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(She hadn’t noticed I was wearing a new pair of glasses until I mentioned them.)
I had gotten this pair the day before in the mail. The mail, you ask? Yes. I “tried on glasses” via a website, where I uploaded my photo, looked intently at frame specs (ha! see what I did there?), and made a decision — after deliberating for two months.
This is the fifth — and, my husband hopes, last — pair of glasses I have ordered online for my current prescription. Five. For me. In just over one year. I know, it sounds rather ridiculous that a person would need that many glasses. Four should be enough, right? The everyday pair, the polarized sunglasses, and a pair of reading (computer) glasses for home and a pair for work.
It’s just that the pair I originally chose for everyday use kept stretching out of shape and threatening to fall off my face if I looked down or sweated, which I make a practice of doing, apparently. I wanted a pair of beautiful, light, strong, hypoallergenic stainless steel frames that would flatter my face and hold up to the wear and tear my klutzy self likely will deal them.
I think I got them.
Actually, I know I got them. I have been wearing them.
My first full day with the glasses, I walked the stairs at work — which I do often to relieve my back from the torment of sitting in front of a computer all day — and then slipped outside to walk for a few minutes, smiling because I was so silly.
“Did you just go outside and walk after climbing the stairs?” the receptionist asked me when I returned. He was utterly amazed, of course, at my physical prowess.
I then confessed the purpose of my mini jaunt to the outside world: I just wanted to test my photochromatic lenses. The lenses are so clear when I’m inside I was afraid the manufacturer had made a mistake and sent me regular lenses. But to my delight, they turned dark outside in the sunlight (I took them off in the sun to check; I wanted to see their darkness rather than just see through their darkness) and became clear swiftly when I returned inside.
Amazing technology. I am not going to throw away my polarized sunglasses, mind you, but I will keep them in my car instead of my purse, trusting the photochromatic lenses to get me to and from the parking lot. No more awkward transitioning from one pair of glasses to another when walking from sunlight into store light. No more awkward wearing of sunglasses in the grocery store because I forgot my regular glasses in the car.
When I first started wearing glasses, I could see without them. Now, twenty years later, not so much. Just last week I had to have a friend open my locker at the health club when I returned from the shower, sans eyeglasses, because I couldn’t see the numbers on the combination lock. As much as I hate wearing glasses, I love being able to see.
Just this week I read a blog post by Alicia Bruxvoort in which she admitted rifling through her craft supply closet and using her hot glue gun to attach “googly eyes” and “wobbly watchers” to the salsa jar and the milk jug, tissue box, egg carton, and tubes of toothpaste. She wasn’t pulling a prank on her family; she was merely reminding herself that God was watching.
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Driving to work today — the first day of school — I saw the school maintenance man and his son, a high school senior, wheeling their way to the campus. Ken and Matthew didn’t see me, but I was acutely aware of their car, having seen it day in and day out for years, usually traveling the same roads to the same destination. At the traffic light, their little brown Honda turned left; I went straight, heading miles away from the sweet school that has played such a role in my life as a teacher.
School is starting without me. I am a teacher no more. Today’s encounter was a poignant reminder that I am not returning to the classroom, that school is going on without me, that “my” students now belong to another teacher, that I am no longer an integral part of daily life at the Academy. But like our cars on the road, the feeling quickly passed, noticed only by me.
Let me be honest. I am glad I am not returning to the classroom.
This summer, summer break was summer break, not an extensive planning period for the upcoming school year. When I cleaned my classroom and left it for the last time, I didn’t cart home books so I could plan afresh all summer. I didn’t go through the usual cycle of relief, regret, and resolve, the theme of previous summers. For years, my summer would begin with relief that the year was completed. I could clean house, weed, blog, regroup to my heart’s content. Then I would reflect on the school year just completed and begin the regret phase. Instead of focusing on the successes, I would peer intently at the hopes that didn’t become reality. I would experience regret that I hadn’t accomplished all I hoped — instilling in my students a love of reading and writing and seeking truth, and, more important, a passion to protect reading and writing and the pursuit of truth because of what it means in our Christian lives. And then I would resolve — to do things differently, to find that magical secret or system or sequence that would make those high hopes reality.
There is something idealistic about preparing lesson plans in the absence of students. On paper, on my computer, on my course website, I planned a great curriculum woven with creativity and skillful classroom management — the best of all possible classrooms. And then the students would arrive. As Robert Burns said in his poem “To a Mouse,” “The best laid plans of mice and men/Often go awry.”
“I have some news to tell you.”
My Aqua Zumba teacher gathered the class together in the pool before we began our morning workout.
“I’m moving back to Costa Rica at the end of July.”
While I was happy for her — she would be returning to her family and working with an ecotourism business — I was in dismay. Aqua Zumba is my favorite fitness class offered at the health club; it was my own version of “So You Think You Can Dance,” because when camouflaged by the water, I followed Anita’s cues and thought I could dance — and I knew I could work hard. I imagined the sweat Anita produced on dry land as she led us was reciprocated by my action in the pool. It was a great way to start the day, and, as we’d had a few (inferior) substitute teachers along the way, I was doubtful that anyone could replace Anita.
My belief that no one could adequately replace her caused me dismay — and helped me better understand the feelings of the students I won’t have in the fall.
“Chelsea sent me a message telling me to beg you not to leave,” my son Adam told me recently.
Chelsea is one of my homeroom students. I’ve had the same class for what we call “homebase” since they began their ninth grade year. This, their senior and final year at the Academy, they will have a different teacher for homebase and for English.
This is the first summer I haven’t spent preparing for an upcoming school year in some manner. I knew from the beginning of last school year that it would be my last year teaching, and so I worked from Day 1 to leave a legacy, to do my utmost to leave behind a path easily followed by another teacher, to make sure the students to whom I would not teach English would return to find the new teacher prepared and competent (and, likely, better than I ever was).
“Well, if I don’t get eaten by an alligator, I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”
That was the marketing associate’s attempt at humor when we discussed her abbreviated schedule on Friday. She was just directing a photo shoot in the morning — but it was at a local lake known for its alligator population, thus her comment. I countered her humor in kind, knowing there was no real danger from the alligators.
“No, you can’t get eaten by an alligator,” I protested. “I don’t know enough yet.”
“Yes, you do!” she responded, cheerfully, not offended at all by my selfish reasoning. “So that settles it. You know enough, so if I get eaten by an alligator, everything’s OK.”
“No,” I disagreed.
I completely disagreed. As a newbie, I view my trainer and supervisor as “an ever present help in time of trouble,” and I was anticipating working without her presence with less than enthusiasm. She would be gone Friday morning and then the whole of the following week.
“I don’t know enough,” I pressed. “The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.”
And with that thought quickly followed another, though unexpressed.
“My work life is so much like the Christian life.”
Over the weeks, my supervisor had praised me numerous times for the job I was doing. More than once she’d greeted me enthusiastically with “I’m so glad you’re here,” almost as if she were surprised I’d returned for more. The interns I supervised seemed to be warming up to me. My colleagues in the office were slowly introducing themselves, some saying they’d heard I’d jumped right in and was doing well. I loved what I was doing, and I’d been growing more and more confident in my position as a technical editor the past three weeks — even to the point of believing that I had some ideas that could make operations run more smoothly.
But that particular day had been tougher than usual at work for me — good overall, but with enough reminders that I am not yet perfect at what I do. It was just a moment (or two, or three) in which I saw I didn’t know everything or do everything perfectly. So by 5 p.m., I was ready to call it a day. Not a bad day. Certainly, a productive day. But a day that made me a little uncomfortable with myself and more dependent on following the Standard Operational Procedures (SOP) manual. In fact, it was a day in which work was a lot like the Christian life. (And I know I’m saying that as if it were a bad thing.)
I was beginning to understand that the more I know about my job, the more I realize I don’t know. Wisely, my boss didn’t just hand me the entire workload I will eventually carry. She gave me training; she handed me the printed manuals; she gave me space to read those manuals and get my bearings; she walked me through processes; and she let me set out on my own. Sometimes I asked a lot of questions, sometimes I timidly ventured into new territory, and sometimes I plunged ahead, thinking I knew what to do — only to find out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
The Christian life is like that.
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