Nostalgia, Not Regression

There is a subtle yet distinct difference between appreciating the past and regressing back into who we were then.

The colleagues I worked with for the past several years are back at school, preparing their respective classrooms for that timeless yet momentous occasion (that somehow always goes by in a dizzying blur): the first day of school.

For years, I loved working with students but also felt a yearning to work with students in a different capacity. When the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed my personal career brass ring and started working for a non-profit literacy agency. To say that my experience is both enjoyable and rewarding is an understatement. Each morning, I feel like I’m waking up to some career fairytale, singing like one of the 7 Dwarfs “Hi, ho, hi, ho, it’s off to work we go…”

And yet, I miss my colleagues and friends at school. I miss seeing their smiling faces as we share the unspoken adrenaline of preparing for another school year. I miss the smell of books, the various personalities that make their way through our classroom doors, the camaraderie of teachers.

So how can I miss something that I yearned to leave?

According to life coach and author, Martha Beck (THE WAY OF INTEGRITY), sensing or experiencing an “impending transformation brings on a spasm of nostalgia for the life…known so far.”

There’s a reason we call it growing pains! The prefix TRANS (transition) literally means across or beyond. To go beyond something can shake us up, ejecting us from our comfort zones. It’s why the smoker who finds the willpower to give up cigarettes, while proud of their success, can also experience sadness, knowing they can’t share a smoke with their friends anymore. It’s why the victim of abuse who leaves their abuser is finally free but craves the familiar cycle of violence.

It’s why I can revel in pursuing my career but still wax nostalgic and sad about missing the first day of school.

“If you start honoring your true nature and find yourself missing your old culture, don’t panic. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time and space…” (Martha Beck)

I haven’t outgrown the classroom, but I did outgrow my role as public school teacher. I can appreciate the nostalgia that comes with time away from the classroom, but I don’t want to return there just because it’s familiar.

When we embrace our transitions, honoring how we feel along the way, a world of possibility arrives. And that’s where the real magic happens.

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