In this, my 15th year of teaching, I have a particularly challenging class. Oh, yeah, they are sweet enough. No one is violent or overtly disrespectful. Academically they are ok. They are just particularly talkative and active. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are 32 of them. Seriously outnumbered! But, really – it’s only 2 more than last year. And I’ve had talkative classes before. So, why is this year so different?
Today, as I was going to pick up my class from lunch, I muttered, “Ugh. I really don’t want to go pick them up.” A friend of mine was in the breakroom and she said, “You’ve had a hard time shaking that this year. Maybe it’s time for something new.”
My first thought was, “Huh, you may be right. I mean this has been a good run. Maybe it is time.”
And then the panic set in.
My brain started screaming, “NNNNNOOOOOOOO!!!! You can’t find something else! You have kids! They need insurance and braces and music lessons and ballet lessons and a HOUSE TO LIVE IN and food and and and and and!!!! Besides, what on Earth would you do?”
I had the same feelings in the last few years of my marriage. Even when we knew it really was over, we didn’t want to pull the plug, because of the fear of relearning how to live or lives.
Change. It’s a freakin’ four letter word.
Nothing can strike fear in our hearts faster than the word CHANGE. As humans, we are creatures of habit. Routine makes us feel comfort. With routine comes complacency. And ultimately, even though we know we aren’t happy in this existence, we are TERRIFIED to try anything else. Because it is DIFFERENT!!! And that is SCARY!!!!
But, in order to grow we have to change. We have to try new things. And yes, they can be hard. But without change we stagnate.
One of my favorite musicals is Wicked. At the end of the first act, right before intermission, is this wonderful scene where Elphaba literally learns to fly and breaks free of expectations – and sings the gorgeous “Defying Gravity.” It is a powerful moment. The lyrics are moving. She is learning to shake off her doubt and FLY! In it she sings, “It’s too late for second guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap.” And then she, well, FLIES into her uncertain future.
Gutsy move. How easy it would be to just climb off the broom and say, “Hey, life isn’t all that bad! I’m sure I can get used to it. Yes, I know a part of me is dying – but, it will be alright. Really. I’ll be fine.”
Fear of change can be paralyzing. Fear of “what if” can root us into place. We manage to second guess ourselves without even seeing what will happen. It is a hell of a lot easier to say, “Sure, I hate this, but better to hate what I know than to fail at the next thing!”
I can imagine it is a whole lot like bungee jumping (which, by the way, I have never done – because I am terrified of falling). You stand there, on the edge, strapped in, ready to go, the countdown begins, and you…hesitate. What if the cord doesn’t catch?!? What if I plunge to my death?!? What if the bungee snaps me back into the bridge and I break my neck?!? What if…what if…what if?!?!?
At this point, you have two choices. The first is to let your fear – this fear of change – take over and win and you step off the ledge and go about your little life – always knowing that you were afraid to take that step.
Or you can take a deep breath and JUMP! With any luck, the cord does as it should and you bounce back up. And if it breaks, and you careen to the canyon below – at least you had one hell of a ride on the way down.
Now that I am standing on the precipice, bungee cords strapped to my ankles, it is time to decide whether I am going to give in to the fear of change and quietly back off the ledge OR if I am going to throw myself off and pray that the cord catches me.
I still don’t know which I’m going to do. But, I do think I could use one hell of a ride.
Wonder where I’m going to land…