One year ago Emma took her first steps. Since that day she has been on the move, literally! As I read back through my blog post “Baby Steps” and reflect on all that has happened in a year, I can’t help but be both encouraged and exhausted. Change is vital for growth, but it is also exhausting. So much can change in a year.
We celebrated both Father’s Day and our wedding anniversary this past weekend. Courtney, through all of life’s challenges, has been my solid ground. Many of my favorite memories with Josh also include Courtney and so many of the new memories we are making with Emma have the same components. We have made the most of the days we have shared. As a result, I can honestly say we are not the same people we were over a decade ago. Loss has changed us. Life has changed us. But, through it all, we are still “us.”
Going through photos yesterday, I found one of Courtney and I getting into our get-away car after the wedding ceremony. Although we are the focus point of the photo, the blurry people in the background are what my eye is drawn to first. My aunt is laughing with my uncle. My mom is smiling. A friend’s mother is blowing bubbles. It was a day of celebration. The image captures a snapshot that provides testimony of how many individuals make up our shared community. Each, for better or worse, impacts my life. I think too often, I forget to look in the background of my life to see who all is there, even if their roles are not the focus. Sometimes these blurry people and the moments we share leave the longest impressions.
I realized this year that I started teaching when the graduating class of 2019 was in kindergarten. This May as I watched the seniors walk across the stage, I was envious. I was not in want of their hormones or the drama that comes with them, but instead their excitement and hope for the next phase. Like the seniors, I am in need of change. I love teaching and on the days I get to do it, life is both challenging and rewarding. There are teachers at my school who have been teaching for longer than I have been alive. I know, like my critiquing of the drama of an eighteen-year-old, these colleagues can be critical of my youthful thirteen years of experience and the drama that comes with it.
This year, I am all too aware of how quickly our lives and those in it slip away from us. One day this spring, I was multitasking to fulfill my roles as both a mom and a teacher. I had my laptop open on the kitchen counter and Emma was coloring at the table. Emma kept trying to hand me crayons saying, “sit, mama, sit.” I realized in that moment that instead of multitasking, I wasn’t actually completing either task. I recognized that something needed to give and I wasn’t willing to have that something be the time I have with Emma. I made the right choice to sit down and color. Grading could be done after her bedtime.
A friend recently loaned me Mark Manson’s well-known book and although the title throws me off as I do not care for the F word, his message has a purpose. Manson’s takeaway is that although we are unable to control our lives, we are able to control how we respond to them. He states, “Pain of one sort or another is inevitable for all of us, but we get to choose what it means to and for us” (105). Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be more aware of the choices I am making about my grief. Josh’s life was tragically short, but in the 633 days he was with us, he forever changed me. I can not have those days back, but I can make sure as I go forward that at the end of the day I have made the right choices on how to spend my time.
One of my students asked me during a senior project interview “What impact do you think your writing has on other people?”. All I could tell her is I hope my words help others in some way. I feel the same way about my teaching. At a recent professional development the question was posed “What is the major takeaway you want your students to leave your classroom being able to do successfully?”. I hope students leave my classroom with the abilities they need to be critical readers, critical thinkers, and active members of their communities. I hope for this not only for the students in my classroom, but also for the individuals I interact with at my school and in my life. Manson reminds us “we get to choose what it means.” The impact of a life is unknown, but I get to control my interactions and reactions. This spring one of the students in my English 1 class died unexpectedly. When we received the news, all I could do was think about her brief life and how I could have made a more positive impact on it. I can not change my interaction with her, but I can change how I interact with other students. I have to make the choice to leave work each day knowing I was present and aware of the dynamic individuals that fill my classroom. I need to shift the way I teach. Unlike Emma, my students will no longer ask me to sit and color with them; however, in the same way I need to sit and color with Emma, I need to sit and learn with my students.
In her podcast “Shake Up Learning,” Kasey Bell stresses the need to be aware of mindset. She shares, “you have to make up your mind to be positive…the classroom is full of obstacles…every day…” (10:45). Bell points out that often our minds are our biggest roadblocks, but we can never let our mindset become “our excuse.” This is the mindset I want to foster. Next year, I no longer will be a full-time classroom teacher. I will teach three sections of English and then work as a technology integration specialist for my school. The purpose of the position is to be a resource for those who want to incorporate technology in an impactful way for student learning. I feel a little like a quitter for shifting out of a traditional teaching assignment, but I have to remind myself sometimes change takes me to better places. I know next year will hold its own challenges, but through each challenge I will have an opportunity for growth.
I think about the wife I was twelve years ago and I can say with confidence that my marriage is stronger now than it was new. I think about how much Josh changed our lives. We love and live more fully because of his influence. I think about what changed when Emma entered our lives. Our lives are now in a constant state of blissful motion.
Change is all around me; I just need to be willing to embrace it.
This week marks my one year anniversary blogging about Josh. In my first post, I challenged myself to run forward instead of away. I forced myself to share my story, Joshua’s story, with others in hopes of finding grace. I am not sure if am any more graceful, but the past year has brought hope in a new way.
Here is to another year for growth through challenge. Thanks for coming with me.