I have relatives who love roller coasters and I mean LOVE roller coasters. Being of a philosophical and metaphorical turn of mind I have often felt that I do not need to pay for a roller coaster: I have been living one for 53 years, plus change.
Yesterday for example…yesterday I started my day with joy and excitement. I loved the idea of getting back to school and seeing colleagues I had not seen in months. I was anticipating getting back to doing what I love best; spending time with young people. That was the high point of the ride.
By the end of the day I felt in need of a metaphorical dentist because I felt I had spent the day, metaphorically, getting kicked in the teeth. I did not feel that any of my colleagues were particularly glad to see me ( you can tell by the number of people who greet you or sit by you at meetings). One colleague announced that she was going to do her ‘new ‘ job ‘differently. She was going to ‘care, serve, and be effective’. Her ‘new’ job is my ‘old’ job. It felt like a kick, perhaps two, although I do not think she meant it in that way.
In the middle of the afternoon the infamous duck (or perhaps it is a chicken this year but ‘chicken’ does not rhyme with the expletive of choice the way ‘duck’ does) made its return. To understand how I feel about the duck you must read my posting from last school year.
The superintendent complained about money, again. The insurance guy told us how great we have it, again. The school board president told us we were important, again. I signed a staff handbook acknowledging that I understood all of the things that might cause me trouble for the twenty-sixth time. A staff member came close to open incredulity at the idea that I am doing graduate work in ministry.
By the end of the day, my good attitude was in pieces.
Being a stubborn ‘bastard’ ( not my choice of self-description but I think my colleagues use it with love) I spent a good time in the evening trying to put my Humpty-Dumpty attitude together again.
I have spent the summer struggling with course materials that describe the urge of Christian mystics to suffer. I attended a retreat last week based on the idea that the Gospel of Mark is a call to martyrdom, spiritual if not physical. The pieces started coming together for me.
My life has consisted of being ‘different’. From personality tests I now know that it cannot be differently for me; and yet I fight it. I want the respect of my peers, I thirst for a little ‘glory’ or ‘limelight’ as much as anyone and perhaps even more.
Yet….I have chosen a path, over and over again, that almost ensures a measure of loneliness, and maybe, even a kind of spiritual martyrdom. I chose to leave a classroom I loved to do a job I would be hated in, and I was. I chose to burn bridges in the other direction by leaving administration to go back to a better place for me. I chose to see teaching as a vocation, a calling, and not just a job.
Come Monday, I will be where I need to be, with students. I may succeed in my ministry of teaching, I may not. Success, or failure, will not rely on my hurt feelings, or need for recognition. It certainly will not be measured with the gift of a plastic chickenduck. Come Monday I will have reminders all around me that it is not ‘all about me’ and it never was.