Crisp, cool mornings hint at fall, but soon roil into sunny hot afternoons that confirm it is still summer. August is a month of waiting. Mountain bike season is over for me, but cross has not yet started. For the first time in 11 years (minus one to get my Master's degree), I won't be going back to teach this fall, so the anticipation of cross season is unhampered by the end of summer vacation freedom.
Teaching is so much a part of me though that I already had one of those anxious back-to-school dreams. My colleague Doris-Ann (who incidentally had also moved into my house) shook me awake one morning to ask me to sub for her; she'd come down with the flu. I love Doris-Ann, and was anxious to help, but I was just SO TIRED!
I suppose the exhaustion after last cross season's fray of travel and work still haunts me. Ok, there was a certain bad-ass pride I took in pulling off things like landing in Brussels at 10am with bikes dismantled and racing a World Cup 3.5 hours later. However, that schedule was simply not sustainable, and as many of you know, I decided to take a one-year leave of absence from my position as a 7th grade Spanish and French teacher.
Regardless of the challenges of juggling two "careers," the dream was a funny way of reminding me that teaching is full of moments I will miss:
One of our favorite projects of the year, writing Spanish versions of Dr. Seuss' "There's a Wocket in my Pocket" and reading them to elementary students:
As cliché as it is, just seeing students "get it" is the best feeling, and when they make beautiful art to show how much they've learned, it's even better:
Besides, they are just hilarious...like when they invented "Verb Mutants" by mixing and matching verb phrases and illustrating the mix-ups:
Or when "Alex" thought that "Aeropostale" had invented gravity. Or when they asked me what all the "hashtags" meant on my PowerPoint slide (number signs labeling the questions).
Or when we were doing a verb conjugation activity in which one partner blew bubbles and the other had to recite all the conjugations of a verb before they popped, and I overhead the following conversation:
"Let me blow."
"No, I blow better than you."
"Na uh. She blows the best. When she does it it lasts longer."
"Well when she's done, I want a turn."
Sometimes they are just so creative:
And these sorts of notes make my day:
So I was a bit sad about giving all that up, of leaving the part of my life that was connected to something outside of myself, that was a way of giving back. It also meant leaving the four team members who have become my close friends over the last nine years. At the same time, I knew it was the time to seize the opportunity to pursue my dream of competing full time. Having accomplished my goal to make it to Worlds, with an amazing team sponsor, and with the ability to preserve my job via a year's leave, now was the time to go for it.
In the last several years, I've really enjoyed the Tao Te Ching and its nuggests of wisdom. In particular, the concepts of there being a time for all things, and of letting the right action arise without forcing it and without fearing change, have spoken to me:
He who stands on tiptoe doesn't stand firm. He who rushes ahead doesn't go far. He who tries to shine dims his own light. He who defines himself can't know who he really is. He who has power over others can't empower himself. He who clings to his work will create nothing that endures. If you want to accord with the Tao, just do your job, then let go.
It was clear that I had done as much work as I could have in my current situation, and it was time to take the next step; I officially signed for the leave of absence and decided to do what I love: race. I also started to brainstorm ways to keep balance in my life, and trusted that things would fall into place.
Then my friend Natalie was sitting in my kitchen last week describing a new Health Educator position opening at the local college where she works. With so many students struggling to manage the stresses of college life leading to an over-extended health and counseling center, they were looking for a part-time person to provide information and guidance for students to lead healthy lifestyles. "What about me? I'll apply!" Immediately my brain started going a thousand miles a minute with ideas. It sounded absolutely perfect. I applied and got the job just yesterday.
I'm thrilled to be able to share the knowledge and experiences I've had as an athlete and health nut, to have something with purpose outside of myself. The flexibility and shorter hours will still allow me to focus on racing, but there will be some balance and mental stimulation to go along with that focus.
So as I await fall I take this time to be grateful for my amazing family and friends who have supported me, and for the incredible opporunity I have. I don't expect anything will be all that much different this season, just a tad bit more sane :) Without red eyes--both the aviation type and the sleep-deprived type--to dread, September cannot come soon enough!