I love you Orsch.

Written March 31, 2018

In the distance I can finally feel you. The hard days are gone, and the memories are left. In pictures, I see only good. In memories, the good begins to surface filling the top layer with color. I can also access the terrible memories, and it’s important to do so. I want so badly to feel it. I know that the only way to feel is to take on both the good and the bad of the anything. So I deliberately do. I claw to process the deep and the horrible. I think it is underneath the horrible that the joy lives. But the horrible is thick.

For me, personally, the hardships are much deeper than the last hell year. The hardships go all the way back to the conception of the idea. All the way back to the day my prince said to me, “This is your best invention yet.” All the way back to the stirrings, and the dreaming, and the wanting and the planning. All the way back to trying to bring a new way, an innovative approach to an institution unwilling to consider thinking creatively about educating children. All the way back to risking my career to speak boldly about my ideas. All the way back to the fears of starting it all, the guessing and questioning and the thought of giving up from the very very beginning. Nine thoughts out of ten thoughts were about throwing in the towel from the very very beginning. And then the one thought would push forward. It was stronger than the nine other thoughts. Shelley told me about the wolves–one called Fear and one called Hope. She told me to feed the one I wanted to be stronger. So I tried to feed hope. I hung on by my fingernails to hope. My prince held me up every time I thought the next hurdle was too large to conquer. And then there was the day I bumped into Amy at the pool. She must have sensed the trepidation in me. She looked me right in the eyes, and said, “If you don’t do it for anyone else, do it for Gemma.” Do it for Gemma. Do it for Gemma. I still reflect on that day, because I am pretty sure if she hadn’t said that to me at my want-to-fold-most moment, I don’t think Orsch would have been born.

As the last days of my public school career neared in May of 2009, I would count children. One, two, three…twenty. That’s what twenty children looks like. Just me and twenty children!? My heart raced at least every five minutes during those weeks. I have made the decision to launch. I have made the commitment to parents. I have a growing class list, and a few signed contracts. Everyday I check the mail and hope for another application or signed contract, but also hoping for none. If there is not enough interest in the program, I can fold and join those nine other thoughts in give-up bliss, get my life back, continue teaching in the Gifted and Talented program at RE1J Watershed School District, if they’ll have me back! Oh GOD! I’ve ruined my career, alienated my colleagues. I’m all alone out here on this flimsy limb. Oh God!

Fear. Fear flooded my veins from the very beginning. Crippling, constant, scary fear. Looking left and right and inward kind of fear. It slept with me. It ran with me. It cooked and cleaned with me. It followed me. It even led me. If I could do it all over again, I’d find a way to conquer the fear first. If I could go back, I’d force myself to fight the fear instead of letting it walk with me. I think maybe I would have been better off without the fear.

I made it through. I packed up my little tiny classroom at the end of the school year. I said goodbye to my colleagues who I think secretly hated me, except for Yvette and Barb. I cried hard. I dragged my feet. I left kicking and screaming, literally. I did not want to go. I did not want to launch into a scary new world leaving a safe and wonderful world behind. Why would I DO THIS?! What am I thinking? Why? Why am I doing this?

When I finally dragged myself out of the building for the last time, I walked out the door and that is when I met Beth. Beth would soon become one of Orsch’s biggest advocates, one of the first Orsch parents, and the first adult teammate I would embrace months later. I walked over a threshold, and clearly burned a bridge. I would never go back. I would never have the opportunity. I leapt, but I never actually found wings or a net. The hardships would last another seven years, culminating in a year of shear hell.

It was something I always struggled with during the years I ran Orsch. I never actually felt all the good everyone else was talking about. Until yesterday, almost three years after the hell began, yesterday the pictures reached out, and I felt a bit of the magic everyone always talked about. I felt joy. I felt the love and the laughter and the life and progress and good. I felt the feelings those kids could feel day in and day out. Feelings of security and endless opportunity, community and love of learning. I love you Orsch. I finally love you, and I finally feel you.

I can’t change the course of Orsch’s history. It is what it is. And I now know that fear covers and wrecks all the good that is underneath.

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