Project Reverb prompt: “What did you think you’d NEVER do. But you did this year. Why? What changed your mind?”
When I first read this prompt, two things came immediately to mind: teaching without being so nervous I felt physically sick, and getting a dog that was “born on purpose.”
My first experience teaching was 14 years ago. I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Composition Program at CSU. I had just moved from Oregon the year before, where I’d also just finished my undergraduate degree and lived most of my life. Moving to Colorado this second time (I came the first time when Eric was going to graduate school at CSU and we got married here) was more difficult because I knew it was permanent. That was a big deal because ALL my family lives in Oregon, and I come from a pretty big family. All of Eric’s family lives there too, so in moving to Colorado we were completely on our own — which was exciting, but also kind of lonely and sad.
So I entered my graduate program at CSU in a tender state. I’m an introvert and a Highly Sensitive person, which makes teaching an extreme sport. I was new to graduate school and CSU and a total beginner. The circumstances of my teaching assistantship weren’t ideal for other reasons too but the biggest issue was my nerves. I couldn’t sleep and made myself physically sick, unable to eat because I was so scared and anxious. This went on for the full 15 weeks of that first semester, and I didn’t get the support I needed, so at the end of that first fall I quit my assistantship.
I spent the next year working in the Writing Center and tutoring. That along with my own study allowed me to relax a little, gain some confidence and perspective, and during my last year in school I tried teaching again. I still was a nervous wreck, but it was just the tiniest bit easier. The year after I graduated, I adjuncted, still teaching for the Composition Program. I was better at it, felt better doing it, but still felt like teaching wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I took a job at CSU as an editor and programmer for a website used by writers and writing teachers for about seven years, still teaching a few classes here and there, but that wasn’t a good fit either.
It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be myself fully that I understood how I was a teacher. It wasn’t the teaching that was a bad fit, it was the teaching situation I was in. I’m actually a natural teacher, am compelled to teach others the things that have been of benefit to me. I am a practitioner first, and then from that comes the longing to teach what I practice, specifically writing, yoga, and meditation. I never thought I’d be a teacher who felt calm and confident in that role, but once I started teaching yoga, I understood that if I were teaching from my heart with complete freedom to create classes inspired by my innate wisdom and compassion, I would be free from that kind of fear and uncertainty. Sure I still get anxious before a class, nervous to meet new people, but I no longer totally freak out. There’s not the same kind of panic and dread that I used to feel.
I have a new sense of confidence, not that I’ll be perfect or even good, but that I’ll show up with an open heart, as myself, and even if it doesn’t go well I won’t beat myself up for it or take it personally if people don’t like it. I didn’t think that would ever happen.
The other thing I didn’t think I’d ever do is to get a dog born on purpose. I rescued my first three dogs and thought that would always be the way my dogs came to me. I believe in rescue with my whole heart. It matters so much to me that dogs who don’t have anyplace to go get a home, a real home where someone will love and care for them their whole life. And I did just that, three times. And yet, it was very clear that this time, just this one time, that wasn’t the way we would get our next dog. It’s so clear that the way this happened is exactly how Ringo was supposed to come to us. I told the whole story in another blog post, Ringo Blue.