In my freshman year of high school, I had an art class during the last period of the day. The art teacher’s six-year-old son attended the elementary school next door, which released an hour earlier than the high school. Every day, about five minutes after the start of class, the door to art room would open and that small kid with a big personality would stride into the room, greeting the teenagers as though they were his friends.
On one day in particular, his personality had the entire class entertained. He walked in as usual (except this time with a Superman cape tied around his neck), proceeded to the front of the room and placed his hands on his hips. By this point, all paintbrushes were down and all eyes were on him.
“I have an announcement to make.”
We started chuckling at the idea of a kid barely out of diapers making an announcement to teenagers (who, of course, know everything).
“I named my penis last night.”
I looked over at the kid’s dad and noticed the blush spreading to his hairline. I don’t think genital epithets were on the lesson plans for that day.
“What’s his name?” called a kid from the back row.
“Elvis. ‘Cause he’s the king.”
I could use a dose of that confidence right now. Okay, maybe a bit more “king of the world” and a bit less “king in my pants,” but you get the idea. I envy that confidence found in the young. Before they have time to be hurt. Or to fail. When they can wear a Superman cape and believe that it really does provide super powers.
I’ve been on spring break this week and I’ve been using the time to finalize the preparations for my next career. And it’s real now. I’m no longer just in training for the next step. I’m taking it.
And maybe I should be wearing a Superman cape. Or at least some super hero undergarments. Because I’m scared.
It’s hard leaving something you know for something you don’t. It’s hard leaving the comfort of confidence for the fear of starting over. It’s hard releasing what you have been doing even when you know that it is past its expiration date.
Put me in a room full of math teachers, and I quickly emerge a leader. Throw me to the lions in the form of a group of teenagers, and I can tame them. I can factor any polynomial, write songs to help kids remember and write a pass to the nurse’s office while simultaneously writing a lesson on the board. In my teaching life, I may not be king, but I know where I stand and I am confident in my knowledge and abilities.
But just because it was right for me then doesn’t mean it is right for me now.
Just because it is known, doesn’t mean it is all that I will ever know.
I hate the feeling of not knowing the answers. Of being the novice. I used to read the textbooks before the start of the semester so that I wouldn’t walk in a complete neophyte. But there are some things you can only learn by doing. Some things that cannot be mastered through books or courses alone.
I keep thinking back to my start in teaching, to those first days in a classroom with only the most minimal of substitute training. I was petrified, yet the students never knew. I had no idea what I was doing, but I learned more every day. The uncomfortable feeling of being an imposter was fleeting and was slowly replaced with an expanding confidence.
And it will be that way again. After all, new is always temporary.
As I work to gain the confidence to release the old to embrace the new, I have so much empathy for those of you that had to make the decision to leave a dying or dead marriage. Even though my divorce was an end I never wanted, I’m sometimes thankful that the decision was made for me. I didn’t have to make the difficult choice to release a hold on the known and drop into uncharted territory. I just had to figure out how to survive once I was in free fall.
And since I might get some strange looks if I wear a cape with my heels, most superhero underwear comes only in kid’s sizes and I refuse to name any part of my anatomy “Elvis”, I’m going to have to go with something a little more subtle – a new background on my phone. And I’m breathing:)