Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I'm not altogether sure why I settled in on you for this note tonight. I think it is because I got thinking back to the years when we taught together--those years as I was approaching my 30th birthday. I was freaking out that my 20s were over and you'd laugh at me. Funny--I did not have much dread at all over turning 40. Funny--how every time you smiled at me, I felt younger and younger, more and more naive.
You laughed at me a lot in those years, but I found it fun. We worked hard to do right by our students and we made a good team, but there was another part of our friendship that wasn't always easy. You questioned me always--about my choices in life and you were the first to question my faith. You put it to the test. We discussed our separate beliefs with passion. You challenged me intensely and pushed my buttons fiercely. I fought back. Little did I realize what a huge service you were doing for me. You made me stronger--in my relationships with my students--and within my personal life, and in my relationship with my faith.
When you told me you were leaving teaching, I cried. I knew what a big loss it was going to be for our school and for our teens. And yes, for me. One of my colleagues saw my tears and mistakenly believed I had feelings for you. "Is he your soul mate, Anne?" she asked. I wanted to smack her. But well, I did have feelings for you. Just not like that. I simply knew that I was losing a friend who cared for me enough to be completely honest with me, even if the honesty hurt. I hadn't had a friend like that for a long time. I was losing someone who had looked deep into who I truly was. I was losing a friend who could be such a jerk (or so it seemed to many other people), but who believed so deeply in my abilities and in my nature.
On your last day, you came to talk to me one last time. You told me that my eyes never lit up more than when I was teaching what I loved. You were trying your hardest to lift me and to embolden me. You challenged me one last time, leaving with the words, "Take care of the teens". That was the day I stopped thinking, "I teach English". I started believing instead, "I teach teens". It's made all the difference.
You checked in on me a few times over the next couple of years. You made subtle and not so subtle remarks to me to remind me of my dreams and my power to achieve them. It's been several years since we've run into one another, but I still carry some of those remarks with me still. I "get on the treadmill to get off the treadmill". I "don't fall in a rut". And, I "laugh and find the humor in all the craziness". The last time you saw me you seemed a little disappointed that I was still teaching. "Really?" you asked me, "Still at the same school?" But that's when I finally realized the strength in all that I'd become in the years since you'd left our school and the profession of teaching. I won't fault you for leaving, for that was your personal choice and one I can understand. But I didn't need to leave to change for the better. Teaching for me evolved from a job to a career to a calling. I know that I am meant to teach teens. I am good for them and they are good for me. I truly believe that.
Thank you for taking me under your wing, for truly taking the time to give me a chance, for getting to know the real me, and for challenging EVERYTHING I ever believed in. You pushed and you prodded and you shook me up and it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. You made me stronger. You made me see the real reason I do what I do. You humbled me while boosting my confidence. You were a very good friend.
I wish you could see how much I have grown. I think you'd be quite proud of me. I still miss you every so often. I only wish that I had paid more attention to you. I know I thought I was listening and I was honest with you in reply, but it has nagged at me that maybe I read you incorrectly at times when you most needed someone to understand you. But I did try. I was just young and caught up in myself. Oh and one final note? Despite how you might feel about this, I still keep you in my prayers. I won't harass you about your lack of faith anymore. You'll come around, someday. And if you don't, and things get really serious, I'll come get you. No one as good as you are, despite how hard you tried to hide it, can possibly stray far from God for too long, no matter what you think.
I love you, Peter.