Taking it All In

It was the last day of school one year when I was in elementary school. I remember walking around the party in the auditorium feeling lonely and disoriented, like something was coming to an end but I didn’t know what it meant, or how to say goodbye.

So often when we experience endings in our lives and careers — the end of a job, an internship, a degree program, a chapter in a particular place — we gloss over it, charge forward, and try to keep the feelings of loss and nostalgia at bay.

But this can result in disorientation and isolation. What’s the alternative?

I think it’s about being present in our moments of transition. Really acknowledging and recognizing what is going away and what is changing. (William Bridges recommends this in his book Transitions.)

And grieving for it. Though grief isn’t fun, it does connect us with our hearts. Without love and attachment, there wouldn’t be grief.

Last week, looking around my son’s pre-K classroom, I was visited by these feelings. Here’s a poem I wrote, which helped me be fully present to that moment:

End of the School Year 

Poems recited,
Butterflies released.
What else is left? 

The carnival,
And cleaning up.  

Cleaning up
The tree collages,
The ocean scene,
The chore chart.

Sending home the journals,
The family photos,
The play plans.

Putting away books,
And marble tracks for next year.

Next year, when the big kids go to
Where they’ll learn to read
Y hacer matematicas,

And once in a while,
Remember things from last year:

The egg drop,
When they built the airplane,
Made paper,
Watched the caterpillars grow,
And set the butterflies free.

Sarah Beller