Bob Dylan has always been a mixed bag for me. I appreciate his songwriting and his influence on music, but honestly, I can’t stand his voice. It drives me nuts. I suppose in some people’s minds that means I don’t truly appreciate Dylan, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t care. I know what I like.
I’m writing this in a coffee shop in Nashville (Stereotypical, I know, a blogger writing in a coffee shop), and I’ve been thinking back on my first year of teaching. What kind of things did I learn? Where did I fail? Where did I succeed? Did I make an impact on any of the kids I taught? I don’t know the answers to those questions yet. I will need a lot of time to unpack them. But those are not the only questions in my mind right now.
If I’m going to be completely transparent here, these past 10 months have been the hardest in my life. Going into my first year of teaching in a new environment while teaching 4 subjects that are not my concentration area all while trying to go to graduate school was something that in retrospect, I probably would have not done. It made my life a constant stress machine. I lost 9 pounds in the first week of teaching and grad school from anexity and not eating. I didn’t sleep a whole lot. Most days I left school feeling like I’d been ran over by a truck. I’ve been running on fumes emotionally and physically since March. My grandfather died of cancer in November. Numerous other things have happened that I don’t have time to go into. The point is, these past 10 months have pulled me in every possible direction at once, and as I sit here at the end of it all, I barely feel intact.
Teaching is a wonderful profession, don’t get me wrong. It’s a chance to reach young people, teach them some things about the world and about life, with the end result hopefully being your involvement in their advancement as a person. But, it’s hard. It’s really hard. When the kids are not engaged, interested, or give you zero effort, it sucks the life out of you. It kills you emotionally to see kids with limitless potential refuse to ever try to reach it. It legitimately breaks your heart, and tests the limits of your motivation and work ethic. There were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning because I kept asking myself “What’s the point? Most of them don’t care anyway and they don’t respect you.” Not everyone can teach, and I’m starting to wonder if I am one of those who can’t.
As I sit here and write this, I feel like my first year of teaching was an abject failure. I feel that the kids didn’t like or respect me. I feel that I butchered most lessons. I feel I could have been more structured and more quick to discipline the kids. I feel I could have prepared more. But, did I learn some things? Absolutely. But I feel I learned these lessons in failure. People have told me I’m too hard on myself, and that’s true. In many instances I expect too much of myself, but I feel I’m hurting myself if I allow my brain to make excuses for me. I should expect better from me, because what’s the alternative? I feel I’ve disrespected myself if I give myself some slack.
I’m I meant to teach as a career? I don’t know. I have to keep reminding myself that this one year should not dictate my view on it as a career. Does it make me happy? Do I find a sense of purpose from it? Again, I don’t have an answer right now. Things are changing all around me and inside my head. You know that feeling when you first learn to swim, and when you get brave and dive to the bottom to the first time? What happens? You’re struggling to reach something solid. You’re not a great swimmer yet, your arms are weak, your lung capacity isn’t very large, and yet you want to accomplish something. You want to push yourself and reach something tangible. That is how I feel right now. I’m trying to reach something solid.
One my friends is trying to convince me to move to Nashville and spend some time to focus on writing. I like the idea of it. It feels romantic, adventurous, slightly dangerous. But that is what makes me take a step back. It’s dangerous. I have student loans, three courses left in my Masters degree, and numerous other things going on. He says I’m young and this is the perfect time to do it, that I don’t want to sit around at 40 and think “If only…” And he’s right. A part of me wants to move today and give it a shot, even though I have no clue how to get started. But, when I really think about it, it makes me afraid. He says I’m in a rut and I need a drastic change to sort of shake the cobwebs and chains off of me. He has a point, but I don’t know if that’s what I need to do.
Donald Miller once said that life is a lot like a motorcycle. You need to be moving to remain stable. If you go too slow on a motorcycle or stop, you’ll crash or fall over. Stability comes with movement. I think he has a point. What do I do about it? I don’t know. Regardless, I feel things are changing and will change.
Lately I’ve been thinking about something written by Raymond Chandler where he talked about the hero of his mystery novels, Phillip Marlowe. When describing him and his character’s motivations, he said something like this: “The story is the man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.” I’m the author and hero of my own story. I have the capacity to dream and chase those dreams, to go on adventures.
At the end of the day, I want to be a man fit for adventure, and my prayer right now is that God will guide me to the right one and make me ready for it.