Sunday, November 18, 2007

Show me that smile again.

Sunday afternoon in November. I am in the library, preparing for my final student teaching observation. Really, that specific task seems like the least of my concerns.

I decided to walk here. The weather is suprisingly warm to be this late in the year. And the leaves are peaking a bit late, too. So I collected my teachery things in my messenger bag, threw on a light jacket, and started out the door. But when I stepped out, I had a moment of inspiration. Quickly, I transferred my teacher's edition Spanish II textbook, my student teaching binder, and the notebook in which I scribble "lesson plans" into my black backpack.

This backpack has been hiding behind the driver's seat of my car for about five months now. I haven't carried it since this summer, when I hauled it to, from, and all over Europe. I had cleaned it out once I got home, but there are still residual items floating around. My travel alarm clock, a brochure of travel information about the train that runs from Bregenz to Vienna, the flimsy comb I took with me on the weekends because it took up less space in my bag.

There is something distinctly student about carrying your belongings in a backpack. So in last-chance fashion, I walked to campus looking like a student. But I realized something. I don't so much feel like a student anymore. As I walked past the gate guarding campus against who-knows-what, I saw a kid that I had class with first semester of my sophomore year. I said to myself, Is he still here? Of course, I then realized that I'm still here, too.

In this last semester, though, I have been subconsciously bidding this chapter of my life farewell, to use the cheesiest, most hackneyed language ever. Like I said about the inevitable roller coaster drop, I don't know what's going to happen on the other side of this, but no matter what, it is time for it to happen. And student teaching has been the context for this semester, but it hasn't been the entire focus of it. The process of it has made me re-evaluate life and how I choose to deal with it. I can't say I've resurfaced from the challenges that this process has presented, but it's been good. It's been a semester of growing pains, for sure. I don't think they're over, the growing pains, nor do I think they will ever be.

While it was nice to feel like a student again, walking onto campus and fists clinging to the shoulder straps of my backpack, I couldn't help but feel that I had outgrown it -- the backpack, the studentness. I could be wrong. I could be over-analyzing this, like I over-analyze everything else.

For the moment, though, I think I might be ready to stretch my freshly-sprouted wings. Now it's a matter of edging out of the nest. 'Course, I might need some nudging, but well, graduation is less than a month away now.

Deep breath, deep breath...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Please keep all limbs inside the car.

Somedays, I feel like I'm on one of those thrill rides that straps you in over your shoulders and lets your feet dangle as it whips you around loop after loop and plummet after plummet. Other, more peaceful days, I'm cruising along on the rocket-shaped kiddie car that glides gently over gradual hills and smooth curves. Being the risk taker that I am not, I prefer the latter.

Today, though, I can understand the thrill seekers of the world. As much as I would like to keep myself on the kiddie coaster, the reason the big rides are fun is that they make you realize you have something to lose, something valuable. They make you feel alive. In a warped sense, they make you see what you've got, even if it's about to be gone.

Right now, I feel like the amusement park personnel has locked a harness over my shoulders and I can't see anything beyond the big hill in front of me and the hint of the inevitable drop. I can hear the click-click-click as I make my way to the pinnacle of what I can see, and for once, I'm sort of excited about what will happen when gravity wins over.

I'm scared to death, but I'm holding out for a safe return to the station.