When I was about 13 years old my friend Kelli and I decided to walk to another friend’s house. It didn’t seem like that far of a walk, there was safety in numbers, and we thought we were adults. (We were really really wrong.) Really long story short, we got lost. We thought we knew where we were. We had our landmarks, were in the woods, and after walking for at least 2 hours we never made it to our friend’s house. The woods simply got the best of us that day. To make matters worse just as I stated that things could not get worse the heavens opened and poured rain and we heard a sound of thunder.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few months. You think because you know your way around somewhere and you have landmarks, you are safe from getting lost. This is just not true. I got lost on my way home this year, metaphorically speaking, and I felt like I knew exactly where I was going. I felt like I had a plan on how to get there, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, the metaphorical rain started pouring from the sky.
Every little piece of us makes up the whole. When we feel broken, we forget that even while we are broken, our parts are still there. You can be broken and still be a whole person. Sometimes we find the pieces of ourselves in the places we wouldn’t think to look, and for me the place I wouldn’t have thought to look is in the rear view mirror. While I’ve been feeling lost I’ve come into contact with a few folks that I felt like had already come into my life and had gone out of it forever. I think sometimes people are in our path to remind us of who we were before we got lost. We all can use a reminder sometimes.
When my oldest child started middle school she joined a club sponsored by my former 8th grade middle school teacher. She came home and said she wanted to join a club, and she told me the teacher’s name. A few weeks prior to that the same teacher and I had a conversation at the front of the school on registration day. This teacher played a huge part in why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place. I was a teacher’s aide for him in 9th and 10th grade during my study hall because the schools were right next door to each other. I was allowed to grade papers, decorate the bulletin board with wild abandon, and help students if they needed extra help sometimes. So, here I was, fresh out of a teaching job because my contract wasn’t renewed, and here he was reminding me of the things that caused me to want to teach in the first place. I needed that reminder, and I’m glad to have crossed paths again. I’m blessed that now his legacy will extend to my child. I picked up a piece of myself that day that I had neglected to think about in many years.
This week I was substituting my final few days in Algebra 1 and my 7th grade homeroom and math teacher walked in the door. She smiled a big smile. She came straight over and hugged me, and said my name. She said my name, and I hadn’t seen this lady in 22 years. She was one of my favorites, but more importantly she was the first person that showed me what it meant to be in a middle school. That was a scary time, but she helped me grow my confidence, and her sense of humor always made math fun. I knew she was important to me, and she held relevance to my life. But it was her that said my name first. That meant somehow my life in her class hadn’t been forgotten. After she left I found myself smiling the biggest smile and tearing up at the same time. A teacher makes a huge impact, and to be remembered brightened my day. It made me hope that one day, I will remember a student’s name I run across, even 22 years after they sit in a classroom with me. It was just a moment to her, running across a long lost student, but I picked up another piece of me.
Some pieces of ourselves aren’t pretty. Some pieces have doubts, confusions, hurts, anger, and failures. It’s the rare person that can tackle those parts of us and not grow weary, but another person I knew from long ago came back into my life last year and did just that. This friend is the reason I told my students in Algebra on the first day to be very nice to people this year because you never know if your friend that can help fight your worst battles in a few decades will be sitting near you in Algebra class. Some people don’t just give you one piece of yourself back. Some people hold up a mirror and make you see the whole person again. You just can’t put a price on that.
Some words aren’t big enough. Some words attempt to convey meanings, but never can cover exactly what you are trying to say. Sometimes your heart is so full you can’t fully impart upon others the exactness of the spirit of your words. I have had moments in the past year that have helped me pick up pieces and decrease the amount of lost I feel. I am surrounded by fantastic people. Grateful doesn’t quite cover it, and even when you are still kind of lost, grateful feels pretty good.