Sunday, August 28, 2011

Child



I've felt this way for a long time. Post Secret said it best.

Choreography


Question: What is your favorite thing about high school so far as an incoming freshman?

Answer: Football


Question: What is your least favorite thing about high school thus far?

Answer: I absolutely despise that high school is nothing like High School Musical. The reason is because I believe that a learning environment can be made much more enjoyable when students break out into random choreographed songs. It is my dream.


Deja Vu

Ken, one of my cooperating teachers, code switches from Teacher Mode to Student Mode quite seamlessly. We'll be talking pedagogy, a student walks in and suddenly he's all "whatev"s and "later"s. In fact, the other day I was leaving school and he held his fist out for me to fist bump on my way out the door. I laughed.

There is a teacher at my school who looks oddly similar to Kevin from the TV show, The Office. I'm not going to say they could be brothers, but they could definitely be cousins. Just imagine a blond, reddish version of this guy:


When I am arriving to school at 7:30am, the marching band is practicing on the front lawn. On Thursday morning as I walked toward the door with the flood of 200 or so students starting the day, the marching band started playing the theme song from Star Wars. It was funny. I'm not sure any of the 200 with me thought so. But that day just felt somehow more important. More epic.

The juniors and seniors in my pop culture class were in 1st grade on September 11th.

I'm not sure that the girls walking these halls understand that the clothing trends they are wearing now have been done before. Fashion is cyclical. It's just funny to see the parade of leggings, high-waisted shorts/skirts, and rompers. Those are the styles my friends and I swore we would never wear (well, we said that about skinny jeans, too).


The other day my freshman English class read "The Most Dangerous Game" a mysterious short story about a creepy man who lives on an island and grows weary of hunting animals, so he begins hunting humans instead. It's fiction. It didn't really happen. And most kids really enjoy reading it. So I asked (thinking I knew the answer), "Did any of you absolutely hate this story?" To my surprise, J quickly and proudly raised her hand. "Really? Wow. That's surprising. Why?"
Without missing a beat, this 14 year-old girl proclaimed to the class, "I am a pacifist!"

My other cooperating teacher, Scott, sounds like Kermit the Frog when he tries yawning and talking at the same time. It's hilarious.



Each morning when I walk into school, I pass a freshman boy who is unloading his books into his locker. I may only see the back of his head. I may see his face. I don't think he's ever noticed me or looked me in the eyes, but every time I see him I think I recognize him.


He looks so similar to Aliyah (the boy in front), one of the many memorable 8th grade students I taught during my year in Cambodia. Seeing this unknown boy each morning reminds me how I ended up here--student teaching in Nebraska--four years after I met Aliyah.

This experience of teaching--of being back in the classroom again after my year overseas--has been oddly similar to Cambodia. Not the tangible, physical characteristics but the feelings. In fact, enough so, that several times the first few days I had to remind myself: I am not in Cambodia anymore. I am not in Cambodia anymore. I am safe. It's going to be all right. This time is different.

See, on the first days back in the classroom I felt like I was having deja vu moments. Moments of dreading the day ahead. The nervousness of interacting with students. The anxiety of standing in front of a classroom and needing to say something intelligent but feeling completely inadequate to do so. The too-quiet moments in the dark of the morning, alone eating a bowl of corn flakes with bananas (not even kidding) and the fan whirring and clicking overhead.

But this experience is different.
This time, I'm not alone in a foreign country
This time, I'm not battling an eating disorder that is alive and well.
This time, I'm actually trained to be a teacher.
This time, I have support.
This time, I understand the culture (well, as much as I can understand teenagers).
This time, it's going to be all right.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Wild and Precious Life

My earliest memories are reflected in a pink diary with purple hearts on the cover. This book came in a matching box with a lock and a key. I treasured it. I'd write several days in a row, skip a few months, come back and say, "Oh diary. It's been so long. You're not mad at me, are you? Anyway, here's what's been going on in my life..."

This book contains night-time scrawlings written long after my Dad turned off the light and told me to go to bed. I'd write in the dark, fingering my way across the narrow lines and writing only a few words per page, but desperately wanting to finish my thoughts.

I was "in love" with a boy named, Levi.
I had a pet snail named, George.
I hated my mom for not letting me play soccer with the neighbors.
I wrote about our family purchasing a trampoline.
I wrote about God (simple, but still God).
I wrote about fear.
I wrote about dying.
I wrote about life as I saw it then.

Writing helps me battle a short-term memory. A memory that forgets where I've been, how I became who I am, and where I'm headed. Writing helps me remember and cope and handle life that seems to throw new curve balls, but really they're the same curve balls, they're just look a little different.

What I know for sure is that after filling over thirteen journals with thoughts, ideas, and ramblings since the age of six, the issues don't change, just the way they're packaged.

I got my heart broken in first grade and again in twelfth grade.
I feared the future in 4th grade and again in college.
I thought I was going to die in 2nd grade (and 7th grade, and 10th grade, and during my year in Cambodia). But I didn't. Nope, not once.

I worried. I doubted. I felt pain. I felt joy.

Journaling reminds me this journey is cyclical. Most of what I encounter today, I've encountered before. Each and every time I thought for sure I WOULD NOT survive this pain or this decision or this predicament.
I did.
Every.
Single.
Time.

From reading my journals, I can tell you that I've always harbored some strains of perfectionism, self-hatred, fear, and guilt about God. I've always questioned my worth. I've always sought ways to feel good enough for others and good enough for God. I've always tried to make neat, little boxes and categories out of life's canvas that is inherently messy, unboxable, and finicky. I've leaned toward a black-and-white approach to life and that has hurt me more times than it has helped me.

You'd think after 23 years I'd learn that life is going to follow its own course regardless of my attempts to micro-manage it. Yet, I still try.

I "try" when I fear the future (as though dreading it will actually make it better).
I "try" when I dwell on the past and everything I "should" have done differently.
I "try" every time I avoid the present moment like a disease and spend too much time in the past and the future.
Missing out on my one "wild and precious life."

Here is part of "A Summer Day" by Mary Oliver:

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?"

Over my short nearly-quarter-century-of-a-life, I can tell you this:
I am better now than ever.

This gives me hope. Because I usually do not feel this way. No. Usually I think about everything that isn't going right. Everything I'm doing "wrong." Everything that shouldn't be the way it is. But reflection serves as an excellent teacher and I like to think I'm picking up on the cues from the Universe:
...that if these common themes and lessons continue popping up in my life, they're probably worth spending time with. And learning.
...that the next time I think I simply cannot pass this bump in the road. I can. Because I have before. And I will again.
...that shame and guilt and frustration and criticism and harshness do not lead to a well-balanced life. Nope. They lead to misery.
...that showing up for life with what I know right now is really the best I can ever do. And that's always enough.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Meg Ryan

Today, I arrived to Ken's classroom and we got to talking about the week past and week to come. I told him that last week I felt I learned two things:

#1. It would be in my (and others) best interest to assume that these students like me, instead of assuming they don't. They just might like me. Plus, if they don't, I'm not the one in high school anymore. So if I'm doing my best and respecting every student, I don't need to lose sleep over it.

Ken kinda chuckled to himself (as 25-year teachers do) when I told him this. Then he said, "I really don't think you have to worry about the students not liking you. First of all, they're teenagers. They're finicky. They might explode at you because of the shirt you have on, when really, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how a girl looked at them in the hallway before class." He continued, "Second, you kinda have this Meg Ryan-thing going on, so you'll probably win them over simply because you're charming."



That was a new one. And frankly, I was surprised. Ken isn't the type to flatter unnecessarily or comment on outward things.
Charming? Sweet.
I'll take what I can get (as I have before).

The second thing I learned last week:
#2. If I "act" like I know what I'm doing, but I don't, I'm the only one who's going to suffer. I need to ask for help. I need not be perfect.

So I said, "Ken, you are an incredibly intelligent person who has a huge vocabulary and 20+ years of teaching experience. I do not." I assured him that I am an assertive and fairly confident person, yet, when he and I are talking, I feel myself cowering. He has so much experience and worldly knowledge. He quotes philosophers. He rattles on in conversations, "Well, as Kohlberg said...you've of course read him, right?" He uses big words, like "sycophant." I admitted this to him and we both laughed as he told me the meaning of the word "sycophant" is essentially someone who alters who they are (even appearing submissive) in order to gain other people's acceptance.

He assured me that I need not pretend that I know John Locke personally or know everything about the "globalization and capitalist enterprises at work in the modern Western world" (yes, this is how he speaks. Constantly).

This brought me relief. Ahh, sweet deep breaths.

What continues to absolutely shock me is how hugely liberating honesty can be.
It shocks me when people I've never met feel safe enough to strike up a conversation with me about the pain in their lives.
It shocks me when I risk being vulnerable and I'm regularly rewarded for it with equal transparency on the other end.

It shocks me how easily I forget that honesty heals.
And liberates.
And strengthens.
Illuminates.
Empowers.
Beautifies.













Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bigmouthed Smiles

I tend to assume that people who don't smile at me, don't like me.

As 1,400 high school students flooded into school on Wednesday, I might as well have been one of them:
What do they think of me?
What if I don't fit in?
What if they don't like me?
Do I look like an idiot?
Maybe I shouldn't have worn these shoes.

The fact that I attended a small, private, high school with a grand total of 200 students spared me from much of the trials that affect a freshman here. And I'm grateful for it. I don't know that I could've survived high school here (at least not with my private school education up until that point).

This is a great school. A high-performing, academically-focused institution with excellent ethics and overall good behavior. A warning of a call home to the parents usually fixes any management issues. So it's not like there are gangs wreaking havoc and teachers having sex with students or anything.

I suppose then, it's the size. The enormity. The numerous clubs. The overwhelming feeling I get when I walk down the brick hallway swarmed and traffic-jammed by hormonal adolescents who don't even notice that I'm there, yet, I imagine they're thinking the worst.

Yup, welcome back to high school.

As I met the students I'll be teaching this year, class by class, I quickly picked out those who seemed "friendly" simply because, they smiled at me. I like them already. They put me at ease. But those who didn't, I assumed they didn't like me. A bit juvenile, I realize. It reminded me how quick I am to judge a person within the first 10 seconds and put up my defenses as necessary.

After one day of this, I intentionally stopped, took a deep breath before each class, and decided to assume (out loud), "There's a good chance that these kids like me." Because, really, they just might.

I can be fun.
I can smile.
I can laugh.
I can listen.
I can explain.
I can inspire.

Oprah "told" me (in her magazine) that:
"In a study published last year, researchers pored over an old issue of the Baseball Register, analyzing photos of 230 players. They found that on average, the guys with bright, bigmouthed beams lived 4.9 years longer than the players with partial smiles, and 7 years longer than the players who showed no grin at all. We can't credit wide smiles for long life plans, of course, but smiles reveal positive feelings, and positive feelings are linked to well-being."

That's reason enough for me.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

LeAnn Rimes

Am I an author?

au·thor

noun /ˈôTHər/ 
authors, plural

1. A writer of a book, article, or report

Or did I just write that one book that one time through that small Adventist publisher and . . . it-wasn't-even-a-big-deal-and-it's-not-great-writing-and-I-wrote-it-four-years-ago-during-a-rough-patch-in-my-life-when-I-was-young-and-stupid-and-now-I-read-it-and-think, "Good grief, girl! Get a hold of yourself!" (such has been my script the last few months).

No. I am not an author.


Am I a musician?

mu·si·cian

noun /myo͞oˈziSHən/ 
musicians, plural

1. A person who is talented or skilled in music

Or am I just this girl who has been playing piano since she was five and singing in talent shows since she was 7, aspiring to be LeAnn Rimes and singing for "special" music in church and writing little diddys others have politely called "songs."

No. I am not a musician.


Am I an artist?

art·ist

noun /ˈärtist/ 
artists, plural

1. A performer, such as a painter, singer, actor, or dancer

Or am I just kinda quirky and slightly "capable" of slathering a few canvases and collaging and designing and drawing. Maybe the "ability" to stand up in front of others and "perform" is really just a genetic flaw for those of us who "seem" to have one extra ounce of confidence and don't mind standing on a stage.

No. I am not an artist.


All I know is what I have.

And what I have is this:

I enjoy writing and singing and playing piano and creating/being/performing art. But why do those big words like "author" and "musician" and "artist" scare me so much? Maybe it's that in taking the title--in accepting those words to be descriptive of me--there's a risk. There's certainly more disappointment if I fail, claiming to be a musician, than if I fail just being "that girl who tinkers around on the piano once in awhile." If I never write another book. If I never put together a CD. If I never create anything meaningful than it wouldn't have mattered because I never claimed to be anything anyway.

Right?

This make me sad. Writing this makes me sad. Knowing that I doubt myself and fear taking risks makes me want to fast forward my life 40 years and just get to the part where I know how this is going to end and I don't have to worry anymore about just who or what I will be.

Apparently, I'd be willing to pass up on "living" so long as I can be in control.

I imagine these feelings have resurfaced because, in spending time with Mr. G and Mr. F (my cooperating teachers during student teaching), they've been asking me questions about who I am: "What do you enjoy? Do you like music? Are you an athlete? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have siblings?"

Instead of saying, "Yes, I am an author/musician/artist/athlete/world traveler," I found myself saying, "Nah, I just dabble."

Instead of owning my name, I've been making up another one. A tamer one. One where less is expected of me and I don't have to perform or measure up. Or...be who I am. Being someone else just seems easier. Because then I can't fail.

And that's what we're all after, right?

Safety. Security. Comfort. Status quo. Satisfactory. Mediocre. Easy.


Yeah, at this rate, I should be there in about five years.

If nothing changes.

If nothing changes.










Saturday, August 13, 2011

Banana-Nut Muffin

"You know how there are people who when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they kinda surrender and walk into it? A: that's not me. B: I don't even hang out with people like that. For me, it was a year long street fight. It was a slug fest. Vulnerability pushed. I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back."

Yup, I'm posting this again. It's that good.



"This is what I learned: we numb vulnerability. . . We are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. . . You can't selectively numb emotion. Here's the bad stuff. I don't want to feel these. I'm going to have a couple beers and a banana nut muffin. . . When we numb those, we numb joy, and gratitude, and happiness. Then we are miserable.

"To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we wonder "Can I love you this much? Can I be this fierce about this?" To feel this vulnerable means I am alive. The last, is to believe, 'I am enough.' We stop screaming and start listening. We're kinder and gentler to the people around us and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves."

I appreciate people who are having these conversations about the absolute necessity of vulnerability in our lives. Because I believe it. I feel it. I want to live it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

First They Killed My Father

On Thursday, I sat in an impromptu English department meeting where the teachers got together and worked out their schedule for the year. This is important because the school only owns so many copies of, say, The Odyssey or Romeo and Juliet. So the teachers basically call dibs and figure out how to make sure all the students get time with the books.

The department head, Bill, said, "So who's gonna read First They Killed My Father?"

My ears perked up. "Huh? You teach that book?"

"Yeah, the freshman read it every year," he said.

"Oh wow. I read that when I was in Cambodia."

Fifteen heads turned in my direction.




See, First They Killed My Father is the story of a Cambodian girl who lived through the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 70s. The story was intriguing and painful to read, and all the more so because I walked through the killing fields where so many were slaughtered. I lived in slowly-rebuilding Phnom Penh where Pol Pot started forcing people out and murdering those who got in his way. I resided among the mansions that still housed Khmer Rouge officers who had either not been discovered or escaped trial by way of bribes. That story will forever haunt me. As it should.





"You lived in Cambodia?" a teacher named, Sally, asked.

"Uh, yeah. I lived there for a year and taught English."

"Wow. Will you come talk to my class?" asked another teacher.

I've spent most of this week amazed at these "veteran" teachers. These adults who seem to have everything figured out. They are all intellectual and well-read and at-ease with handling students and managing the load of a teacher. These are super-humans, as far as I'm concerned.

Yet, on Thursday. I had something to say. It wasn't much. I just told them I read a particular book when I was an English teacher in Cambodia. But this seemed to intrigue them. It piqued their interest in a way that, four years ago, that young girl in Cambodia never could've imagined.

See, back then she didn't feel like a "real" teacher.
She didn't feel exotic.
She didn't feel credible.
She didn't feel rare.
She didn't feel important.

But four years later--after changing my degree to education, completing my studies, and now entering student teaching--for the first time, I felt a little bit of all of those things for about 2 seconds as those 15 teachers looked at me and seemed...interested.

It was surreal to be sitting in a high school classroom talking about my time in Cambodia where I first encountered teaching. And now here I am. Doing what I said I'd never do.










Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sweetheart

This summer, while cleaning the pool, I would listen to an NPR podcast called "On Being." One of the most memorable was one with Sylvia Boorstein.

In it Boorstein talks a Lovingkindness meditation where we are reminded to be kind to ourselves and quiet the inner critic. She said this as a method of getting through hard moments:

"Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax, take a breath, let's pay attention to what is happening, then we'll figure out what to do."

Sweetheart. Sweetheart.

It is not often what I call myself "sweetheart", but I did on Wednesday morning. As I sat in the parking lot outside of school, I needed to say this to myself. "Sweetheart. Sweetheart. Take a breath. It's going to be all right."

See my mind was whirling with all those perplexing questions. The ones that go:
"What if..."
"When will I..."
"How will I..."
"How will we..."
and so on and so forth.

I took a deep breath. I quieted my polluted mind. I sat. I prayed. I walked inside. Sometimes such a small, brief encounters can change the day.

When Mr. G asked, "How are you?", I told him (I know, crazy right?).

"I'm okay. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'm not sure that I want to be a teacher so it's hard to be here and tackle this massive mound of work in front of me if I'm not even sure this is what I'll end up doing. I'm grateful to be here and have you and Mr. F for help. I guess I'm just feeling . . unsure."

He didn't get mad.
He didn't say I was a bad student teacher.
Instead he said, "Oh, I get that! It took me ten years to figure out I wanted to teach. Take your time. This experience will still be meaningful for you whether or not you end up teaching later. The organization, energy, guts, creativity, and critical thinking it takes to do your student teaching will not be wasted if you choose to do something else."

He immediately put me at ease. No, I don't have to be absolutely sold on this for it to be worth it. It's a journey just like everything else. I'll figure those other details out later. The rest of the day was easier. Lighter. Funner (oh yes, she did).

If each day of my life were to be labeled with a valuable lesson I learned, I feel like 80% of them would be labeled: "Today I learned grace." Over and over and over again because, it's such an easy thing to forget.

The interview with Sylvia Boorstein ended with this grace-full poem by Pablo Neruda.


"Keeping Quiet"

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment,
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps the huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of frightening ourselves with death.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Waddling

Today, I put on teacher clothes. I drove to the high school where I'll be student teaching this semester. I put on a brave face and walked through the doors to meet the cheery (yet, intimidating) faces of 30, 40, and 50-something year-old teachers busily preparing for the first day of teacher orientation.

I've spent 22 years on the other side of the desk. It was odd to sit in teacher orientation meetings talking about budgets, diversity, test scores, and Parent Night. We gathered for 3-4 hours for teacher's meetings and a short session of Speed Dating as an ice breaker. It was such a strange feeling to be sitting there with 85 or so "old" people who were joking and acting like kids. I suppose one should expect that in a school.

After meetings, both of my cooperating teachers Mr. G and Mr. F, met with me to discuss what classes I'll be teaching this semester. The list as of now involves:
-two sections of gifted freshman English
-two sections of American literature
-one section of Popular Culture
(Wow, that list seemed so much more overwhelming when I was looking at it earlier today)

The rest of the afternoon was basically spent sitting around, moving a few desks, observing, and being introduced to several people whose names I can't remember. Except Sue. I remember Sue.


I truly believe that our attitudes can dramatically change the course of our lives. That's why it concerns me that mine has been less-than-stellar.

I walked to my car in the warm afternoon sun, waddling with an abundance of books, folders, and supplies I didn't need. I plopped down in the driver's seat and wanted to cry. This just doesn't feel right. I wish it did. I wish it immediately felt right. I'm not sure I want to be a teacher.

When I tell people what I'm studying in school, they say, "Oh, so you're going to be an English teacher."

And I usually say, "Well, at the end of the semester, I will sure be certified to be one."


My friend, Mr. Blake would say, "HB, the more you say that, the more you are going to believe it."

Darn, him.








Monday, August 8, 2011

Charlie Sheen



Airports are fascinating places.

I've spent more time than usual frequenting them this summer.
From Colorado to Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania to home.
From Colorado to Tennessee.
Tennessee to California.
California to Tennessee.
Tennessee to Canada.
Canada to Tennessee.
Tennessee to Colorado.
Whew.

Airports are interesting melting pots as I believe are gas stations and grocery stores. They are remarkable places to watch people.

Airports attract all kinds: rich, middle-class, men, women, old, young, business people, blue-collar workers, priests, celebrities, authors, musicians, heterosexuals, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, Asians, Blacks, Caucasians, single parents, cancer survivors, veterans, Republicans, Democrats. All kinds.

A few months ago, I met a guy on a flight (no more than 20, though I hoped 15) who was wearing an over sized black t-shirt that looked like this:


I asked him, "I can't tell is your shirt mocking or applauding Charlie Sheen?"

He responded excitedly, "Oh Charlie? He's awesome! I went to one of his shows. Hilarious!"

"So that's why you like him, because he's funny?"

"Uhh...yeah," he replied matter-of-factly.

"And irresponsible?" I added.

A voice from one row behind chimed in, "He's refreshingly honest."

The teenager jumped back in, "Yeah. He's honest. He's living every man's dream."

"Really," I contended. "And what is every man's dream?"

Without hesitation, "Drinking, partying, and women."

"I really don't think that is every man's dream."

The boy: "Well, of course you don't. You're a woman."


Now, I don't know very much about Charlie Sheen, but he's not someone I think I'd be best friends with. All I've heard in the last 6 months is that he's an abusive grease ball who employs porn stars for sex, drinks excessively, and does cocaine whether his young toddler-aged sons are home or not.

As the man one row back proclaimed, "He's refreshingly honest." I think it's possible to be "refreshingly honest" without all the other stuff. In fact, I hope I am.

Another thing struck me about this conversation: the men admired his confidence.

I don't often meet people with an over-confidence problem. In fact, most of the people I know (myself included) seem to have a self-hatred problem. We all probably interact with people who fake confidence and try desperately to prove to themselves and others that they are good enough, but at the core, a lot of us struggle to see our own worth.

Have you seen this?



Because I am not Charlie Sheen, I need this. We all kinda do.

Most days in my journal, I make lists such as this.

I am allowed to be human.
I am a strong, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman.
I am everything I need to be.
I can take deep breaths.
I can choose to accept myself.
I can forgive myself.
I can let go.
I can choose to seek peace and joy.
I can make choices that direct my life.
I can be unsure about the future.
I can be imperfect.
I can change.
I can make mistakes.
I can listen and learn and observe.
I can be proud of myself.
I can fight.
I can be.

Try it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Living Will

I'm scared of growing up.

Of moving forward.
Of responsibility.
Of the unknown.
Of not having control.
Of a lot of things.

I start my last semester of college on Tuesday. This is it. I'll be done with school soon. This is my semester of student teaching where essentially I work 40 hours a week at a local high school teaching English and don't get paid squat for it.

What if I hate it?
What if my teachers think I'm an idiot?
What if the kids revolt against me?
What I wake up every morning and dread going to school?
What if I just spent thousands of dollars on a degree in English Education and I never use it ever again?

I'm not sure I want to be a teacher anymore. I spent one year in Cambodia teaching English. I connected with students. I enjoyed our interactions. And upon returning to college, that was the only thing that made sense to do. But what if I've changed my mind?

I'm not sure that I have. I don't know for sure that I never want to teach. I think what I'm really afraid of is sameness. Of waking up day after day doing the exact same thing, seeing the exact same people, going home, and doing it all over again. In being a student there is some flexibility, but in a job (particularly in teaching) you are expected to be there from 8-3 everyday and meeting a girlfriend for lunch or spending a day soaking up a good book in the sun is not an option. I don't want to be contained. I don't want to be mundane. I don't want to settle. I don't want to work for the next forty years just to get out of debt and then once I'm out of debt be so miserable, I'm not sure what to live for anyway.

I wrote a living will when I was 8 years-old. I had a whole box of diaries, last words, and instructions in the event that I suddenly died. I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't aware that life is short and death is inevitable. I wouldn't recommend this to 8 year-olds or 28 year-olds, but I think it's taught me to be aware of how I spend my days and not want to waste any.

I want to get paid to write.
I want to get paid to read.
I want to get paid to sing.
I want to get paid to play piano.
I want to get paid to color.
I want to get paid to bake.
I want to get paid (no, really paid) to teach Zumba.
I want to get paid to garden.
I want to get paid to listen to people.
I want to get paid to paint.

I'm afraid that the risk of doing the things I really want to do will overwhelm me and I'll never even try. I meet a lot of starving artists and poor writers. Who really "makes it big"? Or even makes it "medium"? I'd be satisfied with "medium". It just seems like the things I really want to do require being "discovered" somehow, attending Juliard, owning acres of land, or having money to start a business.

Basically, I want to have a fulfilling life. One where I feel useful. Used up. Happy. Full. Clear.

But the reality of making a steady income, having insurance, and surviving hits me hard and I tend to stop dreaming.

I've never met a 70 year-old person who said that life really drug on.

No.

They all say, "Life went so fast. It feels like just yesterday we were graduating."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nine Weeks

I have officially re-entered civilization and it feels good.

After 9 weeks of camp, I'm happy to be sleeping in my own bed, spending time with good friends, having access to phones and internet, and having more time to myself. Ahhh.

Camp this summer was splendid.

I became a lifeguard.
I was the pool director.
I was not a counselor (wahoo!).
I met wonderful people and made good friends.
I went to my friend Rachael's wedding in California.
I went caving.
I spoke at Hope Camp Meeting in British Columbia, Canada.
I remembered that I am a fun person.

From the blind campers, I was reminded to have a better attitude. My life looks pretty rosy compared to some of theirs. I need to live like it.

From the junior campers, I was reminded that being a good mentor is simple: take time. Engage. Smile. Welcome. Play.

From the tween campers, I was reminded of myself as an awkward twelve year-old and more grateful for my twenty-three year-old self. She may be "older" but she's wiser. Stronger.

From the family campers, I was reminded that if I ever become a mother, I will be a freaking fun, adventurous, spontaneous one. Age is a matter of mind over matter. If you don't mind. It doesn't matter.

From the teen campers, I was reminded that love, pain, peace, and joy are relative. There is not one version. We all experience life differently and my version of love or pain is not dominate to someone elses. We all have different perspectives. And that's okay.

Camp reminds me how incredibly durable I am.

I am one tough cookie.

The academic year proves to me that I am studious and responsible and efficient and a good time-manager. I get things done well and on-time. I feel mentally and emotionally drained, but when my head hits the pillow there are at least 24 stray worries flying around like disrupted flies. Peace comes slowly. If not until the weekend.

The summer time at camp reminds me that I am strong and capable. I can run on little sleep, be cheery (even when I don't feel like it), endure 6 hours of hot and humid sunshine, keep kids from drowning each other, eat food I enjoy, run to play Darebase, go to campfire sweaty and smelly, shower, and land in bed. When my head hits the pillow I fall asleep quickly, fully exhausted from a physically demanding but emotionally rewarding day.