#4 ~ The only way to know you’re making the right decision is to trust that you are. (Okay, so I really did come up with that one on my own. Go me!)

The moments leading up to calling both schools to tell them my decision were stressful, I won’t lie. I had spent so much time carefully considering all my options to make the decision that I felt was the best for me. But when I did finally decide? Suddenly I had peace of mind. It was like the fog was lifted, the void in my heart filled, and I learned how to trust fate and be bold again. I made a decision – arguably one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had to make – and actually felt extremely confident and excited about it afterwards.

Why?

Because deep down I trusted my heart, which is ultimately always the right call.

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So as for an update on our current situation, we are both learning to simply be content right where we are in our life. We are taking this new adventure by the horns, one day at a time. We are accepting the fact that every time God closes one door in our lives, He is showing us the way to a new one that will soon be open for us to walk through. We are both learning and growing in our new professions and are excited to see where they will lead us in all our future endeavors. We realize that more challenges are ahead and more even complicated decisions are inevitably going to come our way.

That’s just life.

But no matter what happens next, we know at the end of every day we are learning and growing – together. For that, we are blessed. For that, we are thankful. For that, we are leaving it all in the hands of the Man Upstairs, because after all He’s never done us wrong before.

And for that, we are sure to conquer all the tough decisions life will throw our way for years to come.

 

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