Let’s cross over. Let’s leave the place where the negativity and the hostility, the impatience and the boredom, the insecurity and the sadness take up space in our minds and cross over. Nothingness is more attractive to visit than those places. I am focusing on balance now (while squirming, standing on one foot and leaning to the side, arms waving to stay up) and it is coming along nicely. I envision a time when I will spread my painted toes, lock my scarred knee, hook my left foot around my right calf, close my eyes, hold out my arms, and stand perfectly, unwaveringly, delightfully still. It’s a process, that kind of balance. Life cannot be enjoyed living too far on either side of center, just as Ketut told Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. I know that book and movie have gotten criticism and praise alike, but I can’t help but identify with her. The twisty paths my life has taken have been neither unbearable nor earthshaking. But I feel that I cannot be prepared for either if I am not living in the center, balancing Play and Pleasure with Focus and Faith. I am opening my mind to light and love and fancy ideas, pushing out the dark places that harbor feelings that make me sad, keep me awake at night, and make me think I’m missing something that I don’t really want. I’ve been taking steps to get there: sometimes small, sometimes leaps, sometimes somersaults out of an airplane, but most days just steps, one foot in front of the other, mindful of the person I want to grow into. I’m working on it, this crossing over thing. Maybe I’ll always be working on it…but at least I’m doing something.
Today confirmed every single reason that I thought teaching would be a good career for me eight years ago. I had lunch with two former students who are now going away to college. I taught them my second year of teaching when they were in 7th grade. The year after, I was moved to 8th grade, so I had them again. Teaching that group of students two years in a row was the most rewarding time of my seven-year teaching career. I watched them change so much and now they have all graduated high school. These young men are two of the most impressive kids I have ever known. They are accomplished, state-ranked athletes; they are violin players; they are handsome and polite with great personalities, and they are excellent writers and high-achieving students. One of them is going to Vanderbilt and the other is going to Stanford. My heart swells with pride when I think about what great opportunities and experiences lie in their futures. These boys spoke openly about how much I affected them and how they hope that we are always in touch. I have tears in my eyes as I write these words. How lucky am I? It is my JOB to invest in teenagers. I get paid to love kids and teach them the great life skills of writing and reading. Every day of teaching teenagers is a challenge and sometimes they break your heart, but today I was reminded that I really do love what I do. I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to affect kids’ lives. I had two teachers, about whom I have written in previous posts, who singled me out, invested in me, refused to let me believe that I was anything less than smart, talented, beautiful, and full of potential. I didn’t see those things in myself then; many teenagers don’t really know themselves. They need to be told, and now I get to be the one to tell them. I get to believe in them, challenge them, watch them grow and succeed. I love my job!
Do you, dear reader, have any exceptional teacher stories? Please share!
Last night I went to a painting class. Wait, scratch that, I can’t even claim it was a painting class. It was almost paint-by-number, which for this artistically-inexperienced girl, was exactly what I needed. Amanda and I joined a group of her friends for the challenge of taking a blank white canvas and making something out of it.
So there it is: a Celtic cross. We were led step-by-step on how to do it, but we were also given creative freedom to stray from the directions as we wished. At the end of the night, there were about fifty versions of the cross on easels around the room. I was surprised by how interested I became in the process of painting, of creating a new color, of committing to strokes, of making it my own. I have to say that it was the most wholesome fun I have had in a long time. I felt exhilarated and excited by trying something I have never done before, and now I have such a desire to do that again, yes, but also to try other things I have never done. I have an adventurous spirit, but too often I don’t actually make the plans, pay the fees, plan the trip, or find what I need to create the new experience I want to have. So here I go, posting my promise to myself on the world wide web, committing to following through with adventurous new experiences and finding passions I didn’t even know I could have. I wonder…what will come next?!