Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rewind Wednesday, Part 2: Last August 2nd

Okay, fast forward. Went through security and up the stairs.

It was really quiet except for my heart pounding so heavily it had to be audible. I was 15 minutes early. Good. Some time to sit peacefully and get a hold of myself. I sat down and looked into the deep, dark depths of my purse for a mirror to assess my crazy hair day situation.

It wasn't three minutes later I heard "Oh, good, she's already here."

I never found the mirror. Instead I found myself trying to listen carefully to what was being said to me over my heartbeat pulsating in my ears. I stood back up, and I don't know why it didn't bother me earlier that morning, but all the fluid and bruising in my achy-breaky legs just went woosh down to my toes. My legs felt like water balloons as I went through the door with a big smile on my face and my hand outstretched.

They all seemed so tall. And I seemed really young and short.

Meet the Press. Sit up. Smile. Look at them! Don't act like you usually do.  The enormity of it all overwhelmed me. How on Earth had I ended up here? Listen to the questions. I felt like the walls were closing in, inch by inch.

It didn't take long, and then I cracked. Between going through my don't list over and over and debating whether to not to wear my glasses after all (they ended up on the floor after I knocked them off the table), I cracked. I was not going to maintain my composure. In an instant, I was sure that I had ruined everything I had convinced myself wasn't even possible.

Well, what do you do when your in a situation like that? It wasn't like I could get up and leave. So, the only split second option I had was to just be myself. After all, how many people would ever make it as far as that little room? Time to just let it go and forget all the things on the don't list.

I was too emotional. Too silly. And dramatic. Meet the Press had effectively become Oprah's couch. I was just Erin, 5th grade teacher, not pulled together teacher-leader. I'll never see them again, I thought. What difference does it make? I'll just be me, there's nothing to lose now.

My leg really hurt.

And that's how it went for thirty-or-so minutes. I didn't just wear my heart on my sleeve; I added glitter to make it stand out.

Then it was time to give my speech. Now, people dear to me had invested their time in listening to me speak, encouraging me to be confident. In my mind I had now disappointed them more than humanly possible. I owed them all to give it my best on that speech, even if I had blown it. And so I did. I spoke from my heart, where every word had come from, because that's what every person I represented deserved.

It's a little strange giving a big speech to a small group of people. Or maybe I took the assignment completely out of context.

No sooner than it began I was out the door. Embarrassed. Ashamed of myself. I filled out paperwork and quickly was escorted to the main entrance and into the sunshine.

I called Brad. He was already there in the parking lot. I could see him. But I wasn't moving.

"Do you see me? Just walk this way."

I still wasn't moving.

He ended up getting out of the car. Again. All I could muster after spilling my heart out for 45 minutes was a barely audible "It's over."

And then I got in the car.

"I can't believe it! I did everything I shouldn't have done! It was horrible. It's over. It was never going to happen anyway. That's it. That's it?! Why did I say that? It's over. I'm so embarrassed. It is so over."

I said that all the way home. Over and over. For about 4 and-a-half hours. It's a wonder that he didn't make me get out and walk home. Stopping the car first would have been a plus.

A month later, I was in the throws of a new school year. I had effectively blocked any thought of my interview or speech unless asked, then I had my "It just wasn't meant to be" line all ready to go. I got a letter in the mail congratulating me and advising to have some remarks prepared in case I was the teacher of the year.

I almost threw it away. Then I thought better and just tossed it in a pile of random papers on my desk.

Two days later, I was chilling on the couch after school. Great day, but a long, tiring one. It was going to be a good year. I whipped out my phone and engrossed myself in a round of Angry Birds.

I was so intent on using the white "egg" bird that NEVER drops the egg in the right spot I didn't hear Brad come in the room.

"Did you get a letter?"

"About what?"

"Don't you need to write a speech?"

I made a face. Nosey. "I don't need to write any more speeches. It's over. There's no way. Don't look at my mail." I went back to bombing the ugly green piggies on Angry Birds.

"I think you better write a speech."

"I love you too, but I know when it's not going to be me. Stop bothering me and don't look at my mail."

"I think you need to get ready for October 9th."

Mr. Persistent. Humph. There's no way. It's over.

And then, I got a feeling. The feeling you get when someone is possibly hiding something from you. When you're the last to know. What if...

I let the black bomb bird disintegrate into the virtual sky and went to go dig up that letter.


Well, we all know how this story ended. You just never knew how it started.

I'm asked a lot about what makes me the teacher of the year. Eleven months in and I still don't have the answer people are looking for.

It's not about being all pulled together. Or having all the right answers. Or how many committees or student teachers you've served.

As I said in part one, we aren't always kind to ourselves in this profession. So much is expected, and we often feel we come up short. We not only want to feel empowered, but know that others see our potential, too.

We're all looking for someone just like us.

I'm proof that broken, flawed people with purpose and determination can be leaders, speakers, and amazingly enough, role models. Sometimes your purpose is revealed to you in ways you would never anticipate.

Be different. Be the difference.

But most importantly, be yourself.

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