As everyone does, I have had a roller coaster ride of ups and downs in my life, and as a teacher I have been witness to many students and colleagues riding that roller coaster as well. Life does have a way of throwing curve balls at us when we’re not looking, and how we respond to being knocked off our feet says a lot about our own personal beliefs. I have sometimes been accused of wearing those proverbial rose-colored glasses, and of not facing reality, but in truth, we create our own reality and there is something to be said about self-fulfilling prophecies.
When my two sons were about middle school age, my husband and I separated. The same week, I lost my job as part of a “reduction in force” caused by a shrinking school budget. It was the lowest point in my life, and it was really hard to face each day wondering whether there would be money left for food after the bills were paid. I was determined, however, to create a better life for us, and my faith in God was strong; I truly believed that my prayers would be answered.
And answered they were. I received a phone call from a principal in a school within commuting distance who was in need of an English and Technology teacher, which had been my exact previous position. I got the job, and even though there was a decrease in pay, I was thankful. It was still nearly impossible to make ends meet, but little things happened on such a regular basis that I know it was not coincidence. I’d receive a refund check from the insurance company just when an unexpected bill was due. A family I knew learned I needed new tires, and they “just happened” to have tires of the right size in their barn. I came home one day to find bags and bags of groceries waiting for me in the breezeway, left by a friend who couldn’t possibly have known how empty my cupboards were. One Christmas morning I even woke up to find that another friend had snuck into my house overnight and filled my stocking! There really was a Santa Claus that year!
Slowly my finances became more stable, I found another, better paying job, fell in love again, and decided that it was time to start paying it forward. It’s not always about money, although sometimes I can do that, but more often, it’s about keeping the faith and convincing people that they can be strong, set a clear and true goal, and achieve something good. We don’t always get what we wish for, but if we truly believe that it will be OK, and if we are patient, amazing things will happen.
I write this now because teachers in my school are losing jobs due to a reduction in force. I know how terribly earth shattering it is to get that call. But I also know how that kind of situation can be a force for good. While I didn’t know it then, I needed to learn that I did have the power and ability to overcome what I thought were insurmountable difficulties. I ultimately learned to be strong, I learned the power of goal-setting, and I learned that even though I don’t have control over what happens to me, I do control how I deal with it, and I can define my own reality by choosing to be optimistic, and showing gratitude for the goodness around me. Sometimes it’s one day at a time, and sometimes it’s terribly hard, but with faith, a positive attitude, and some true friends, my life has been amazing, and good, and for all that, I am grateful.