A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Friday, August 2, 2013

Being Real

Tonight I watched the movie Silver Linings rather than go to the gym. The exploration of the Pat's mental illness, wrapped up in family dysfunction, both genetically and culturally rooted, and his gradually coming to grips with a developing relationship with a young widow, Tiffany, which conflicts with a crazy obsession with his ex-wife, a teacher, who had cheated on him, and put a restraining order on him after he caught her in the shower with a tenured teacher, who he then nearly beat to death, which landed him in a mental institution, had me belly laughing and feeling all emotional, all alone on the couch, with just Mabel, my sweet little schnauzer sleeping on the other couch, with Karen and Joe at Donna's beach house in Wilmington. While trying to heal himself in the mental institution, Pat adopted the motto, excelsior! which means ever upward, which developed into Pat's strategy of using the bitter pain of defeat as fuel to drive himself relentlessly to heal himself, without medication, which became how Pat thus found his silver lining, I can connect with this sentiment. When I shared the news of my hiring on Tuesday with my family, I heard a collective exhale, from Wilmington to San Francisco, as the pain of loved ones, who have observed worriedly as I wandered in uncertainty for the past 10 years, frustrated by a profession that was not welcoming me as I was, was swept away by the current of what I have become, somebody with an important role, somebody with a future, somebody that others have plans for, somebody validated as an important contributor, somebody so blessed.

Nobody fully trusted that I was reading Dr. P correctly, that his recommendation that I take a vacation and make arrangements to attend my Obachan's 100th birthday party in San Francisco, was his way of telling me that the decision to hire me had been made after the end of my audition, during which a class which during the previous year had a 48% pass rate on their state tests had an over 90% rate, and his hints that everything else was a formality. Even I was harboring some doubts, which surfaced whenever I dipped into my retirement, borrowed, shifted debt around to pay the bills, and surprised even myself in my ability to remain afloat. Whenever I came home with a new gadget, Karen would wonder out loud and sigh, "I don't get it. Where's the money coming from?"

Everyone was telling me to  submit applications and try to set up interviews, so I did so diligently, but without panic, as anxiety rose around me like magma, with July ending without a single response. Given my utter lack of control over circumstance, over the summer I have reflected on the concept of Gaman, the ability to creatively redirect difficult circumstances in the construction of beautiful products, and used my time to read about Socrates, Odysseus, St. Augustine, Aeneas, George Washington, plus Jan Morrills fictional characters, Sachi, Nobu, and Terrance, and studied differences between dominant and dominated cultures, while building shelving, organizing my shop, cutting bushes, driving Joe back and forth to baseball camp, and responding to self-reflection questions others posed to me.

While no man is an island, and I have been reminded of the impact that my lack of a clear future has had on everybody around me, while none of this would have been possible without the support of family, on many legs of this journey, over the past 10 years, I have experienced several moments of walking alone, just me and the dog. Had I not tapped into the many examples of stoicism, which I came to rely on as personal guides from across the vast seas of time, distance, and cultures, my manhood could have easily been crushed and I would have not been able to contribute to the young, who are bombarded by messages of fear and disability. As a special education teacher, I am a living example of Jim Rohn's declaration that our futures are not determined by circumstance, but rather what we do about it.