“I’m just going to cry for a few minutes.”

I was laying in bed last night after saying one of the hardest goodbyes of this transition and feeling pretty sad. So I forewarned my husband that the tears were going to start flowing…and they did. And through my tears, I said, “It’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s that I don’t want to leave.”

Comfort is a dangerous thing, isn’t it? I am really, really comfortable in my life here in Alaska. I’m happy in my life here in Alaska. There are a lot of things that help me to feel comfortable and happy, and the one that I was mourning the loss of last night was my house. Just before bed, I was walking around our home—unusually still and quiet since my big boys have already gone east with my parents—and I was profoundly sad. Superficial though it may be, I love my house. I spend a lot of time here, and so I am grateful every day for what this house has to offer. During the week, I leave the house maybe three times: an errand bundled with a trip to the library, a play date at a friend’s house, and perhaps another errand bundled with another field trip of some kind. Other than that, I’m at home in my perfect house with my wonderful and quite imperfect children. There’s lots of room for the kids to play, we have wonderful neighbor kids that stop over to play or to help with my littles, and we have a large, safe yard (except for the occasional bear or moose) with lots of nature to explore. And as we look at properties in Vermont, there’s nothing quite like it. And so I was sad. And even though I want to go, I don’t want to leave.

I wonder if you have ever felt this way. Perhaps you are a great teacher whose students consistently perform well. And perhaps you have heard of a different way to do things, and it seems promising, and you’d like to try it, but…you don’t want to leave your house. You don’t want to leave the perfect comfortable way of teaching that you have developed and made your own. There’s no real reason to change because everyone—students, parents, administrators, you—is happy with your teaching. Yet the possibility of something better calls.

This past weekend, I was watching ‘The Hunt’ with Matt and the kids. (It’s narrated by David Attenborough, and I would watch a siesta competition if it were narrated by David Attenborough.) This particular episode featured several arctic predators; one of which was the arctic wolf. The episode showed a pack of wolves attack a massive musk ox bull. David Attenborough said that each time that a wolf lunged for the giant musk ox, that wolf was putting its own life at stake. Each wolf continued, hoping that it would survive the fight, take down the musk ox, and be able to enjoy some of the meat. The alternative? Chasing arctic hares ad nauseam: safe, comfortable, exhausting, and not very filling.

Comfort is the enemy of progress. Matt and I are making this move because we think that our family will ultimately be better off for it: better off in the long haul, any way. But right now, it’s kind of terrifying. But we’re doing it. I’m sure that we will find a house eventually that I will like. I might even love it. Maybe I will love it more than this house; but maybe I won’t. But the things that we are hoping will be better for our family are more important than a house, and so I’m okay (I’m going to be okay) saying goodbye to the perfect house because better things are in store for us.

I wonder if there is something that you want to do—that you think you should do, perhaps—but you haven’t yet because you are comfortable now. You’re happy now.

You’ll never know how happy you could be if you don’t try. You’ll never know how happy your students can be if you don’t try. And just like my life is really messy right now (packing boxes everywhere, piles and piles of junk to give away, one car on a barge and another for sale, 2/5 of the kids in NY and 3/5 here in AK, movers arriving in a week but with no destination…), the transition out of your comfortable place will probably be a little messy, too. And just like I’ve thought countless times in the last few weeks, you will probably doubt your decision to make the change. Ignore the drunk monkey telling you that you made the wrong choice, and keep walking it out. And just like I might never find a house that I love just as much as I love my current house, there will probably be things that you miss. I remember that once I switched to CI based instruction (I mean real CI), I felt like I lost ground in classroom management and I lost my easy-to-follow textbook road map. But I gained joy and my students made gains in proficiency. Ultimately, those were the more important things. And so it was worth it.

I wonder if you might be willing to get uncomfortable this summer. And perhaps hearing about your journey out of comfort will encourage me in mine <3

41 replies on “Goodbye, comfortable.

  1. Oh man, Martina, you are inspiring. Best of wishes to you in your move, and prayers for an even perfect-er house. You are so wise and so brave and so generous – so many of us benefit every day from your willingness to step out of your own comfort zone, and then throw us a rope so we can follow. Bless you!

    1. I probably shouldn’t have written about the house! It’s such a silly thing but for whatever reason is what I am stuck on right now. Perhaps because it’s the part that seems the most real to me since I’m spending all of my time packing right now! But it’s often those silly things that keep us where we are, fearful that the change won’t be worth it.

  2. Damn girl. ‘Comfort is the enemy of progress.’ I’m sure I was meant to read this. A true and difficult realization. Thank you for sharing your triumphs and your struggles and for inspiring us- even though inspiration means more work. I wish you all the best in this new part of your life.

    1. I moved to Vermont 8 years ago with my family and live near Burlington so I am very excited about your move! I teach k-8 French at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School (8 years previously in Vermont public school) I can’t wait to have a chance to meet. Let me know what I can do to help your transition! Trust and it will all go well! veronica@bernicke.us

  3. Learning is messy, as I have been told. I think the same would apply for change. Change is messy and uncomfortable. You’re never alone.

  4. Dear Martina: Thank you for the words of wisdom you’ve generous shared. My prayers are with you and your family as you face this moment of change and adventure. May it be a time to learn and grow. I’m looking forward to hearing from you after you settle in Vermont.

  5. I am also facing transitions next school year! After 4 years of teaching Spanish (and loving it!) I am going switch completely to teaching French for the first time next year! I am so excited because j’adore le français but also nervous about teaching in a new language after becoming so comfortable with teaching Spanish. I’m also starting from scratch after having already begun my Masters in Spanish to take a French course this fall for the first time in 5 years.
    I know I will miss teaching Spanish at times, but I’m counting on loving teaching French!
    I’m sure you, too, will love your new home because of the memories you will create in it with your family! And you will continue to do great things wherever you are! Best wishes to you and your family!

  6. Yes, uncomfortable, doing something new! The cusp of the transition feels like the hardest part to me. I don’t know that it’ll be an encouragement to you, Martina, but when I read about your family’s move, by contrast my husband’s & my upcoming move across 2 states with a few hens (no kids), buying our first house, & my upcoming start to what will probably be 5 years of doctoral studies — all that seems simpler than what you’re doing. You have my respect. But, I agree that these changes are indeed worth the discomfort & hassle. May the details come into place for you all, including a home that you will all enjoy. I’m sure that you’ll share how things turn out.

    1. Love you, Diane! And reading about your move (and all the dead rodents…) encourages me as I remember that everyone goes through big transitions like this! It helps me to remember that my world is not the only one being upheaved 😉 I am excited to see what Diane PhD does!!!

  7. Oh, Martina. Your “tell-it-like-it-is” attitude is so refreshing, along with your optimistic perspective. I hope you find solace in my favorite quote (that hangs in my classroom): “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

  8. This post is so beautiful and raw and I love that you share such things with us. I am SO looking forward to meeting you at the conference this summer so I can welcome you back to the East Coast 🙂 Be strong because you are amazing!!!

  9. Great quote about comfort and progress. Yes! While change is difficult, it is worth it. I moved seven (7) times with my husband’s job, two kids, a cat and a dog. I stayed behind with kids to sell the house.Each new house was not like the one I left but we adjusted. I ended up at one point with teaching licenses in 4 different states. My next opportunity is whether or not to live abroad full- time or part- time but again selling the house we have transformed into that perfect place with friends and familiar activities. I know you will be OK. Let yourself be sad or take time to reflect. You will have a support system where you are going. I will be thinking of you and your new adventures ahead. Best wishes to you Martina.

  10. Thank you for sharing. Comfort is home. Change is uncomfortable. And yet, everything must change to grow, to make progress. In a big family, there is constant change. I never get used to it. I try to take it one day at a time and remember that we are not alone. God is with you every step of the way. But it is scary and unnerving at times.

    1. The day that we decided to move to VT, my husband wrote on the flipchart in his office, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable”. Too bad it’s so uncomfortable, ha!

  11. Martina —
    Thank you for sharing this post. You are not afraid to be vulnerable – that is so refreshing in a world where people tend to put on a mask and pretend that all is well all the time. I have read this post several times and each time I finished it wishing that it would not end. You have challenged me to think about what makes me uncomfortable and why. Thank you.

    Now, as an older woman, who has spent a bit of time traveling in Alaska so I understand some of the feelings you have for the place, and who also lived in Vermont, I want to reassure you that you will find this comfort in your new home! Part of what makes the home you have now so special is YOU. You have made it special. You have brought your values and your love to your home, your neighborhood, and your community. You WILL create that again in your new home in Vermont.

    And, if you are still looking for a home, I have a friend who is selling a lovely place. I will email you the info. Don’t know if it’s in the right area for you, but let’s keep fingers crossed!

    Strength to you!

  12. Martina
    Two years ago I was where you are right now. I left the town I raised my kids because of a better job opportunity. I left friends and a classroom that was my safety net when my life had seen its hardest times. I never worried about my decisions because I knew that was Gods plans. I now have great friends a better job and a much much nicer home. Follow your heart and know that no matter where you are it is not the house but the home you create within those walls. You will be fine!

  13. Thank you for this post. Change is hard but necessary for growth. I, too, am embarking on an upcoming year of change and growth. My twins graduated high school and are off to college in the fall. I have been a single mom practically since their birth so my world has literally revolved around them for the past 18 years. I am not sure how I will be in August and September when I set them out into the world. One is going to a school in Kentucky and we live in Massachusetts. The other is going to be close by but I am hoping she will do well at school and not need her mom as much as she thinks (right now anyway). I am excited about these changes for the girls and also myself. I will have a lot more freedom to do things when and how I want but at the same time I am afraid I will be lost without them. So I totally understand the idea of losing your comfort. You are saying goodbye to a part of your life and the house represents that. Good luck with the move. I look forward to connecting with you in the fall once you get settled.

    1. You are so generous and open with your feelings and also your knowledge. Yes, transitions are hard but once you arrive in your new home, you will be elated with your new project making it again the way you like it. VT has lots of green areas and you will find yourself busy too and the most important, people are great. It is a nice place to live. I am from different lands too but VT has given me things that I never accomplished in other places. You will be fine because your personality embraces new adventures. I am looking forward to reading your new postings about your transition and the new discoveries you will do here. Again, hope to have the honor of meeting you here. No te preocupes. Todo saldra bien 🙂

  14. Thank you so much Martina! I love hearing about your successes but hearing about your struggles are more comforting to me because I struggle too and when I’m in the middle of a struggle hearing only success makes me question my path. I started last year on curriculum development (with lots of help from two other AMAZING teachers) and we spent two weeks trying to find a way to work with the textbook we had bought and mesh it with current research on language acquisition…lol. We have ditched that approach and are using a lot of your stuff. 😁 I often don’t feel equal to the task and rather presumptuous. To make a long story longer I am so glad to have your materials available on tpt and many other great materials to help me fill out and articulate our program! And to hear your struggles along with your successes just makes my experience seem more typical rather than the failure that it feels like at times. Warmest thanks again. And you will find your perfect house! 🙂 It may take a while but it’s waiting for you 😁.

  15. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me “everything happens for a reason”. I’ve come to truly believe that! You and Matt are amazing and I’m sure you won’t have any trouble stepping out of your comfort zone! A trip to Vermont is on my list with Lyndsey. Last year I took her on a mystery trip to Ausable Chasm, which is not far from the border of Vermont. Google it. I highly recommend it! Kids would love it. Anyway, on our way back she wanted to head into Vermont and then back down home but time didn’t permit as I really wanted to see Vermont when I was not rushed so we opted to head the other way home via Lake Placid. Well now we will be sure to make Vermont one of our bucket list trips! Good luck with the move!!

    1. We’d love to see you there <3 Perhaps a 4th of July on Lake Champlain instead of at the Toole's Camp! Nope…never mind…definitely couldn't be as great 🙂

  16. Martina – Do you realize what an amazing inspiration you are to so many of us? I hold you often as a role model of balancing motherhood and professional-hood, and I know I’m not alone. I have seen you present four times, and each time, I come away with new ideas and a renewed sense that a CI classroom is the only option. Wishing you calmness and a smooth ride to Vermont.

  17. I keep re-reading this post because I, too, am feeling sad about leaving a house and a town that I love for an opportunity that I know will be good for me (and one that I actively sought out). The sentiment of “I don’t want to not go, but I don’t want to leave” sums up so perfectly how I’ve been feeling. Thanks, Martina. ❤️

  18. Your post here is spot on for me. Today I just sat down for the first time to plan my 1st semester. I’m hoping to try CI this fall for the first time and I am super nervous and as you state, uncomfortable with the change. At the same time I’m so excited, like new teacher, getting my very first job excited, and after 10 years, that’s awesome! Thank you for this post!

  19. Hi! I’m a teacher in Alaska and I’m considering moving to somewhere else too. What a coincidence! I am moving to Connecticut. I was just really curious as to why you chose to move to Vermont of all places. I’m going to Connecticut for family reasons happening there and am feeling very uneasy about this move, but your post helps a lot knowing that others are feeling the same way. Any more advice for someone like me?

    1. My husband had an opportunity that was in VT! My advice is to connect with everyone in AK as much as you can before you leave. Our move happened so fast, I feel like I didn’t have time to say my goodbyes and wrap up my life there!

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