Converse sneakers slapped lightly on the floor as Aria let herself into her classroom. No children had been dropped off yet and the space was eerie, quiet. The tables were still clean and tiny chairs were stacked neatly in the corner. The rugs hadn't been bunched up yet in hurried games. The toys were still in their designated bins and her desk wasn't completely covered by drawings from all of the children in her class.
Aria set her stuff down on her desk and sighed, looking around. She had another fifteen minutes before the director, Jennifer Barret, would be in her office. Her heart gave an uneven thump, just thinking about the conversation they were about to have. Would she understand Aria's decision? Was this the right decision? She thought about the children that would soon be filling the classroom down the hall and she felt the rush of guilt all over again. So many of those children came into her room for afternoon lunch. They were looking forward to being in her classroom next year and now, here she was. Now, here she was. Her heart hammering violently in her chest while a mental dialogue ran through her head.
She didn't want to go into Jennifer's office unprepared. She'd known the woman for as long as she could remember. Jennifer still lived on the same block as her parents. She'd given her a break when Aria had gotten out of college and found it tough to earn a position in a public elementary school. Jennifer had believed in her, long before Aria had made the decision to become a teacher. And, if she was being honest with herself, she felt a little like a failure when she thought about where she was in life, compared to some of her siblings.
Her parents would never say a word, but Aria wasn't putting her degree to full use. She was struggling to make ends meet and now, she wasn't sure that she wanted to continue working two jobs. She was days away from her 31st birthday, wasn't that time for some changes? Beyond what was already going on in her life, her professional life needed to reflect the personal differences starting to form.
And maybe that was why she was actively thinking about changing career locations. She wanted more time. She wanted to have a better schedule, but was it foolish to want that for something that still felt so new? Aria wanted to believe so. Her thought process was already different. She wanted to make time for her family and the man that had taken over half of her spaghetti home with him last week. She wanted to be able to surprise him at work and catch a glimpse into the professional world he loved so much.
"Hi, Aria." Jennifer's voice cut through her thoughts and she looked up, jerking guiltily back to reality.
"Hi, Mrs. Jenn."
The older woman's smile was patient, but she shook her head. They'd been trying for years to break Aria of the habit she'd adopted as a child. "Are you ready to come talk to me now?"