This week I traveled nearly 2,000 miles across the country to visit my parents. Staying in the home where I grew up has got me all nostalgic remembering old places, old friends, and how far I have come since I left home. I've been surprised to see the little kids I babysat walking around my neighborhood as full grown teenagers and young adults. While there are still many lessons I have yet to learn, seeing these kids all grown up has caused me to reflect on how far I have come since I was their age. Here are just a few things I have learned so far on this journey we call life.
I remember trying to fit in with all of the "cool" girls in my middle school. They liked to spend their time talking down to the people around them. Hanging out with them consisted of declaring all of the ways that we were better than anyone who wasn't currently in the room with us. I wanted so badly to fit in and to feel like I was a part of their group that I joined in on the mean talk. Eventually I changed and so did my friends. I remember taking a class in high school called, The Study of Disabilities. For my class, I had to spend 40 hours volunteering for people who were disabled. I worked in a classroom of children who had severe mental disabilities. Nobody in the room could speak except for one little girl. She could only repeat phrases she had heard before. Often, she repeated only the negative things she heard people say about her. I made it a point to speak only kind things to her each day that I was in her classroom. I saw her words change from negative to positive and I saw the power of kindness. From that time on I made a promise to myself to be kind to those around me and avoid speaking negatively about others.
Actually, I Can
I remember being in the middle of my first year of teaching. I was in my last year of college working as an intern teaching 5th grade. Although I had a good support system, I often felt alone. I cared so much about my class and felt the pressures of making sure they all learned and became better human beings. There were a lot of outside influences making it hard to teach my group of students and sometimes it felt like I could not go on. I would start each day reminding myself, "actually, I can". And just like that, taking each day at a time, I successfully finished my first year of teaching. As the years have passed and I have had more years of teaching and other experiences, that phrase is still ever so important to me. When times get tough and I feel like I have so much working against me I just have to remind myself that, "actually, I can".
When I was young I took a lot of things for granted. I didn't realize how blessed of a life I lived. I grew up with parents who empowered me to be anything that I wanted to be. They exposed me to the arts and culture and took me to far away places. They supported me in school and extra curricular activities. They taught me what it meant to be a powerful woman in the world. As I have left home I have learned how blessed I really am. Living far away from home, I have been able to interact with refugees in my community. They are strong and resilient and I find strength in their strength. Last November, I took a trip with my husband to Europe. Our travel home was long and exhausting. We ran into problems with our transportation and we were awake traveling for over 30 hours. I remember thinking of the refugees in my community and how they have felt the exhaustion of finding a safe place to rest their heads. I experienced a small sliver of what some feel as they try to find a new place to call home. I cannot help but feel blessed for what I have been given and the life I live. Learning to remember my blessings has taught me to see the postive even during the hard times.
Life is full of lessons. I guess you could say it is one big lesson. I know I have many more things to learn but I know that if I remember to be kind, belieive that I can, and remember my blessings I will be ready for the road ahead.