I have been hibernating in grief for the past two years, I haven’t been myself. When Dad died in 2020, the ground beneath my feet gave way and I fell down a deep, dark hole.
I don’t know if this happens with all grief, or whether it is a particular feature of losing a parent, but it felt like my entire past, present and future was projectile vomited on top of me anytime I tried to escape the deep, dark hole. I’ve been wading through it for the past 2 years, re-living childhood moments as if they were happening in real-time, feeling very disorientated in the present and living with a constant gnawing feeling that I had no real future to look forward to.
People generally give you 6 months grace after a bereavement; after that I found I had to mask my pain, which is probably why I ended up crying inappropriately on random zoom calls and generally being a rather weird and distorted version of myself.
Death and grief is another huge area of life to de-school of course, and most people do not want to be tainted with it. In the end you have two choices, you either carry the burden of grief locked away in your mind and body for the rest of your lifetime, or you surrender to it completely.
I chose surrender because I realised that alongside the pain, grief also bears gifts. It is a massive opportunity for growth, if you are willing to take up the invitation.
Our unschooling journey had already stripped back so many layers of conditioning, I thought I had no more skins to shed, but I was wrong. It seems I was still wearing my rose-tinted spectacles from time to time, allowing the weight of other people’s opinions to cast doubts in my mind. But now those spectacles have been crushed into so many pieces, they won’t ever be put back together. Those people do not know better than me. They don’t know what I have lived, they haven’t been through my experiences, they don’t live and breathe in my body or see through my eyes. With clear vision, I have seen this world, and now I can’t un-see it ever again. It’s not all bad; I’ve witnessed so much beauty and love and potential for change.
If this is what it means to be re-wilded, then I am re-wilded (re-wilding). And now it is time to re-emerge and bloom again; to bring forth all the learning I have integrated and deliver it imperfectly into the world around me, even if it is in tiny ways.
I started a new job 6 weeks ago, teaching once again in mainstream school. Financially I didn’t have a choice, but the thought of going back into ‘the system’ was stressful. I couldn’t be at all sure how it would work out. Could I really take everything I have learned and fought for in the past decade of home educating, all the de-schooling I have done, all the skins I have shed and forge an authentic path? I will write about it all in a few weeks time because there is so much to process and so much to say. Nonetheless, I am doing it and so far there have been more personal wins than losses, and I am proud of myself for standing strong in my values.
I have had a little secret weapon; each morning before work, I drink my tea and read something inspirational. I have been reading Derry Hannam’s wonderful book, ‘Another Way is Possible‘ as well as ‘Imagine if..,’ by Ken Robinson and Kate Robinson. Digesting little snippets of education revolution to bolster my faith in myself to go and do good, but controversial work.
I have a duty to never be tamed again, to stand up for the wildness in my children and the children I work with, loud and unashamed.
When we are bravely authentic, we honour our wildness and we also honour our personal history and the generations that have gone before. It can be hard, but betraying ourselves day in, day out is harder over the long run. It is self-harm, and ultimately it is harmful to those around us because they are not benefitting from the true gifts we have to share. And it is harmful to the planet, because if we don’t make a stand for a new and different path, then we are simply re-treading the same old path, making it easier for violent systems to traverse.
Do you know that quote about the best time to plant a tree? Well, the best time to be authentically ourselves, to take risks with our creativity, to heal the world with our love, to bring about a revolution – the best time for that was 20 years ago and the second best time is now.
Let’s stand firm together. Let’s not be tamed.
Let’s refuse to uphold a violent system.
Let’s go out into the world today, and be bloody beautiful, because we are.