I’m better at beginnings than endings.
Which is why I’ve been staring at this screen for days and thinking about it (actively ignoring it) for weeks.
Because there’s something about saying goodbye to an incredible 12 years working in school public relations — that leaves me speechless. (Never mind that my next job has the word “writer” in the title. And suddenly I have no words.)
Looking forward makes so much sense. It is opportunity. Adventure. Uncharted paths. No details, just broad, beautiful brush strokes.
But looking back is different. It’s a painting with broad and narrow strokes. Dots and lines. Shadows and light. It’s both subtle and loud, at once.
It’s too complex for words.
“But you’ve learned so much,” I tell myself. “You’ve connected with so many. This work has changed your life. Find the words. Write them down. Document.”
It’s true. School PR has changed my life. It’s given me purpose. It’s given me an identity. It’s given me an incredible community of friends who feel like family. It’s made me a better human.
As months became years, school PR became a profession I loved, deep in my soul. A personal calling. The chance to create positive systems and programs that help kids and families. The opportunity to leverage new tools and elevate authentic engagement. Caring for all students and grappling with the issues of cultural competence, from race and religion to the gender spectrum. Doing right when faced with sexual assault, violence, drugs, suicide, mental illness.
If public education is the nation’s guardian of an informed electorate — democracy — then school PR is the conscience that listens, sees, guides and seeks to solve. As practitioners we are at our best, behind closed doors. Wrestling with the most difficult, uncomfortable but impossible-to-ignore problems that society faces. Because those same problems live right here, in our schools and communities. And our students deserve our very best, every day.
My love for this profession runs deep. And it swallowed me whole.
It isn’t easy to admit that last part, mostly because many people probably saw someone who looked at the top of her game. It’s hard to share that my fierce love for this work eventually let me down. That my therapist told me I likely wouldn’t be entirely peaceful and well, so long as I was managing a social media community. That the years of life-and-death political advocacy burned me up. That I cared too much.
I’m guessing my school PR friends can relate to the feelings of overwhelm and burnout that brought me here. The feeling when you know you care, too much. Of surviving to bring the good fight, for one more day.
But this I know: Life isn’t about surviving. It’s about living.
To my school PR friends … I hope you will use boundaries and self care to be well, and keep serving. This profession needs people like you. The world needs people like you, doing this work.
And with that, my new beginning. It will be about seeing my husband and kids more. It will be about being just a mom at school. About snow days without burden. About July and August without the stress of trying to launch that space shuttle we call Back To School. And about school board meeting nights without, well, school board meetings.
Don’t get me wrong: I will always love school PR. And there isn’t a thing on that list, or even over the last 12 years in this work, that triggers regret or resentment. (Well, not counting two complete website migrations in under a year. Ha.)
But it is time to say yes to something new. It is time to listen to friends who have encouraged and nudged me forward.
It is time to rediscover my joy.