“How do you do it?”
“How do you not respond to all of our comments? You just smile.”
Unconsciously, I smile as I consider my response.
“See. Like that!” she says to me.
“Sometimes,” I say, “that is the best response.”
“Really? You are supposed to just smile?”
“Well, sometimes smiling is the best response for me. I’m not always certain what I would say would be good. You guys definitely make me grow in patience.”
That is entirely true. Teaching forces me to grown in patience in a way I never really considered. My first year of teaching found me horrified at myself as I realized that I had picked up a behavior from my students I didn’t want: rolling my eyes. I guess I had seen so many eye rolls that I just began to mirror their behavior back to them.
My students probably view me as quiet, gentle, and “nice.” They have experienced little of my sarcasm and sharp tongue. Perhaps they would be surprised if they had a glimpse into my mind, a taste of the quick retorts my mind can come up with when faced with their behavior. I like to think of myself as “long-suffering” and attempt to wade through their comments, ignoring many and responding to a few. My goal is to have the best response for the given situation. Sometimes it is acting like I never heard their groans. Other times I confront the student and then send them to the office when their behavior becomes too much. I probably get it wrong 80% of the time.
Patience. I’m slow to learn it. Driving across town I’ll get cut off in traffic and I am amazed how quickly my temper can flare. It is as though the greatest injustice has been done to me. On good days, I will quickly remind myself that it isn’t that big of a deal and will try to regain my peace. In a similar way, by 8th period my patience can wear thin and what wouldn’t have bothered me earlier in the day is nearly unbearable at that moment. I’m weary and ready for the day to end and instead I find myself justifying a ten minute assignment to an eighteen year old child who thinks they are an adult. Perhaps the Lord placed me here to acquire this virtue and my deficiency in patience will be overcome by teaching.
However, until my stubborn little heart learns to respond with tact and grace to complaints and criticisms, my best response may be a smile.
“Peace begins with a smile.” -Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
Last Saturday I really missed college. Perhaps it was the fact that my sister just headed back to school or maybe it was due to a longing for good community. Or because I would like to be the student again and not the teacher, despite the satisfaction I get from job at times. Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself that I am not on a break from college but that I will never go back to college, at least I will never return to where I was before. I’ve tossed around the idea several times of getting my Master’s degree but I know it won’t be the same as my undergrad. There is a sadness that comes with that repeated realization. That phase of my life is completed and it is a place to which I can never return.
I find myself missing things that I didn’t plan on missing along with things I knew I would miss. Now I live in a house but I find myself missing the dorms and being able to walk across the hall to talk to someone. I didn’t love going to the abortion clinic on Saturday mornings, yet I find myself missing that mission field and the people that I prayed alongside. I miss beautiful lectures by brilliant professors that just feed my soul. While I don’t miss paying for them, I miss the feeling of picking of a new stack of books at the beginning of the semester. Perhaps I miss writing papers and I try to live vicariously through my students by assigning frequent 1-page papers. I miss campus and walking around through the changing seasons. Oddly enough, I miss the adult-like feeling I had of going to Mass off-campus. It made me feel so grown-up to be going to Mass with adults who have jobs. The odd factor is that I do this now but I think it is because I am going to parishes I went to before college that I don’t feel so adult-like. My heart misses the adoration chapel and the beautiful peace found there. I miss my schedule and the mode of college life. Yeah, I miss many things. I didn’t realize this so much the first semester because I felt so overwhelmed with work. But now I am able to look up a little bit more and I find myself looking into the future, wondering what else could be in store.
What beautiful plan does God have for me? And what is He doing with me in the meantime? He has never failed me but I am so quick to fall back into fear. I miss college and that is natural because it was an important part of my life in which I grew substantially. Yet I would be amiss to spend this next phase mourning over the last one. My goal is to recommit to live in the present with joy, embracing as fully as I am able every aspect of my present life. God is loving me in so many ways right now. Right here is living in God’s will.
Perhaps I am not alone in feeling this way, but I desire a great mission for my life. I want to do big things and transform society. When I look at the different passions in my life, I wonder how I will ever be able to use them all, how will God be the fulfillment of all of my desires. Taking a look at where I am at the present moment can cause me to feel impatient and claustrophobic. I want to travel, to live life, to have adventures, to be incandescently happy. There are moments, like on Thursday, when I look at my life as a teacher and I wonder what in the world I am doing. Some people are able to say that every day they go to work they are filled with a desire to go to work and that because of that, they never feel like it is work. Unfortunately, I cannot say that the same is always true with me. There have been several times over the past few months that I didn’t want to go to work, that the thing I wanted most was to extend the weekend. My heart desires something grand and beautiful. Yet when I look at where I am in my life, I begin to wonder if it is ever possible to attain that. Am I simply missing God’s will in my life? Will I be my own worst enemy? Everyone desires a great love and a great adventure and too quickly I begin to wonder where mine is. I’ve spent half of the past semester longing to live life fully and the other half praying to enter into eternal life. At times I am filled with a passion for teaching and with gratitude that I am able to do what I wanted to do right out of college. Nevertheless, I wonder what else there is for me and how the plan will unfold.
Maybe much of this is natural–the transition years after college, the quest to find stable footing, the desire to be a saint, the longings to be fulfilled. Yet some of this is perhaps the temptation of the evil one. If he can make God’s will for me now seem to be unimportant or too little, then he is winning in a sense. God could have a grand mission for me next year but His will for me is to be a teacher now. If I focus on the future grandeur and fail to do my duty in the present moment, then I am effectively not doing God’s will out of a misappropriated desire to do His will in the future. I need to learn patience without succumbing to passivity. How will I know if God is asking me to step out in faith or if it is my own desire for the grand that will cause me to run contrary to the will of God. I have this desire to be a saint and although I know there are many saints of the ordinary, I don’t want to be ordinary. While I don’t want to stand out especially, I long for a great mission, something where all of my desires are fulfilled. Maybe this is just my melancholic nature coming out and longing for the ideals that can only truly be found in Heaven. All I know is that I long for a beautiful adventure that will be personally transforming and will transform others. A little daisy wants to be a bouquet of roses.
What a different view of me my students would have if they read this blog. I know they don’t think I’m perfect but I like to think I look generally put together and collected. At times I wish I could tell them how ridiculous and confused I truly am. The facade would be destroyed. What does God want me to do now? He has placed me here for a reason. I forget that reason, though, in moments of frantic worry and a desire for my will to be done. So, Lord, if Your desire is for me to be here now, please teach me how to do Your will in the present moment–and to love doing it.