So I had one of these weird history teacher/triathlon metaphors today. Is metaphor the right word? I don't know. Parallel is perhaps a little better.
I taught my 9th graders about the Russian Revolution, Lenin, the Bolsheviks, etc. And then I explained that this is what started the Soviet Union.
You know, the U.S.S.R.?
*"Isn't that in a song? I think my Dad has a cd with it"*
Yes, it is a Beatles song. But I'm talking about the country.
"What's the U.S.S.R.?"
The stares get blanker and blanker every year that I've taught. And every year, I have more and more students that have no effing clue what the U.S.S.R. is. Was.
My freshman were born in 1991. They were babies when the Soviet Union was falling apart. They literally have no. idea. what. it. is.
This fascinates me. I'm a relatively young person, so my memories are limited to the 80s. I'm a child of Cabbage Patch Kids. Jelly Shoes. Bad bangs. Reagan. The Evil Empire. Star Wars--the movie, and the missile defense system. And the fear that a nuclear weapon was going to hit us because of the U.S.S.R.
I remember coming home crying--really!-- in 2nd grade because my teacher told us that if a nuclear bomb hit, it would hit Akron and Cleveland first because there's a lot of industry there, and that would be a good thing because we'd all be instantly vaporized and wouldn't know what hit us.
(My mom sure gave that guy an earful the next morning)
The funny thing is now, that all that fear--all the war--all the sacrifices made--all the often irrational paranoia that surrounded these years and the Cold War years in general--it dominated everything. It was in the background of every day.
And now it doesn't exist.
Now I have to EXPLAIN to high school students what it was.
At the same time, it's BECAUSE of the fear, the sacrifices, and even the paranoia that it doesn't exist. It has been conquored. What seemed to be the root of so much fear fell apart--and mostly fell apart from within.
I have a buddy, M, who grew up in the Soviet Union in the 80s. He's a year older than I am. He's probably sick of me asking so many questions, but he always answers them truthfully. He talks about long bread lines, about not being able to say what you want, and about underlying fear, suspicion, and frustration that grew stronger every day.
Is triathlon the same as living under the grips of a communist state? Not even close. Don't get me wrong, here.
But today when my students asked me, innocently and with great interest, What's the U.S.S.R., it made me think about how something so feared, something so seemingly unbeatable, crumbled apart and needs to be explained.
This was the slight parallel I saw with IM. (slight--again, in no way am I trying to say that the fall of the U.S.S.R. is equal with IM) But the fear, the sacrifices I'm making every day, the occasional irrationality in my thoughts, the things that sometimes keep me up at night as I worry about conquoring this thing that seems unbeatable--that's where I see a parallel.
I know I'll look back when this trip is done, and wonder how I could have ever thought it was unbeatable. The hours I have put in and will put in will make it crumble from within. But it's long. It's scary. It will take a lot of time, and it will not be easy. Right now, it even seems uncertain that it's possible.
I know that these sacrifices will pay off in the end.
And someday, when this is all over, it will make me a stronger person.
And someday, I look forward to answering the question in my classroom:
Crazy? Yeah, I might be a dreamer on this one.
But who ever thought I'd have to correct papers that said, "The Soveeyit Unity" or the "U.S.R.S.S?"
Nothing is impossible.