what would you do? What would you be? Would doing something different make you different? Why did you become what you are? Are you what you do? What do you do for fun?
Over the last few weeks, Valparaiso University students have interviewed me as part of a first-year course assignment that requires them to question professors about their journeys. Students have asked why I became a teacher, and I’m sheepish about saying that after Brendan was born, I hoped to work and be home with the kids after school. Tim and I had a long-term dream of having all of the kids earn college degrees, and back in 1990, the expense seemed insurmountable. Little did we know.
In spring 1991, I enrolled in MA Program in Education at St. Xavier University in Chicago. Rock star teachers and nuns not only taught me content, but they exemplified educators who really cared, who really engaged students, and who challenged them. I wrote paper after paper, and I loved it. Over the course of raising Katie, Bethy, Brendan, Brigid, and Kevin, much of the curricula in graduate school applied to parenting. The family daily goal was to learn or do something new or creative. There were not specific learning objectives, but we were all about reading and exploring.
According to Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Back then, I dreamed of being a teacher, and now I dream of being a writer. I still teach, but I stopped writing. Instead, I went back to school to pursue a second Masters in Digital Media, and the technology is killing me. Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign keep me from my beloved wordsmithing, and I am losing my mind trying to work on a Mac when I’ve used a PC my whole adult life. (The damn computers weren’t around in my youth.) Last week, the twenty-three year-old who sits next to me in my Video Communication class arrived wearing a cap pulled low over her face and headphones, and she never once glanced my way. I was completely lost, and I am sure frustration radiated from my entire being. As a leader in VU’s Persistence and Success Program, I mustered up every pep talk imaginable not to not click “withdraw” on my student profile and head to Dairy Queen to calm my nerves with a chocolate pecan cluster blizzard.
My leadership course is causing me to analyze eloquent speeches of great leaders, yet I long to write them myself. Every time I think of withdrawing from a course, I ask myself if I am learning. Because the answer is yes, I stay with it, but deep down, I wonder if I am sabotaging my dream.
So I’m back at the blog because if I could do anything, I would write. I would be a writer, and it would make me more reflective, more creative, and more at peace with myself. I don’t know if I became who I am because I chose it or if I am a collection of all of the experiences, interactions, and influences that shape me and have ‘conspired’ in forming me. I do know I’m forever grateful for all those who touch my life, including students who make me question my own identity and vocation. I am not what I do. At least I hope I’m more complex than that. As for fun, I run . . . and read, and visit, and dance, and play with Eileen. Somehow these blog posts manage to circle back to that spitfire of a little girl.
Eileen Oct. 1, 2016