For the longest period of time, I’ve been attempting to put into words, or more so coherent thoughts, what has been occurring this school year. And then when I start attempting to, I nearly give up and think, “is there really a struggle here? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?” Usually what results next is a binge on chocolate. Just because that seems like the most appropriate thing to do (?)
Ultimately I decided binging on chocolate probably wasn’t the most appropriate, or healthy medium of stress-relief. Not to mention, my wallet couldn’t afford the quantity of chocolate I needed on a teachers salary to begin with.
Rather, I decided, after truly grasping how poor my attitude has become, to take a more suitable and realistic approach for both my health and bank account; running and journaling.
The irony is, neither I particularly enjoyed growing up.
It was nearly 10 years ago that I clearly remember running laps around Hinckley Lake in Ohio as part of the Cross Country team, wondering to myself, “how can I get out of this?” Yet, the most significant aspect of such is I remember hobbling over to my coach stating I had “shin splints,” when in fact I did not. Of course, I thought I had him fooled, but I didn’t have my father fooled. I had never been the greatest fibber either, it usually showed on my face, and that day it did. That same day, as I heard countless times over, “quitting is not in the Sniff’s dictionary. So you’re going to keep running.”
I had been raised with the mentality that quitting wasn’t right, whether the run you were on in life was easy or unbearable. Little did I know that such would affect me to this day, and particularly this year.
Throughout the past months, whether for the better or worse, and most often it has been for the worse, I’ve reflected upon my teaching career. I’ve wondered to myself countless times, “what am I doing here?” Up until I began teaching, I was so reassured on my career path, on my plan in life. I had a plan for my life, I had a list of opportunities I wanted to pursue, and that I vowed to complete for not only myself but others. And as I reflect on the attitude, I had just a short time ago, I am left wondering, “what happened to that attitude?”
Little did I know that over the span of 2 years, the carefully constructed plan I had would be faced with a force of trials and tribulations, some very personal, that could have never been accounted for. I began to see each trial as an opportunity for growth, but after some time, the more trials which occurred, the more I was left wondering, “what am I doing” yet again. To narrow such, teaching has been this way for me this year. You question what you are doing so much that you are left to consider, “is there an alternative? Should I be running from this career?” Yet somewhere, each moment the thought could possibly be entertained, there was an immediate inner desire to dismiss it. (And this is where you enter an infamous chocolate binge because it is the only thing that makes sense at such a point in time.)
To digress, what many don’t know after hearing that I have completed several half-marathons, and a marathon, is that I literally ran away from running until late in college, when I began to use it as a form of stress relief (or more so, my own anti-drug campaign.) What I found by stepping away for some time was, and still is, a renewed adoration for not only running, but also how much I truly needed it. It offered clarity, and most importantly, the incredible notion of how one could push forward past the impossible – those thoughts that tell you to “give up. Stop.”
And as I reflect on this school year thus far, when thinking about it just makes me want to continuously say, “what am I doing,” I begin to consider how much I truly need this year. I need the students just as much as they need me.
Yet, I need to remember why I began running again, as well.
To backlog, I stumbled upon my career choice as an educator. Initially, I considered the medical route, consequently re-routing myself to that of a legal profession, and somehow ending up in the educational field. (I made sure to consider every extremity. You know, just to rule out possibilities.)
When I began to internalize a career pathway, the question which I struggled with for a period was how to combine both my passions of service and learning into a career, not just a job. As a result, I considered the convictions I held for understanding and service, coming to find that both had been shaped by my innate desire to continuously learn, as well as to pursue the betterment of others. Ultimately, such reflection led me to education, and all that education meant to myself, and family.
My siblings and I were raised with the mentality that relentless determination, high expectations, and a willingness to continue despite failure can only further ourselves and others. Having such instilled within us, we were encouraged to pursue avenues not present to our parents; most significantly, the ability to obtain a four year college degree and expanding our boundaries past our small community.
When applying these mentalities towards running, what it meant to me (and didn’t) over the years, I have come to find my true struggle at this moment, that being the perception I have of continuously pushing forward. I expect such a perception from my students, as do others. Without much elaboration, it has now become a personal struggle to continue running when I continuously feel as if I’m going uphill, and boulders are coming at me (alright, that might be a slight exaggeration.) As an educator, you want to run forward, and push ahead to see the finish line that much sooner for all members on your team, the group you are running with and for. And here lies the root of it all; I desire to see them reach a specific finish line so much sooner than can happen in numerous realms. I expect my continuous marathon to help them cross that line to be of merit, to be evident. Yet, I failed to reflect upon what I already understood, and that is this: the run can turn into a walk due to situations outside of my control, even reaching a stopping point to take a breather.
And while I need to continue encouraging my students to run forward, I need to remember it will take time; time that I may not have a chance to witness. At the very least, however, I can leave a small imprint with my attitude, with my energy, or by lending an ear to just listen to them…and maybe, just maybe, they will want to run forward with such in the future.
Personally, as I move forward from today, I need to remember that I take school so personally because it is incredibly personal to me. Its how I ended up where I am, with the opportunities I have experienced, and the inspirational individuals I have the pleasure of knowing. But I need to step back and understand that this isn’t my experience anymore, it is theirs. As much as I want to create such opportunities for them, the journey around the lake is all their own, I’m just assuming another role now. And it is alright for them to run, it is alright for them to walk, it is alright for them to crawl, it is even alright for them to stop and take a breather. You know, it is even alright to stop and laugh along the way!
So, the more that I think about, chocolate and the encouragement of the runner’s mentality will always be the answer! Right?