October showed up when I wasn’t looking. I was too busy planning lessons, grading papers, and trying to survive each day. This new life is hard. Exceptionally hard. I make it through twenty-hour days with only my community and my faith to keep me climbing out of bed each morning. It’s a challenge unlike anything I’ve known before, but I am committed.
When I packed to move south, I made sure to bring some things that served no practical purpose except easing my spirit. I have the letters my parents wrote me for my Confirmation retreat. I have all my Harry Potter books, though I would be surprised if those covers budge the entire time I’m here. I also brought the card Jim gave me for graduation. In it, he wrote that I “have a knack for perseverance.” Besides embracing my heart, Jim pointed out a character trait in me that he saw grow over time. I’m a terrible decision-maker, but once I do finally decide, I cling to my choice with a surprising stubbornness. I have chosen to follow God’s call to this place, this school, this career, and I will follow through, even if it kills me.
Some days I fear it might.
Every day is another chance to start over. I remind my students of that as soon as the bell rings and I close my classroom door to shut out latecomers. It’s an opportunity for my students to behave and do their work. It’s another period for me to whip them out of their middle-school misbehavior and into respectful, college-aimed adolescence. I’ve really struggled with classroom management, as we say in the biz. I honestly care less that they can identify simple predicates than that they can just follow directions. Headings on the right. Of course I know your last name. Just write it. No, we do not have numbers in this class. Yes, it does matter what title you put on it and where it goes; if I have to figure out what you just shoved into the box and I guess wrong, that’s too bad. Why? Because I said so. (And I am officially worse than my own mother.) Hello, Intimidating but Effective Colleague. Thank you for your help, but when I can’t control the class and you can, it makes me feel microscopic. Have a good afternoon.
On the ride home yesterday, I asked my housemate if he ever feels like he can’t do this (“this” meaning the job). He said no and advised me to seek help if I’m doubting my abilities. I don’t know whether my problems are just on the rough end of typical or are indicators of my failing potential. I do know that I’m losing my sense of joy in teaching. It doesn’t make me happy the way it once did.
My take-away point from Renee LaReau’s Getting a Life: How to Find Your True Vocation was that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Joy is the deep abiding feeling of delight in God and life. Happiness is momentary, but just as authentic. So what do I have now? Oftentimes, neither.