This year, for the first time since preschool, I won’t be going back to school. Since I was 3 or 4, my life’s journey has been, for the most part, lovingly tied to the academic calendar. Either as a student, student teacher, or teacher, the end of August has always meant an end to summer travels and festivities, a return to work and schedules, and the mix of excitement and first day jitters as the first day of class approaches.
This year, instead, I am making my way towards the farm at Adamah, preparing for a new journey tied just as deeply to cycles, milestones, and the sacred marking of time, now spent out in the fields instead of in a classroom.
It’s been strange in these past couple weeks to not be shopping for school supplies, reworking lesson plans, or ceremoniously planning my first day outfit. As I see friends and coworkers, some with their own children now, post pictures of getting classrooms ready or sending kids off on the first day, part of me craves a return to this familiar cycle. Part of me wants nothing more than to be a little kid with a lunch box, new pencils, and a backpack….or to be writing new name cards for students and redecorating bulletin boards hoping and dreaming for new things to come during the school year.
In sensing this longing, part of myself has jumped very quickly to assure myself that it really won’t be so different. “Being a “fellow” at adamah will be much like being a student and an apprentice, learning new ways to harvest crops, to tend, feed, and milk goats, to learn where chickens hide their eggs, or to live in community with people who I do not yet know. Instead of pencils and backpacks and erasers, my tools will now be shovels and twine and work gloves and milk pails. The whole farm will be my classroom – how wonderful is that!”
And all of that is true.
But. And. It can be easy to become tied to all that is familiar. I know that part of this longing comes from not knowing the something else I am about to encounter. Much of my intention for this year is about listening to the voice in the back of my head saying “what else?”, seeking to the space and time to explore that which is not yet known. This feeling of being at the edge of a cliff, almost ready to leap from the familiar terrain I have known into an ocean of possibility is, entirely like a first day of school, simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.
What might happen when I strip away parts of my identity that have been so central to my day-to-day life for the past several years? What might swoop in once that space is cleared? What will I be drawn to that is the same and familiar, reminders of what feeds my soul that I do already know? And what parts of myself might surface that I do not even know yet?
These are the questions I am contemplating as I prepare to embark on this Shmita year’s journey, while so many of you, my beloved friends and family, start your school years in many forms. Blessings to all on our new journeys and adventures this year, whatever cycles, calendars, and (un?)familiar rhythms they may be tied to.
With love, hope, and anticipation,