Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Did You Get That On Film?


My mom called yesterday and told me that while re-storing her Christmas decorations in the garage she had come across some of my childhood toys and belongings.  "I found a diary of yours," she said quite casually.  Heart. Stopped.  Remember, this is the same woman who has told me to be careful about what I write more than she has told me any other piece of advice.  I have started and stopped so many different journals in my life that I have lost track of many of them. I always expect one to spring forth from a once-hidden nook and expose some wild secret.  Maybe that moment had arrived! But then, I breathed.  I am 36 years old, I thought.  I cannot be afraid of acknowledging who I have been.  Any diary she has found was from another life, one that has shaped me but no longer defines me.  And then she said, "I'm pretty sure you wrote it when you were in kindergarten."  Any lingering fears were now gone -- what could I have possibly written in kindergarten that I would be ashamed of my mother reading?

It actually was not the content that she was caught by, but the fact that at five years old I had kept a diary of legible, coherent entries at all.  "Who does that?" she exclaimed. 

Later in the evening, my husband and I watched a short documentary piece on Coach Nick Saban.  Any of you following Chad's blog know that he is an Alabama Crimson Tide fanatic and looking very much forward to attending Thursday's National Championship game, so any coverage associated with the team becomes mandatory viewing.  The documentary focused on Saban's childhood in Carolina, West Virginia, a town of 500.  It was a sweet piece on a coach often described as gruff or unfriendly.  The tenderness with which his hometown people spoke of him was sincere and let us see a different side of him.  One anecdote that stood out to me, though, was when Saban's childhood friend recalled a time when they were young and he came over to Saban's house.  He found Nick watching 8 mm film of a football game they'd played.  "Want to watch film with me?" young Nick asked his buddy.  Not exactly what kids usually want to spend their afternoons doing.  Unless , of course, watching film is what you are meant to do for the rest of your life.

On New Year's Eve, my family and I watched Travis Pastrana break the world record for jumping a car over 250 feet across the Long Beach Harbor. As we waited for the climactic moment to arrive, we were shown home videos of Travis as a boy, maybe four or five years old, taking off on a motorcycle.  Even at a very young age and well before he could even hope to have a license, Pastrana was already driving toward his future vocation.

No matter the vocation we choose, risks are involved.  Saban is about to coach the biggest game of the year in college football and every decision he makes will be scrutinized.  Travis Pastrana risks his life with the stunts that he performs and must find peace with his very possible demise each time he climbs onto a motorcycle or into a race car.  But when we see footage of them pursuing these dreams as young boys, we don't criticize their lack of sophistication or the mistakes they make. We don't wish they had stopped and turned their attention to other activities. We find the vision of a child engaged in what will be his life's work tender and heartwarming.

As a teacher, I am responsible for guiding young minds and hearts.  This is a risky endeavor at times.  When I comment on an essay or critique a presentation, how will my words impact my students? When I write and share my ideas in a forum like this, will it in anyway influence their perceptions of me? Their parents' perceptions?  My colleagues' perceptions? How much of myself can I reveal without making myself too vulnerable?  I am just beginning to let go of the writing I did in my younger days and not let the lessons learned in various stages in my life haunt the person I am now.  I am still trying to determine how I can pursue truth in my writing and maintain my identity and respect as a teacher.  But one thing I know for sure, even if my mom doesn't have it on film, I was writing my life even back in kindergarten and I cannot let a little apprehension keep me from the big game.

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