Thursday, November 13, 2014

                                                         CHOOSE A LENS

     Recently, one of my former students, (a vocally talented, exceptionally fluent French student) posted on face book that although she was not yet 40, she wished she could travel the world and live a life of leisure like me. I didn’t realize that my posts of the past couple of years had given people the impression that my life was so glamourous. Through the lens of a person wading through the daily muck of life, I suppose it looks idyllic. I have learned through the years; however, that even “glamour” has its drawbacks.

     A guy I dated once criticized me for being so optimistic. He said, “I believe the world is crap, and anything good that happens is a terrific surprise.You think everything is wonderful, so when something bad happens, you freak out.” I looked at him like he was an ignorant moron. After all, I had 2.5 degrees, and he barely finished high school (what was I doing with him to begin with?) I came to find out, however, that his comment was pretty savvy. He was street smart, and I was “book smart.” That fact was irrelevant; however, but I took away some useful information. That is, keep my expectations of people and life realistic, and maybe even a little low. That way, disappointments are less threatening and small victories become magnified.  We can all learn from others regardless of education level or any other label we choose to put on them.

     Retirement was something I never thought about. Retirement was for “old people.” These people were, in my mind, no longer in the mainstream once they left their jobs, so they didn’t count. I remember looking on the bulletin board at the school where I taught and reading a sign that said LONGEVITY. “What is long-ge-vi-ty?” I asked. Someone explained that this was a financial reward for heading toward “old” and “extinct.” 

     Well, that financial reward has allowed me to lead the “glamorous” life my students think I lead. My definition of glamour is very different than my students could imagine. It is even different than I would have imagined, had I even thought about it when they took me kicking and screaming from my classroom eight years ago.  My life of leisure has some of its own “muck,” but the glamour lies in moments of the following:

  • quiet walks on the beach in the early hours of the morning when it’s just me and the morning doves
  • a solitary walk in the woods where I listen to the scurrying of small animals rustling the fallen leaves
  • a pink and purple sky over the Intracoastal from my perch on a crusty dock
  • a refreshing walk through the pine-tree canopy of our local park
  • a hot cup of Joe at my favorite coffee shop as I share stories with a close friend
  • a gentle breeze blowing through my hair as I sit on the bench looking out at the dolphins breaching 
  • the energy generated by a good cardio walk around the “Loop,” a path peppered with runners, dog walkers and stroller-pushers
  • holding the hand of one of my 10 grandchildren and seeing the wonder in their eyes as they look up at me
  • cheering for any one of my 3 grandsons as they maneuver the basketball down the court of push the puck toward the goalie.
  • the soulful strains of a beautiful melody playing on my Pandora as I write this

     To me, these are a big part of the “glamours” life I am leading. When we are in the mainstream working our way through the muck (climbing the corporate ladder, raising children, negotiating the dating scene, trying to save for the sunny day), we don’t have time to notice or fully experience the small idyllic moments of life. 

     World travel is exhilarating, exciting but after paying the $10,000+ bill and whizzing through three weeks of bliss, it’s over, and we’re back home asking ourselves, “What now?” 

     I wouldn’t trade the luxury of leisure time or the thrill of an exotic vacation, but no lifestyle is perfect. It just depends on the lens you choose to observe it. 

P.S.  For my student who says she loves what she does, this is what I miss:

  1. A student asking me questions about facts and looking excited by my answer.
  2. A student asking me a “life” question and looking relieved or validated by my response.
  3. A student “getting it,” and me saying to myself, “Oh, yeah!”
  4. A student telling me he or she will miss my class.
  5. A student writing me a note or letter letting me know I have touched his or her life in some small way.
  1. The “high” I used to get by creating a lesson plan that would motivate and teach more than the subject matter.
  2. The “high” I used to get when I researched a topic for a lesson and was glad I learned something new.
  3. The joy of sharing my learning and teaching with my colleagues.
  4. The excitement of learning new ways to motivate my students and make them feel worthy.
  5. The fun of taking students abroad and seeing them experience a different world than their own.
  6. The satisfaction of contributing to society by inspiring students to follow their dreams and passions. 
  7. All the lessons I learned FROM my students. I am still learning about them and from them.

     I am blessed.