Monday, April 23, 2018

A Journey Without End

I've done a lot of traveling lately. In the past three weeks I've been to eastern British Columbia, Vietnam, and Sandusky, Ohio, where I keynoted the OAEYC conference. It's an honor and a thrill to have been invited to those places to meet like-minded colleagues and share our stories. It's been both a whirlwind and a grind, the way modern travel always is: I've been on 11 planes, eaten countless restaurant meals, and only slept in my own bed four nights during that span. I've stood in front of an audience of over 2000, but more often been all alone, an island of anonymity in a sea of strangers. Needless to say, I've had ample opportunity to reflect on journeys, both actual and metaphorical.

If you had told me ten years ago that I'd be doing this, winging my way around the globe to stand in front of audiences of strangers, I'd have accused you of wishing a curse upon me. I'm fairly introverted by nature, a man who needs his time alone in order to re-charge his batteries, and the idea of public speaking was a terror to me. During my first year as a teacher, I couldn't even bring myself to make eye-contact with parents of the children I taught as I sang and danced with the children, a fact that resulted in several performance reviews that read, "He's great with the kids, but needs to work on his communication with adults." Looking back from where I stand this morning, I can see that I've come a long way, even if I still have a long way to go.

I've been writing here on this blog since 2009, doing so conscious that I was setting out on a kind of journey, one with no particular destination in mind, but one that I expected to take me somewhere nevertheless. I've been hyper-aware over the past few weeks of regular life interrupted of how important this daily ritual of sitting in my darkened living room to write these posts has become to not just my practice as a preschool teacher, but also as a human living in this world of other humans. I would be lying were I to say that I didn't want people to read what I'd written, or else otherwise I'd have just jotted notes in a private journal, but I didn't really expect anyone to take note other than the families of the children I teach. I can't express how flattering and uplifting it is to have educators and parents approach me in far-away places to tell me they've been reading this blog, sometimes for years, letting me know that I've found fellow travelers, moments of meeting and recognition that are the greatest rewards of having put myself out there, one foot in front of another on this journey. I feel almost like I'm finding long lost sisters.

Sometimes when I go back and have a look at some of the things I wrote nearly a decade ago, some of the things I've believed and thought, I'm embarrassed beyond belief, so much so that I've considered deleting them. But I've stopped myself because those posts, as flawed as they are, are evidence of my own journey, reminders that I've not always been where and who I am today. It would be easy to call them missteps, but I'd rather look at them as necessary way stations without which I'd never have gone anywhere at all. As I've meet all these other travelers spread across states, provinces, territories, nations, and continents, I've become conscious of their journeys as well, and even if we don't always see eye-to-eye, I can't judge them, nor should I attempt to hurry them along their way. If they ask, I can point them in a direction, but the journey, for each of us, is our own, and we must be free to pursue it, even if it somethings takes us through places that we will later look back upon with regret. I fully expect to look back on the things I'm writing here today from the perspective of where I find myself ten years hence, and cringe at my ignorance. That's in the nature of a journey.

But we can't dwell there for long, because it is in the nature of a journey to look forward, to put our regrets on our shoulder alongside our worries and to take that next step in anticipation of something higher, clearer, and better.

Last week, we visited the local fire station with the kids. It's an easy 10 minute walk, just up the hill, and across a few streets, but I allowed 45 minutes because it's spring and the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the temperatures are mild. Young children, like the rest of us, are better served when we don't hurry along our way, when given the time to pick some flowers, even if we are only going a short distance from here to there. We might start out with a destination in mind, although that's not essential, because as cliched as it is, it's our journey that comprises our life, and every destination is nothing more than a place to catch our breath before choosing a direction and continuing on, a journey without end.

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