Fear imprisons us forever while courage allows us to achieve our dreams.
Teaching developmental writing for over 18 years has been incredibly rewarding and satisfying for me. Not only have I helped students learn, but my students and colleagues have taught me as well. As I now walk the hallways of my college campus, I can't help but realize how quickly the years have passed. Where a once young, shy and fearful young student walked now walks a more fearless and experienced professor. When I graduated from high school, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend college. Hey, I am not bragging, but I graduated in the top 5 percent of my class. My parents were poor, and although they both stressed the need for a good education, I understood early on that I would need to work hard, save money and manage pretty much on my own. That was fine with me; in fact, I welcomed the challenge. Sure I envied some of my friends who were fortunate to have parents that were wealthy enough to send them to college, even to send them out of state, but I was happy just making my parents proud. I searched for independence and wanted very much to succeed on my own. While in college, I worked a part time job and attended school full time. Before graduating, I married my long time sweetheart which added to my responsibilities. I will not deny that it was hard, very hard at times. I slept little, ate little, and smoked a lot. A dark cup of coffee was never too far from my side. I would love to brag and say I was a GREAT student. I was not. Those first few years in college were a struggle. I remember sometimes not having enough money to pay for lunch because I had to put gas in my car or buy books--expensive books. Many times it was so hard for me to focus because I was just so tired--tired of driving to school and work for hours in an old 1970's Toyota that had no air conditioning, no windshield wipers and no power steering. Imagine what it was like when it rained or when it was over 90 degrees and I was in bumper to bumper traffic. Also, I was tired of not sleeping for days because I had to study after work every evening. I was just tired. Sometimes I had so much homework, I felt like quitting. Quitting was not an option, so I just cried until I felt better. Smoking, I thought, would make me feel better, so I smoked and drank coffee. Unfortunately, I rarely ate because I just was not hungry. At 5'8" I weighed less 110 pounds.
It was not until my fourth year that I began to understand what college was really all about. Finally, the pieces came together, the stress diminished and I excelled. By the time I graduated college, my parents had divorced, and my father, who I will always love dearly, was not there when I proudly walked across the stage and received my college degree. That broke my heart. My father was my greatest motivator then and even now after his death he is still my greatest motivator. He expected GREAT THINGS from me always and I made a point to deliver. Every success I had was his success. Every time I achieved, he achieved and he was proud. He did not say those words to me, but I saw them in his eyes. He wanted me to be self-reliant, believe in myself and have courage. His own fears had kept him from achieving so much more, from being so much more. He did not want me to live a fearful life but a FEARLESS and decent one.
When I walk into a classroom every semester and I see all those faces starring back at me, I know some of these students are sitting there feeling much the way I did. I hear their laments and their troubles. They tell me about their sacrifices and their problems. They look at me as if I cannot possibly understand what they are going through or what they feel. I am a teacher, so how could I know anything about the difficulties of life, poverty, working and going to school. So, I may sound hard and appear to lack compassion and understanding for their pain, but in reality I know their pain and their struggles. I understand that sometimes they are just tired and they want to give up. Part of my job, my responsibility, is to help them find a way "not to give up." So I dedicate so much of my class time to helping students find their "inner motivator" even in the absence of outside motivators. We all need that something that can give us the push, the desire or the joy to want to fight and push life back even when life pushes us harder.
I don't know if life is supposed to be hard. I don't know that life should be easy. I know sometimes we must go with the flow but other times we have to push or pull if we are ever going to improve our lives, achieve our dreams or simply find peace. I constantly remind myself to face my fears, challenge myself and find a way to do the things I think sometimes I cannot do. I have to DO GREAT THINGS with my life, not just to honor my father and my mother, not just to set an example for my sons and not just to contribute to the world I will someday leave behind. I must do GREAT THINGS and be FEARLESS, for it is in those achievements that I feel fulfilled.