It is December. I am not in the Dutch Caribbean, there will be no returning there.
I couldn’t be more ok with this fact.
And so, I made the road by walking, and, in confidence, and unlike other ventures, this one lead us back home sooner than expected. And there is not the ever so slightest crumb of remorse or regret. Each decision was made with deliberation, with weighing and carefully considering all the real and potential; the red flags, the “wow, that would be cool,” bonuses and the reality of what I woke and did every day, and how that would play out in the long run.
Most proud, I am, that I had the courage to make the hard choice of saying no to what I could see was a SNAFU situation. In the past, I have not had that courage, and I have endured the unacceptable, I have persevered through that which left me forever different, but maybe not in the way that was best. I could tell stories of harassment, toxic workplaces, unwanted advances and watching co-workers day-trade, sell and take drugs or steal on the job… and let it roll off (as best as I could). It’s not even hard to think of ridiculous circumstances I have tolerated. But this time, I said “No.”, and it was the right thing to do.
Behind me are some wonderful people I met there, ones who saw what I walked into, ones who sussed my character and motivations, ones who knew the backstory and every day expressed concern. Co-workers who wondered out loud what the decision-makers could have been thinking, who inquired if I was okay, who asked how it could ever work out and expressed concern for my handling of the case before me. When I departed I was hugged and kissed and delivered to the airport with grief, understanding and mutual admiration.
Was there a failure of creative problem solving? Yes, but not on my part. Was there massaged truths and misrepresented circumstances? Yes, and they were of the variety I have handled before. Was there dear little children and families in the balance? Yes, and they may be better off with the light shone on the mess after my departure. Was I brought in to be a savior to a situation that I had no impact to change? Yes. A situation of questionable management? Yes. Were there good actors, hard workers and amazing families? So much yes.
My motivation for the trip was professional. My reason for leaving was also professional. We had settled in with a lovely apartment, a pool, a car, begun the school year and for over a month, daily ended the day with an unrelenting stress having to do with a situation I did all I could to insure against, and ultimately curtail and turn around. Were it only me on the trip, I would have very possibly kept at it, but with my children in tow, it had turned into the very situation I had most wanted to avoid because I recognized it to be beyond my place to change.
Teaching overseas will always bring challenge, it is part of the immediate excitement, particularly in the initial stages. Sometimes, part of the challenge is being dropped into a role that simply no one else will do, either because it is futile or for a whole host of other reasons. I have taken those roles previously, and endured. My two year teaching stint in Russia was precisely this way, and while I may have daydreamed of other options, my feet were firmly planted and I wasn’t going anywhere. Same in China, where I was asked to require more of the students I was given than any 7th grader should be asked. I lost a bunch of weight, worked my behind off and got it done. But now, mid-career-almost 20 years of teaching under my belt, with children coming along with me, to pretend there weren’t considerations beyond myself would be obtuse.
I hear “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but families who follow into those situations causes one to question the old adage and how far its wisdom can go. There may be unspoken judgements ascribing insufficiency to my capacity or character, but I know otherwise. I am proud to have been courageous enough to evaluate the benefits and costs of persevering in the circumstance that I had been cornered into, and I am grateful that my partner stood behind me when I said “Not under these circumstances,”