I spend a lot of time in my “rah-rah” mode…encouraging others (students, friends, professional colleagues) that “everything will work out…just hang in there.”
And then I crawl back into the deep, dark closet where I keep my own “stuff.”
It’s a familiar place. I’m in there a lot. And sometimes it’s a struggle to pry open the door and let a little sunshine in.
I’ve gotten used to this routine, though. Seems like it’s been a part of my life since forever, and I suspect it will be there until the end. So be it.
Growing up in the country as the oldest of six, I didn’t have a lot of friends with whom I could hang out…in fact, I didn’t…and still don’t…know how to “hang out.” The 15-mile trek into town required a “purpose,” and pre-driver’s license days, bicycling (given there were several rather steep dips in the road) was not a viable option. Did it once; ’nuff said.
Then came college…same routine. I was “around” a lot of people, but I never was “with” them. Always felt like an outsider who was tolerated because he didn’t belch while eating.
Then I dove headfirst into “life” when I joined the Air Force and found myself in Saigon teaching English to Vietnamese military. Suddenly I was doing something that had a purpose, and I was getting feedback that said that I, in some small way, was making a difference.
Today, at the end of a circuitous journey that has taken me through briars, brambles, lollipops, and “chocolate milk” to an apparently final chapter as a college professor, I find myself asking from time to time, “Was it really worth it?”
The answer…which I have to keep repeating each time I crawl into my closet…is “I think so.”
Sure, there have been tangible rewards…awards for (pat on the back) amazing PR programs; commendations for outstanding service; promotions.
And then there’s the inevitable second-guessing… “Why?”… “Was it really that good?”… “Will they take it away?”
There are also the less tangible but, to me, more meaningful rewards…comments from current and former students about something I’ve done that was of value…feedback from professional colleagues about a successful program or service to which I contributed.
Each time one of these occurs, the closet door inches open, letting a little sunlight in for a brief moment.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that, if I want more light in my closet, I’m going to have to do more for others. And the good news is that this is something that truly does come naturally to me. I don’t intentionally go looking for “good deeds” to do. But opportunities seem to come my way pretty often, and I don’t/can’t/won’t say “no” to any.
As we ease slowly toward the new year and its new challenges, I look forward to continuing to do what brings me the most genuine joy…helping others. Sure. There will be bumps in the road.
But, in the end, if I’m lucky, I will smile and repeat, as I do so often, the words of Kahlil Gibran in “The Prophet”: “For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”