For those of you who are not in the know, I am a teacher, more specifically this last year I was a ninth grade English teacher. I get paid a salary, there's no clock to punch in, no time card to sign. I'm there every weekday from at least 7:30-3:30, longer if I have a lot of grading to do (which is almost every other day, English is a paper/project/worksheet/homework subject). I also stay longer to lesson plan, see students, parents, or faculty meetings, not to mention any planning or work I do when I get home. Teaching is not a job you can "leave at the office." A friend asked when I was telling them how many times I stay at work late or grade on the weekends if I get paid "overtime." I just laughed politely and said no. I do, however, know that there is one huge perk that comes from not being paid overtime and that is...Summers. Starting last Thursday, I now have off until August 7th...and I still get paid. Somehow all those long afternoons/evenings in my empty classroom or apartment seem more than worth it.
For the two years I taught in New Jersey, I worked a semi-part-time job during the summers (and during my last year of teaching there as well). Even though I collected a paycheck over the summer, it was nice to have even more "pocket money" to travel or do what I wanted. I have opted not to have a job this summer since I'm going home in June for a while and didn't know of any job that would let me work for a couple days a week for like 2 1/2 weeks, then leave and do that again a couple weeks later...
Having said all of that, I have now laid the groundwork for why I'm writing today and hopefully the rest of the summer. I promise future blogs will not be this logistic/banal.
I was walking on Riverside the other day, having just bought a fresh pair of Nike sneakers (yes, people from Jersey regularly say, "sneakers"). Tony and I decided to walk from Riverside and 41st in the north direction over the bridge around 26th or so and to keep going until we could cross the other bridge to turn around and walk back. I know that is at least four miles, and the blister that is still currently healing on my ankle (my fault for not making sure my sock was all the way up, not the shoe's) has been telling me it must've been longer. Those of you who know me or at least have a keen sense of observation know that I'm not a fan of exercise. I don't like to put a strain on my body, I don't like to sweat, I don't like to physically work I guess. While I was walking and enjoying the sunlight and all around beautiful weather, I started thinking about the root of this aversion to physical exercise.
I'll spare you the detailed map my mind traveled in order to get to the point I'm laboriously trying to get to. Finally my thoughts landed on this: the idea of Pain. I'm completely of the mind that Pain is an enemy that must be avoided at all costs; at least I've apparently felt that way my whole life. Then my mind started whirling around all these images and conversations in my life when Pain seemed to be shown or expressed as something else, perhaps not a certain enemy. I started seeing (forgive the randomness of examples I'm about to give) ballerinas, having just experienced a long practice, pulling out bloodied, delicate feet from their pedinis. I then remembered a conversation that I was merely a listener of when I was about seventeen. I was at a friend's house, her young husband was talking about lifting weights. I was the only female present in the company of all these young guys who were looking to the husband for expert-muscle-building advice. He was telling them all that he'd been lifting for a while and that it had been hard for him at first. He said that he'd found himself getting to a place where it was just to hard to keep lifting, but that he'd found if he yelled loudly or engaged himself fully in what he was doing--only keeping in mind the building of his body--he could keep lifting and working through the pain. He had taken a journey in his mind where he crossed some kind of river of pain or feeling and come out on the other side a little above the idea of physical pain and decided he and his body could stand to take it.
These two thoughts were important to me and obviously stuck out. I kept thinking about the ballerina's bloodied feet, and felt confused. I guess I had always been of the notion that if there was something you were "called" or "meant" to do that it would not cause that much stress or pain. (Now, I know some of you may not have had that thought before, ever, but just go with me). I thought, why would the ballerina do something that perhaps hurt him/her constantly. Yes, they're beautiful to watch (and I had just been to see Burana Carmina at the Tulsa PAC recently and it was magnificent), but what a price to pay to perform like that. His/Her desire to dance overriding their aversion to Pain was interesting to me. I always thought if something was hard or painful, why should we do it. Shouldn't life, our jobs, relationships come easily to us? Shouldn't everything I do feel natural, not contrived? I have always been a big believer in following whatever felt most natural for me to do...and I feel it has gone all right for me in a lot of areas. I have shied away from ideas perhaps even dreams if I thought the "work" or "pain" that would be involved didn't suit me.
Then I kept thinking about my friend's husband yelling out loudly as he's lifting and walking away from the bench and weights feeling really mighty or something. I don't know if I've ever felt "mighty," and if I did if it was it deservedly so? I wondered what having that kind of feeling reproduced a couple times a week would do for a person... Would they start seeing the world differently, thinking they'd combatted an "enemy" like Pain that people like me avoid like the plague and come out on the "other side?"
This all got me looking into Pain as a real topic, you know, I wikipedia-ed it, and googled it, and read some articles and am planning on reading The Problem of Pain by Lewis again this summer. All this research birthed lots of other questions within me regarding the purpose of pain in our lives. Is there good and bad pain? Should it be run from as I have done most of my life? What should our reaction to pain be in our lives and the lives of those around us? I hope to really contemplate all these and other issues that arise from this subject over the next two months and somehow share this Summer journey with anyone that cares to read. I hope to soon begin to make myself do something I naturally deem "painful" at least five times a week (it could be a physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, financial pain, etc.)
When I was at ORU, an administrator from the Education Department came in to speak to one of my classes during my freshman year. She said that she really admired athletes. She said in her mind that athletes had to be some of the most determined, focused, driven, organized people she knew--especially ones that stayed in school and received college degrees. I am unsure of how I want to respond to that from a personal standpoint, but I do however, acquiesce to acknowledging that to get up for practice around 6am, take a full load of classes, complete homework individually, compete in a competition or game and carry around whatever other responsibilities a school athlete has with honor and respect is something to be admired. I'd be lying if I didn't let on that I have high hopes for my summer experiment with Pain. I do, I have visions of me working out all the time, eating nothing but nutritious meals and snacks, only drinking water, waking up early, reading a book every week, writing long, sincere apology letters or acceptance of apology letters...basically training myself to embrace pain and becoming this amazing woman in two months. I do however, like most of you hopefully do, know myself--very intimately--and am trying to balance out that vision of a Mighty Me with reality.
I do hope that when you see this blog update or the link on my facebook status that you'll click, read, laugh at my ignorance, and join me in this Summer of Pain.