So, I had a lot of thoughts swirling around before I started this blog. The first was how this all started…
I think I need to let you all know how I have come to the decision to leave the profession. It’s a combination of things. Lots of people said that 2016 was a bad year. It’s been nothing on 2017 personally. The year started as most do. And then my partner had a phone call from a theatre friend (I’ve been a part of an amateur theatre group since before my mum died in 2005). He answered the phone. It was January 2nd 2017. It was a bank holiday. He answered the phone. I saw his face change. He said the words ‘Rob Broadhurst?’. He questioned it. He finished the conversation. He said “Rob Broadhurst is dead”. It was around 8pm. He had been packing to go to work. He dropped the phone on the floor. I went numb. I’ve experienced the death of a friend, taken too soon, before. My friend Yvonne died from an epileptic fit at 27. It was weeks after my Mum died. It was a tough time. We went though the motions of the day… he packed, rang Rob’s theatre friend to tell him. The conversation stopped abruptly. I asked what happened. “He broke down” said my partner. In the morning we went to work. On our respective drives we both later said that at some point during that drive that morning we both broke down.
One morning, not long after, the theme song to ‘Alfie’ was played as I arrived to work. I struggled to get in to work. Tears were stinging my eyes. I had to turn the radio off and have a moment. Rob and I had known each other since he was a teenager in our youth theatre. I didn’t know him that well, until we did the play ‘Alfie’ together. I was 36. He was 18. And we had to kiss! It was hilarious. He made it very easy from day one, and we kissed every rehearsal to make it a very normal thing that we just did. We joked that I was old enough to be his mother. I was a cougar!
When I lead the youth theatre the group wanted to do a version of Alice in Wonderland. He had just got home from university and told me he had done a great contemporary version of it. He gave me his script. I still have it, with his hand written notes in it. I now treasure it.
I saw him around the theatre a lot after that. We did Hotel Paradiso together. He was then working on a tv programme and had got into gemology. Who would have thought it?! He was studying gem stones, and sharing his knowledge with members of the society. I remember sitting with him talking about what he was now learning, and wondering where the kid I had known had gone. He was so confident and happy.
The last time I saw him, I was on stage doing a performance of our annual Christmas Entertainment. And there he was. In a Christmas pudding jumper! I spotted him about half way up the auditorium. I briefly spoke to him afterwards. I regret not speaking to him for longer. It was the last time I saw him alive. Less than two weeks later he was dead. Days after he turned 24. He was driving to work along a stretch of road I used to drive a lot between Kidderminster and Bromsgrove. I knew it was a bad area for black ice. I had seen lots of cars spin off the road in my time commuting between home and Redditch. I knew exactly where he had gone off the road. The bridge had been rebuilt a few times… He span off the road, we think he hit the bridge, and it was deduced that he drowned in the icy cold water of the stream below.
We will never know.
On the 27th of January we lost my beloved canine companion Max. He had been with me through so many important events in my life. He was with me the night my mum died. He was with me when I went through a tricky break up. He was always there. And then we had to make the difficult decision to say goodbye. I went to school that morning, knowing that when I went home for my PPA time, I was actually going to be having my dog put to sleep. It was a tough time. I looked into his eyes and held his paw as he went. And it was horrific and beautiful at the same tine. It was my late Grandads birthday.
And after that I still had to e-mail planning to my team…
Then we came to February. My best friend whose family have been there for me through everything, especially my difficult teenage years (!), her Nana died. It had been a long process, and had been hard on all of the family. I had had many happy christmases with that lady, and had shared many of our big events, birthday parties etc. with her. She wasn’t my Nana, but she kind of was. I had so much to do with work the day of her funeral I couldn’t stay for the wake…
And then my maternal Grandmother was ill. My aunt kept us posted about progress via e-mail. I read one and thought she was okay. Realised I had missed one. Got home from school the first day after Easter holidays, and she was gone. I hadn’t seen her as much as I should have done. She fell out with my Dad because he had a new partner after my mum died, and people of her generation find that difficult. I had difficulty with seeing her for a while after that. I’m an only child. My dad is my only direct relative I’ve got. You hurt him you hurt me. But I had seen her since then. But not enough.
Her funeral was a bank holiday weekend. Have you tried getting a flight to Dublin on a bak holiday weekend?! It was a nightmare.
Added to that, it was the weekend that we had agreed to have a new puppy. We had never had a puppy. Max was a rescue and we never had the puppy phase of his life. I literally had a breakdown from the stress of the whole thing. My dad was brilliant. We discussed the options at length. It was a horrendously difficult decision to make, but I didn’t go to the funeral. I agonised over that decision. I lit a candle in Worcester cathedral when she was being cremated. We collected our puppy. I cried. I grieved. And I enjoyed a new life.
Grief overtook me. I was surprised when a doctor told me that 4 bereavements in 4 months would tip anyone over the edge. The grief I experienced was close to the grief when I lost Mum. It was horrific. My partner will attest that most Christmases he spends one night holding me while I rack with sobs. Then it passes and I get on with life. But this year started with many days like that.
And now I’m here. I’m pretty sure that these experiences have shaped my decisions. I’m not just leaving teaching because of teaching itself. It’s been tough year. Life can be short but full of joy. It can be long but full of regrets. I want to be somewhere in the middle.
And it’s had many high points since then… A friend I thought I had lost came back, two people I love got married. My partner continues to be amazing, we got a puppy!
We are made up of many things. This year has taught me a lot.
I am grateful for that. x