It might not be summer just yet according to your calendar, but according to my school calendar it is. The students were done last Wednesday and the teachers were there one more day after that. While there are still a couple of teachers organizing and cleaning or planning to retire, for the most part the place is empty. Summer school starts next week, so there’ll be more people around, but this in-between time is kind of eerie.
I think I’m a little lonely. That doesn’t make sense, but I think that’s what it is.
See, I’m kind of my own little island at work. A high school tends to be like a bunch of little schools all in one building. There’s the English School, the Foreign Language School, the Math School, and on it goes. Most departments are in the same general area and they have a department office where they gather. From my perspective it seems that most department members get along pretty well with each other. I don’t know how the different departments get along because, really, there aren’t that many opportunities for them to gather. At the few staff lunches I’ve been to it looks like the departments pretty much stick together and sit as a group.
Then there’s me. I don’t really have a department. There are 17 schools in our school corporation and there are 7 techs for those schools. Each high school tech has just the high school, but the other techs have three (and sometimes four) schools that they visit on different days throughout the week. When I first started, I had two middle schools and one elementary school. I got to know one or two people, but it was difficult because I wasn’t at the schools much, so I didn’t interact with them much. I made one good friend that I still see occasionally, even though we’re not at the same school anymore, but that’s an exception. The other school techs are my department, but we don’t really see each other much, except at our weekly tech meetings. At my school, I’m pretty much departmentless.
Being at a high school means I’m there every day, so I interact with the teachers more frequently. In theory, anyway. In practice, I only see the ones who are having computer issues, and then we’re pretty much interacting for the purpose of getting the issue fixed. Not a whole lot of “get to know you” chat going on there. There are times where I’ll pass someone in the hall and we’ll stop and talk for a bit and sometimes some personal info sneaks in – they mention a sibling or a pet or that they do kung fu or something – but it’s safe to say that “Acquaintance” is pretty much the highest level I’ve reached with any of them.
Like any workplace, there are people that seem like it’d be nice to be friends with and other people who … well, it’d be nice if their computers never had trouble. It’s just the way of it. A friend recently reminded me that I’d have to be superhuman to be able to get along with every last personality out there. It’s hard to balance that with the desire to be liked, but that’s where we all precariously sit.
King Solomon said “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). Meaning, if I want to have friends, I need to go out and take steps on my own to make that happen. I, as you may have gathered if you are a regular reader, am not so good at this. I’m a very good responder, but I am terrible first step-taker.
So I remain separate, apart. I don’t fit in anywhere. I don’t feel … noticed. If another tech took my place tomorrow, it would be all the same to the teachers.
Explain, then, this loneliness. Can it be just the absence of people, even if the people aren’t really friend-people? Why is walking the halls and not having people to interact with any different than walking the halls and not interacting with the people who are there?
I have plenty to keep me busy – summer is, after all, a school tech’s busiest time – and I suspect I’ll shake off this feeling eventually.
The only worrisome thing is that in H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, the guy eventually goes crazy from lack of people interacting with him, doesn’t he?