I have not written in a while. A lot of life has happened for me between my last post and now. The kind of life that causes pause and reflection. The kind that provokes pondering about priorities and purpose.
In recent weeks, I have come to know a new version of myself. A version who doubts and questions. A version who struggles to get herself up in the morning. A version who, more than ever, feels lost, confused, and broken. Through these challenging days, I have landed on some realizations.
When I was a kid, there were times I argued with my siblings. There were times I got in trouble. There were times I went through breakups. There were times I didn’t get the part in the play I wanted or I earned a poor grade or I disappointed people I care about. In every difficult moment of my childhood, there would come a time when my dad would call me over to sit beside him on our couch, where he would explain to me that though the world seemed to be upside down or nearing its end, life would go on. That over time, my worries or disappointment would diminish, and that I would look back and wonder what the big deal had ever been about.
Six years ago, I was teetering on the idea of applying for a teaching position at Northstar Middle School. At the time, I was in my fourth year teaching 7th grade in Bloomer, Wisconsin, and I loved it there. There were certain draws pulling me to Eau Claire, but there wasn’t anything pushing me from Bloomer. I had an amazing group of colleagues in a sweet, small town in which I had begun to make a name for myself. The decision felt selfish and greedy on my part. I was uncomfortable abandoning my students.
In a phone conversation with my dad, something that rarely happened given his revulsion to talking on the phone, through tears, I expressed my worries to him. My dad taught me another lesson I will never forget. He told me I had to defuse my ego and realize that I am completely replaceable. That if I were to accept a position elsewhere, another teacher would fill my spot, and life would go on for everyone. He was not trying to insult me but instead to remind me that my wants and needs mattered – that there were students in every city, in every state needing positive role models and mentors. With or without me, life would go on.
It was after that conversation that I submitted my application which landed me in my current spot. Sort of. It was the launch pad by which I was able to find my way to my current position, doing my best to provide challenging, engaging opportunities for students to create and thrive. Every day, I immerse myself in my classroom activities. I coach sports after school. I direct the school play and the talent show.
Some people wonder why I throw myself into so much all the time. It’s not because I think my students and athletes need me or that I think no one else will do it. I learned from my dad I am replaceable in that way. I know someone else would step in. I know my students and athletes would be just fine with another teacher, coach, or director. It’s because in times like now, when I am in free-fall, I need my students to catch me. They don’t know it, but they are my net.
My dad passed away a few weeks ago. He was living with stage four lung cancer that had metastasized to several other organs and eventually made its way to his brain. He was a remarkable man. Words do not suffice in trying to explain just how remarkable.
There are many things I have questioned in recent weeks. Things both personal and professional. My students, though? No question – they are the reason I do what I do. They are the reason I walk through the school doors each day. They are my purpose and my net. Their unique personalities, their deserving hearts, and their creative minds are what catch me each day and place me back on solid ground. They are my proof that life will go on.