April 25, 2014
After countless hours of soul searching and prayer, I continue to believe that my purpose in life is to be a teacher. It is through no small feat that I continue to believe this. However, my decision to continue teaching really only came down to two pivotal thoughts: a blog post and Brené Brown.
First, the blog post. I published “Why Teachers of Color Don’t Quit” on December 27th of last year. I poured everything I had into this post. It was logical, well-reasoned, and of course, emotional. It encapsulated why I teach; why I feel compelled to teach. However, once completed, I had shoved it into the back of my mind the same way I shove my size 9 jeans into the back of my closet. And just as I do with my size 9 jeans, I wistfully concluded that someday in the future, those ideals of mine would once again “fit” me. Yesterday was that day.
Feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed, I re-read my blog post last night. I was curious to see if the ideals I had so adamantly expressed in my writing still rang true. In a word, yes. However, not being one to take anything at face value, I remained unconvinced. This is where Brené Brown stepped in.
I was first introduced to Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability through the saving grace of one of my angels. A year and many lifetimes ago while in the Middle East, my daughter’s mother-in-law, SB-H, sent me a link to the website TED: Ideas worth spreading. To say that Brené Brown’s TED talk inspired me is to underscore the profound, “A-ha!” moment her words created within me. Not only did I discover inspiration, but comfort as well. You know, the kind of comfort you need when you are in “foreign lands” and you “know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand,” as Brad Paisley would sing.
That inspiration and comfort kept me afloat while overseas, far, far away from family and friends. I knew my life had meaning and that I was serving some higher purpose; it felt good, it felt right. Then I came home and it was my size 9 jeans all over again. Although this time, I was deeply troubled that my meaning and purpose would truly never “fit” me again. I was afraid that my significance would no longer be anchored in teaching. In fact, I have been convinced for the past few months that I would never teach again. Last night, that all changed. Last night my better angel could not be tempted from my side.
For the past two months, I have been willing myself to sleep through my earphones and classical music. The anxiety I have generated with the almost belief that my effectiveness as a teacher had reached its end, has been unbearable. And although I have been reasonably certain that the soothing music has lulled me to sleep, I wake up feeling anxious and well, useless. Last night was proving to follow the same pattern, that is, until my list of classical songs had ended and my downloaded videos began to play. And I began to listen.
I have heard Ms. Brown discuss Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech before, I just have never applied it to anything in my life. Well, it is all about my life.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
I am the man in the arena. I strive valiantly and I come up short again and again. And that has been my focus. It has been the wrong focus. I strive to do what I know to be a worthy cause and I do it with much enthusiasm. In the end, I will have known the “triumph of high achievement” and I will know that I have failed. But at least I will have failed while daring greatly.
I am a teacher and I dare greatly. Peace, ~v.