Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pencils Down

My life is measured in school years. And another one has just closed.

There's a certain familiarity to it; predictability and routine, but also never the same day twice. Never the same student twice. This, I think, is part of the reason I love what I do. Every year, I walk out of a clean classroom--all the posters taken down, the secret initials written in chalk on my board by kids who think I'll never find 'em, the scantrons in the recycle bin, and the students gone. Just me, and 31 empty desks.

Pencils down.

I always get a teensy bit sad--actually, I don't think sad's the way to describe it...wistful, maybe?--when I walk out of that room the last time every June-whateverth, because I know I'm another year older. Another year has gone by, and I'm that much different than I was when I walked in there.

But there's something magical about an empty classroom. It just begs to be filled. And I know when I lock the door for the last time that I'll unlock it and enter in August even more older, and hopefully wiser. Under different circumstances. Still teaching about the Enlightenment and the Gilded Age and the Cold War, but hopefully not the same lessons. And definitely not to the same audience.

I've now been teaching almost one third of my entire life, which is hard to believe. Next weekend I'm heading down to Miami for my ten-year reunion. Where my school year ended, and I packed everything up, and I said goodbye to my good friends that last day after the caps and gowns were put away and the cheap beer had been tapped out, and drove away. And then--only then--I cried. I knew it was the end of something, and I just didn't know what was next. I was afraid that the quote "best four years of your life" end quote were over. What could be better than that?

The good news is what was next has been even more amazing than my four years there. I didn't know it then, but I can appreciate that now, as I'm knocking on the door to 32 years old and walking out of my tenth school year as a teacher.

Yesterday I ran a new loop, which is different for me. As stated before, I enjoy routine. I like the same patterns. I like to know where I am, at what time, and how that compares to last run. So for me to branch out and try a new loop was definitely different. And, here's the kicker--I didn't even take the Garmin. Type-A TST put it away and just ran for fun. Such will be my runs for a while here, as I am in definite need of a break. I have some pretty lofty goals in mind, but I need a bit of time here to recharge the batteries.

I'm reading Dara Torres' biography right now, which seriously is making me want to swim every. single. second. I can, because it reminds me of when I used to watch swimming as a kid. I LIVED for the Summer Olympics. I remember watching in on our TV in our old house--the '88 Olympics, on my parent's small TV in their bedroom. I grew up worshiping the likes of Dara Torres and Summer Sanders. I loved to swim, and am well aware that I never met my full potential in that sport. Just when I needed to step it up a notch and swim year-round--right around, oh, age 12-13 or so--along came band and cheerleading and softball and boys and all the other reasons why I didn't want to stare at a black line for hours on end. I don't really regret it, since I think about all the things I got to experience instead. But I've accepted that I never got to see how far I'd go in that sport. Conversely, I'm on an absolute thrill-ride seeing how far I've come in a sport I NEVER thought I'd enjoy--running. So it all evens out, I think, in the end.

I'm only halfway through, but I love DT even more now that I'm reading this book. I think I can really identify with her in a lot of ways. Not in the 24 second 50 meter way. (In my dreams....) But check this out....sound familiar?

"One thing I learned from being a pregnant athlete and then an athlete-mom is that when it comes to women, sports, and child-bearing, often people's first reaction is to say, "No you can't." You can't do those exercises. You can't go that fast. You can't win that race. But most of the time that negativity is not based on fact. It's based on ignorance or fear. So I chose to do my own research. I wanted to learn what my own body could take." --page 71

Well played, DT. Well played indeed.

Here's another one I like:

"...other people were constantly insinuating that age did matter, that even at 33 I was too old to compete. "Don't you feel terrible in the water?" people would ask. "You know, being so old and out of the water for so many years?" Questions like that really bothered me until I realized they had very little to do with me. Our whole culture is so terrified of growing older, so sure that life goes to hell progressively once you pass 25 or 30 or 35--whatever number people have stuck on their heads. But I came to see such negativity as a reflection of other people's fears about life, a window into the ways in which so many of us are limiting ourselves and selling ousrselves short. I decided, back then, not to live that way." --page 109

I know now that the best is yet to come. I've been so lucky and blessed so far, in racing but really just in life in general, and it's easy to get stuck in the routine and enter another age group and feel like, "That's it...the good times/races/days are over." But that, my friends, is total bull. One day, I'm going to qualify for the Boston Marathon. One day, I might even become the swimmer I could have been 20 years ago. Or one day, maybe I'll even hit a home run over the fence. (My one and only lonely home run on record was inside the park.) Who knows? I don't know what I'm doing next week...or certainly next school year.

But I know one thing for sure: I am not going to slow down.


Pharmie said...

How cool that you measure you life in school years? I've never really thought of it that way before. See you in less than 2 weeks!

Laura said...

Amen! I am ordering that her book right away. It bothers me the myths that surround pregnancy and not being able to do anything. Always great to hear women that didn't have to put their activities on hold just because they were pregnant!

Christi said...

Great post! I hope I don't slow down either!

Benson said...

Teachers are the greatest people on earth.
My parents were teachers.
Summer vacations we traveled as a family. Awesome.
Never ever slow down.

Michelle said...

"Slow down"?....Hell, no!
You're pushing the big 32? Time to speed it up! And believe me, everything speeeds up!

greyhound said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greyhound said...

Why not the new, Iron-Distance race being held in Sandusky in 2010? Hmmmmm.

triguyjt said...

awesome post sara..
hope you have a fab summer and now I am gonna get that book...look forward to reading it...

i won't get pregnant and then resume my racing career.