When I was teaching, I was close to many of the people with whom I worked. We were friends. We were family.
Then I stopped teaching.
We stopped being friends.
I am now friends with approximately five people I used to work with. Nearly all of the others -- people I was close to, people I travelled with, people who were in my wedding -- do not speak with me.
I tried. I sent friend requests. I emailed. I texted.
Nada. Zero. Zip.
It was hard to transition from teacher to civillian. I felt like I had lost a huge chunk of how I identified myself, and wasn't sure how to negotiate my way through my new identity of "not a teacher." How would that even work?
I didn't know.
I also had no idea that losing that part of who I was would also mean that I would lose my friends.
I was able to reconcile myself as a person who wasn't a teacher much more quickly than I was able to adjust to the fact that many of the people who had been a huge part of my daily life wanted no part of my new life. I couldn't figure out why, or process the notion that these people were, for me, simply gone.
The worst part was the social media aspect. We had friends -- the few people who did stay in contact with me -- in common. I could see them, commenting on posts that I had commented on, liking things that I had liked. I could see things they'd posted to my friends, while they continued to ignore me.
It shouldn't have bothered me so much, probably. But it did, because all I'd done was leave my job. I hadn't stabbed anyone or backed over a beloved pet -- I'd just changed careers.
I ran into someone I used to work with the other day, and she was lovely and genuinely concerned about how I was doing. "Really, how ARE you?" she asked.
It was then that I realized that the people I had worked with were as wrapped up in their job as the main focus of who they were as I had been. The idea that I would leave that -- that ANYONE could do that -- was scary and transgressive. How do you simply choose to stop being who you are? Why would you make that choice?
How hard would it be to associate with someone who recklessly shows you that you can leave and become someone else?
I realized that it was rather like when I had been divorced and married friends were not wanting to do things together -- it was scary to see how temporary a marriage could be. It was unsettling. It disturbed them.
This was different, but it wasn't that different.
I finally gave myself permission to let it go. I blocked my former friends on social media, silently thanking them for the time in my life when we were close, and then saying goodbye.
I was a schoolteacher, once. I loved it. It was who I was.
But now? I am many, many more things.