on purpose & gratitude

This is my second year teaching at a school. It’s also the fifth school that I’ve worked at–not always as a teacher. There have been struggles with each and every job. Most of the struggles internal. For me, teaching is not just what I do. It’s who I am.

I’m a teacher. As much as I am a sister. And a daughter. And a writer.

And with all of those things, I have to do it right. Some of this means I have to do it on my terms, but a lot of it means that I need purpose.

And that’s been the greatest struggle for me in my current school. Admittedly, I was only there part-time last year at 10 hours per week. This year’s part-time status had my hours jump to about 30, but I still struggled. And this all came to a breaking point on a student retreat in which I broke down in front of the adult I was paired with for a reflection.

I just don’t know what my purpose here is.

More than any place I’ve been, I didn’t feel that my students wanted a teacher. They want grades. They want to pile up APs. They could care less what I have to say about being a citizen, a person, a friend. They don’t want lessons on expressing themselves or commanding their own voices. They just want to memorize and get an A.

In my first full-time teaching job, my mentor told me that my students would likely forget the subject I taught, but they would never forget what I taught them about being a person. And I’ve held onto that because I really believe it to be true.

The only thing that really matters to me is that my students learn to think for themselves, act with integrity and work to make the world a better place than it is. Yes, I harp about their writing skills and put them through a brutal semester-long curriculum in writing, but it’s not really about the writing. It’s about the discipline, the accomplishment, and the thought process behind it all.

Just as I had resigned myself to another a year of not understanding, the clues started to come in slowly.

Handing in a 14-page term paper, a student said, “I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life.” I didn’t know how to respond.

But the best was my course evaluations. Everyone warned me not to read them because the students would use them as a way to “get back at me”, but I had to merge the responses. And I realized that although I may not have seen it, my teaching was working. I was thrilled that in addition to “essay” and “writing”, the most common responses were “improved”, “learned”, “confident”, and “helped.”

And then I walked into my classroom on the last day and was greeted with a surprise white board full of thank yous, including this one:

Makes the ending of the year just a little bit easier.

the most important thing

A year ago today, I sent myself an email. It was my response to a question asked of me. The question was “what’s the most important thing?”

I never finished my response.

And I was reminded today that at this point last year, I was struggling. Like seriously struggling. With everything. Purpose. Meaning. Friendships. Work. There was something seriously wrong, and I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Over the several months that followed that question, I worked through it. In kind of a tortured way. The friend who asked the question said that it was going to be the summer of my malcontent. And it was. It truly was. Forward looking pushed me through it, but it was not easy.

And then just as things settled down—I finished the draft of a book, I found work, I fixed some friendships—the one who asked the question left. Like really left. Out of the country.

Last Friday, I knew that I would see him today, and I’ve been so excited that I could hardly stand it. And then, this morning, I saw the email. With the question. And I realized that over the past six months, I have found the answer.

Peace.

That’s it. Simple as that. I initially wanted to say happiness. Then, joy. But it’s not that at all. Because in all truth, some shitty things have happened in the past six months. But they have not ruined me. It’s like everything swirls around me. And I remain.

And for one of the first times in my life, I can say that I truly have joy within me.

And I am so deeply grateful. I know that it comes from within, and I know that I have worked hard to attain it. But it is very rare in life—at least in mine—that I have had someone that I could quite literally say anything to.

And from the depths of all that is good and happy and peace-filled within me, the best I can do is say, “thank you.”

a leap of faith & a litany of gratitude

Just 15 minutes ago, I sent the email asking my real estate agent to draw up the first offer I will ever make on a property in my life. Can you tell I’m excited (her words)? Or terrified (my words)?

I saw the property today, got the official numbers after 10 p.m. and had an hour-long conversation with the Little One before I decided.

It may work out. It may not. I think I’m most proud of myself for making the decision (with help of course).

But I am also thankful….

…that you’re smarter than I am. More practical. More logical.

…that you support me.

…that you pointed out that I always pull it together.

…that I always DO pull it together.

…that every leap of faith in the past 11 months has been met with overwhelming success—or a challenge to dig deeper.

…that you challenged my idea of “fabulous.”

…that you said you’d visit me.

…that you made me laugh at my fears.

…that there is always opportunity.

…that my soul is filled with faith in something I don’t always understand.

…that I can say without a doubt that I’m scared.

…that you trusted me enough to let me do this.

…that I struggle sometimes.

…that every 18 hour day seemingly now had a purpose.

…that the light is always shining. Especially when I hit the wall.

gratitude

The simplest thing I need to say is that I’m very, very grateful.

It would be hard to describe it all in words or to describe it in words that I’m comfortable saying for anyone to read.

Suffice it to say, I have become friends with two of the best people I’ve ever met in the past 6 months. I don’t even know how to describe what that type of mutual support has done for me, except to say that it has certainly kept me from completely sinking.

It’s hard to materialize a friendship when one of the persons (me) is not entirely healthy and happy. So, I am doubly grateful for the gift of being seen for who I really am.

anger: bold as love

Anger! He smiles
Towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen jealousy envy waits behind him
Her firey green gown sneers at the grassy ground
Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted
They quietly understand

I think around noon today, I realized that I was no longer in a bad mood. I think after the anger subsided around Friday night, exhaustion settled in over it.

So, this is more a thank you. To a friend who always makes me laugh and reminds me that I’m human. And to a friend who deals with my absolute insanity…

I couldn’t be luckier if I tried.