For a brief moment (i.e., 4 years) in my 20s, I taught high school English in an upper middle class area. My classes were mostly populated with ninth graders, and I’m fairly certain I succeeded in pulling them out of the comfort they’d felt about their learning abilities. I was a tough teacher and my expectations were high. Students whose Junior High writing teachers praised them for their brilliant writing skills got Cs on their papers in my class.
There was a lot of grumbling and complaining from the students, and there were just as many challenges from the parents about grades. For those four years, not a day went by in the first semester that I didn’t stop and reflect on what I expected from these students. Yes, I expected them to learn to write, but I also expected them to turn in their homework when asked; to put their names on their papers; to read the material and to think about it; to focus and to share their opinions, whether they were positive or not (“Questions, comments, snide remarks” was often how a mini-lecture ended).
Every day when I reflected on these expectations, I came to the conclusion that these things should not be difficult for 14-year-olds and that now was the time for them to learn them. I felt as if they should learn what they were capable of when they were already uncomfortable with the idea of college looming in the distance.
I realize now that I wanted them to learn more than just what To Kill a Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet were about (although the themes in these is important too)—I wanted them to learn what they could do; to be challenged to the point of frustration and realize they could get to the other end of that tunnel and do it while living their lives, while doing band and cheer and sports and church activities.
This, to me, is what it means “to live deeply”. It is about challenging our souls to do what is necessary to springboard us toward the next stage. We may not see the results of all this frustration until years later, but it’s vitally important. This is an important reminder for me because it’s been almost 11 months since I quit my corporate job and, honestly, I haven’t truly felt comfortable since my last day at work. Learning how to build a business is hard and there’s plenty of frustration as I learn how to manage the myriad of tasks associated with that while trying to bring in enough money to cover our expenses. I have to keep reminding myself that things change, people change, companies change, but I can learn what I set out to do, even if it causes tear-riddled frustration. As uncomfortable as I am right now, though, I honestly believe that it’s all going to make me a better person in the end. I trust that all this work (business, emotional, and spiritual) will pay off—financially and emotionally—in the end, and that’s what’s getting me through my daily struggles walking outside my comfort zone.