The noise in the hall was hushed yet abuzz. As I walked down the hallway looking at the other doors as I tried to form so some sort of idea for our homeroom’s door cover. Looking at the other 8th graders 7th graders and finally 5th an 6th as I walked down the hall towards the art room to find yellow paint for the other group that was painting a pumpkin. Next Friday was the big rival game and I was fairly excited for I had never had the liberty to have this much school spirit. Let alone see if we could keep a winning streak of 16 years.
As I continued down the hall to the art room finally arriving to find no teacher and no yellow paint. Quickly leaving as more people came in searching for supplies that most likely was in the hands of another group. I left to go ask another group if they had yellow paint. For it was an important thing, the yellow paint. While walking back to the main hallway passing the office to see I only had 20 minutes left of 6th period I speed up my pace passing some of my 7th grade friends working on their door. I found a group with yellow paint after a little asking around and took it the people decorating the pumpkin. Talking to them, as my partner for the door was busy doing homework for it was a study period. Soon the bell rang and we were left with the mess of paint. Trying quickly to clean up the mess that was all over the lab tables, we were late for our next period, but after getting a pass went on with our day.
The next day my partner, an odd interesting fun loving girl who had had volunteered, and I began the work for our door. Going to the office to retrieve some light blue paper, and taping the large sheet so that it covered the door completely. We began to sketch our ideas for the door. A mustang vs. a falcon, our hope that the mustang will reign supreme. We continued to work turning in a paper to the office requesting cutouts, and letters so we could finish the next day, that of which we presumed the project to be due. Again as always the bell rang, and I found myself off on my to art class as I did every single day since the beginning of the 2nd 6 week grading period.
The next day we continued, picking up the cutouts, formulating a plan for putting them on the door, and managing to glue the wrong side of the letters nearly every time. People coming in and out slowed us, and our hands constantly hitting the door caused people to believe we were knocking. But we finished, with gluey hands and a messed up “L”, but it was finished. We cleaned up returned the glue and continued to talk in the hallway until the bell rang.
After finishing the door, the next day we finished the pumpkin. Again acquiring paints as we had none, brushes and pallets as we ran from the science room to the art room and back. Finishing the pumpkin, a night setting a lone house with one lit window and a grave yard in front. We cleaned the lab table, washed off the pallets and ran back to the art room to return them. As I ran down the adjacent hallway I felt weirdly free. For a break in my usual schedule had occurred that week, and I had been able to see how much pride we had in our little school district. I also felt free due to breaking those simple rules you learn in elementary school. ‘You shouldn’t take without asking. No talking in the halls.’ Those little rules that you obey without thinking.
And of course I had never felt as oddly free as I did running down those halls. That feeling that everything was alright, that everything was done and for 30 seconds we could be carefree. For breaking a rule such as ‘no running in the hall’. A rule that had brought me many problems in the past. It felt good for a break and that feeling as though there were fewer rules. Only to go back to what you had been doing before the next day. That little feeling of excitement and freedom. The feeling as though I could run down those halls and for 10 seconds everything was just fine, I could keep going and nothing could stop me.
But again the bell rang, and I snapped out my daze to join the crowd and continue on with my usual routine.
Within the day to day trenches of life it is pretty easy to get bogged down by all the petty little frustrations which seem to creep into all of our lives. It can be a dangerous, slippery slope if we let those frustrations become our reality. November, however, is a time of thanksgiving; a time to reflect not on those petty frustrations, but on all of those things that save us, that lift our lives up and keep us moving forward. These are often overlooked and taken for granted so it is important, especially at this time of year, to take inventory of all you have to be grateful for. David Foster Wallace illustrates this point beautifully in his speech This Is Water through a parable about fish:
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
Like the fish, we tend to overlook the most important realities and not see what is around us for what it truly is.
Today, I was lucky enough to take a step back and admire the beautiful reality around me. I have chosen to become a teacher, which in today’s day and age comes not with accolades but at best confusion, and at worst, condescension. In New Jersey especially, teachers are taken for granted. Throughout my college career training to become a teacher I have been asked more times than I can count, “Are you sure you want to be a teacher?” with a special mix of pity and repulsion. To those who have asked this (yes, some of them teachers themselves), you just don’t understand.
Teaching is special; teaching is magic. This notion I have is reaffirmed every time I work with my students in the marching band. I get to watch young people grow not just into performers, but into young adults. While the path to success may be strewn with blood, sweat, and tears the view from the finish line looking back is pretty amazing and makes it all worth it. I have spent countless hours of my scant free time working and writing. While other 22 year olds are laying on a beach, I’m in my front yard with a flag and a notepad. But, if I’m going to be completely honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, the things that are merely thoughts roaming around in my mind in June, I give to my girls and they make it come alive on the field past my wildest imaginations. When I see the gratitude in their eyes at the end of the season and look back on all the laughs and inside jokes, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would want to be anywhere else in the world but on the side of the field cheering them on.
You see, teaching is not like any other profession. Nobody thanks you for giving them a burger or selling them a shirt and truly means it. But students will thank you and they will mean it. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that I have made a difference and impacted lives for the better. It is in this that I am truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing organization and on the path to such an amazing and rewarding career. So in this thanksgiving season, look around you and ask yourself, what am I overlooking? How is the water?
I know it sounds ridiculous but its true.
I am not afraid of being up high. Heights themselves don’t freak me out. Send me up to the empire state building, send me in a plane way up in the sky, put me at the top of a water fall - I’m fine. The distance, the view I have no problem. If I am standing somewhere I know I am safe, then I can stay as high as I want for as long as I want.
But as soon as there is one ounce, one fraction of doubt that I will fall into the air - my heart starts pounding, my head races through all the bad scenarios… If the ground is unstable, or I’m clinging by a rope or something I start to worry. I become afraid of the height yes, but only because I am worried I will fall into the air and lose control.
I guess that’s why my favorite spot on Campus is this Stone Ledge Over one of the Staircases. Its got a great view of the campus as well as the area of Geneseo. Its just nice to sit there and enjoy the view. I know I’m safe, and I know that ledge is solid and thick enough that I will not fall. But sitting on the ledge… its just high enough I know that if I did fall, I wouldn’t die… but I could break something. Dropping something even gives me chills, if I fumble. So to sit there tempting fate and pushing my fear, putting myself on the edge literally, I feel something in myself that makes me realize I’m human, and even though I will never be strong enough, if I do something that scares me I’ll eventually get something out of it.
I’ve had to do that a lot this year. Even though a lot of it has been awful. At least I have pushed myself. Not always have good things come out of it but I did it, and who else can say that, right?
I will continue to try and climb, and I will try not to be afraid of the fall when it inevitably comes, but at least when I am I’ll know that I am human and I can pick myself back up and place myself on that ledge.