Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said recently: “To continue doing the same thing is insanity, and I don’t think I’m insane yet.” This was in reference to the team and the effort being put into developing a winning style and philosophy. And while I find myself wondering if the owner hasn’t in fact lost his marbles (see his attempt to hire Jim Harbaugh, then, after being spurned by the then-Standford coach, awarding contract extensions to the men that would have been fired), his words resonated within me. In regards to my writing, I have been doing the same thing for too long. By Stephen Ross’ definition, I am most definitely Insane.
My pattern of taking entire months off from writing is disconcerting. I find myself mired in a rut these days. I have to report back to school in a few short weeks. (I know, I know, all the non-teachers out there have just rolled their eyes and started a chorus of “woe is me”s with the world’s smallest violin playing in the background.) (Eat it.) But each summer, my song is the same. I vow to finish this or that writing project. I vow to blog more often. I vow to lose weight. I vow to eat right. But what do I do? Lounge. Play video games. Watch ESPN for the latest news on Dolphins Free Agency. (And action eerily akin to slamming one’s head into a brick wall.)
So with my frustrations continuing, I combed the files of my computer for something to jump-start my latest blog entry. I considered revisiting an older post about Lobster season in the Keys (click here to view the post), and I thought about writing about the changes in my lifestyle concerning my Diabetes (which I will likely do soon). But, as I sat at this computer and stared at the white void of an empty New Post, I thought about who I want to be. That question is obviously complicated and multifaceted, but it drew me back to a journal assignment I wrote about four years ago in an education class I was taking for my teacher’s certification.
The assignment was a simple one. As an icebreaker for the course, the instructor wanted each student to bring in something they felt represented them, and we were to present this to the class as our introduction. Some people brought pictures, others brought trinkets, but I decided to put together this little journal entry. Much of what you’ll read below still holds true. (Except now, my wife wakes up before me. I need every minute of sleep I can get.) Feel free to try a short journal entry with the same title I used, Who Am I?, then answer the question in a little two or three page scene from your life. If you do, please share it. You can post it in the comments area of my blog so we can all enjoy it. I hope you enjoy mine. Thanks for reading.
Who Am I?
The alarm clock blared its battering ram straight through the front door of the young man’s dream house. He slapped at the hateful contraption and the incessant screaming was silenced until the next morning at five a.m. Tired, no amount of eye-rubbing would relieve the exhaustion in his bones. He pulled his mostly comatose carcass to the shower and seared the sleepiness from his skin with scalding water. But the only hot water that would wake him wouldn’t come until the second or third cup of coffee.
As the young man moved through his early morning routine—shower, insulin injection, coffee, breakfast, more coffee—his mind roused from the recesses of his slumbering consciousness. The sports page stoked the connections in his brain as he finished the eggs and bacon he had made, and gradually, unhurriedly, his mind presented the day’s list of concerns and responsibilities.
What to do with his first period of students in a few hours?
Would they have basketball practice that afternoon, or was it a game?
Would he continue work on his novel, or make another empty promise?
Would he have to pick up his son from the babysitter?
As he sipped from the steaming mug, he heard his wife rustle out of bed, quickly followed by the shuffle of his nearly two year old son amongst the battalion of stuffed animals that accompanied him with every evening’s campaign to sleep. His home was waking up, just as it did every weekday morning—ungodly early, but, once given time to collect itself, ready to go. In moments, he would officially wake his son, dress him and feed him, all the while continuing to pump the sacred caffeine into his own system. What would he do without coffee? Probably kill one of his students. A few came to mind.
Just as he turned the final page of the newspaper’s sports section, he caught a glance at the high school box scores from the previous night. His school’s boy’s basketball team had won again, and that brought the day’s first sideways smirk to his stubbly cheeks. He always felt a pang of pride when LaSalle was victorious, because while he was part of the English department, and given the arduous and thankless task of teaching seniors, he had once walked those halls as a student, and had donned the uniform of the basketball team as a captain. While his playing days were long over, aching knees, pitifully inadequate height, and cowardice among the reasons, much of his life still revolved around sports. If you asked his wife, the devil was the studio-head at ESPN.
His son beckoned from his crib. The young man moved to the room, softly announcing to the boy his entrance, and that it was time to get ready. He caught a glance of himself in mirror as he approached the crib and a familiar thought jumped at him from the reflection: I can’t believe I have a two year old son.
His friends were single and partying, but his life was different. He was young, twenty-six, one of the youngest teachers on staff at LaSalle. As he routinely changed the evening’s diaper from the happy but mostly uncooperative boy, he thought of how he was responsible not only for this young life, but the young lives of so many teens at school.
He wondered, at times, what they thought of him. Did they see his demons? Was he good enough? Was he failing them? Things he was told that all teachers, especially newer ones, dwelled on. He resigned himself to the fact that he would likely never know the answers to those questions. He would get those answers from his son, as the boy grew, but rarely from his students, who disappeared into their lives after graduation.
As he pulled his son from the crib, promising a bottle, some Cheerios, and the Cars DVD to the boy, his mind wandered to reflection—to the teacher his students saw. Did they see the young, thoughtful, careful, and caring man he tried so hard to be? Or the young man who was still very much uncomfortable in his own skin? The truthful, generous, honorable, and compassionate person? Or did they see something else? Someone unfit to lead them—to guide them. Did they see the man who struggled every day with his disease to gain control of his life, but still realized it could be so much worse? Or did they see an embittered person merely wasting his time away? Did they see a man who loved?
The boy smiled up at his father as they moved to the small living-room of the two bedroom apartment. He rested his son down on the kiddie couch he and his wife had bought for the baby, gave the boy his bottle, and pressed play on the DVD remote. Joy leaped to the boy’s brown eyes as the familiar cartoons raced across the screen, and everything seemed perfect.
The young man smiled. He loved his son, and he knew his son loved him. He heard his wife emerging from her shower, and he knew she shared that love. He turned to the table for his coffee, but glanced at the collage of pictures hanging on the wall his wife had made of them and their extended family. They loved him too, and he loved them all. As he sat to finish reading his high school’s box score in the newspaper, the young teacher and hopeful writer thought that he loved his students as well. He dreamed that he changed them, made them better—stronger, helped them succeed, and if that were true, then there must have been at least one who loved him in return.