In my adult life, I’ve had quite a few different jobs. I’ve been a teacher for most of that time, but I’ve also worked in a law office, done temp work in tech and insurance companies, worked in a bookstore, and worked in customer service for a short time in Ireland. I have to say that it’s fairly easy for me to make new friends. I seem to get along well with almost anyone, and I enjoy getting to know people and spending time with others.
Not counting substitute teaching, I’ve worked in six different schools now. In each new school, I’ve made new friends. There is something about teaching that really unites and bonds people. That is not to say that everyone on a school’s staff gets along or even likes everyone else. But I’ve always found a few folks with whom I’ve really clicked and it’s always made the challenges of teaching seem that much more surmountable.
One of the really tough aspects of changing jobs in education is that when you leave a school, you leave behind those friendships. You can always maintain the relationships, but if you move into another role in another place, you find you have less in common than you used to. You’re still friends, but it’s more like acquaintances than comrades in arms. Even when the moves have been good ones for me, I’ve mourned the loss of contact with people I’d become close to every time I’ve left a teaching job.
I’ve been at my new job three months. I’ve made some great new friends. It’s too early yet to know which friendships will last a long time, but I have the luxury of working with just about all the teachers at my campus in some capacity, so I’m getting to know a lot of new folks in a rather short time. It’s part of my job that I really enjoy.
But I was at my last school for the better part of fourteen years. People have come and gone, but the staff at my old school was my family in California. Some of those people had been with me through almost every life event since I moved from New Jersey in 1997. My husband and son have been a part of that school as well (and still are), but I am not there anymore. It leaves me, somewhat, with an awkward emptiness I feel guilty filling with new people.
The entire experience also leaves me wondering, “what is normal?” I would imagine that all the unsettledness I feel about this is natural. But am I not doing enough to keep in touch with people from my old job? I’m still connected to many of them through church. Is that enough? Should I be doing more? My life has gotten so busy, with work and increased attention needed for my son’s academic struggles, that I would feel guilty if I were doing more to maintain the friendships, because it would undoubtedly be at the expense of other areas that demand my attention.
When Alec and I lived in Ireland, and we talked about moving back to California, we told each other, “nothing will ever really be the same.” We’d been away. People were still in California, living their lives, doing their jobs, developing new friendships to somewhat replace the ones we’d been part of. I knew what it would be like, after having moved from New Jersey to California fifteen years ago. I still have friends there, and a number of them really stepped up when my Dad died, and have been there for me either during visits back home or via online means, such as Facebook.
I said earlier that it’s fairly easy for me to make new friends. Does that, or the fact that I generally have a large number of people I consider friends, devalue those friendships in some way? Do people generally believe that a smaller number of closer friends is a better thing than a large number of friends of all varieties? And should it matter to me what others think about the qualifications of a friendship?
I find myself asking these questions because I have many friends, but I am no longer sure who the close friends are. So many friendships have come and gone, though there are very few people with whom I am not on good terms. It’s just that there aren’t enough hours in the week to do the work required to keep up ongoing friendships with everyone I’ve met over the years. Should I be concerned, or should I just learn to accept things I can’t control?