I am sitting here on a cold wet windy morning, having gone through all of my normal Dad, house chores, and all around nervous behavioral obligations that I could possibly do just to somehow get out of my own head. I start a new path tomorrow and from the outside it would seem a really fantastic thing. But from this guy’s perspective, well, the new path is overwhelmingly fraught with a bad case of nerves and general anxiety. I start a new teaching position tomorrow, at a local art school here in the Pacific North West. I have spent the better part of my adult life working as a designer/art director in both traditional advertising agencies as well as design and branding houses. I was introduced to teaching from a good friend of mine who used to teach and would have me come in and lecture to the students about the industry and how it functions. I loved it. I loved being around the energy of the students, I felt as though I was getting more out of it that they were. I loved every minute of my time talking with the students and answering questions. I was able to help critique the students work and talk to them about the process of creating and it all felt so hopeful and alive. I would hear from my friend, the teacher, that the students felt it was one of the best classes they had and so that started me down a new path
About ten years ago, my wife saw the need to help push me along that path and signed me up to finish my degree that I had long since abandoned. To say I was a reluctant student would be a huge understatement. I was not going to go back to school while I had a full-time job, a wife and kids, and a mortgage to pay. But, she, my wife, was NOT going to stand by any longer and let that degree, or lack thereof, get ion the way of me reaching for that new dream of teaching. It’s a little sticky point, you gotta have a degree to teach, and well, there was just no way around it. I needed to put my big boy pants on and commit every available night and weekend to finally finishing that degree. To say I sacrificed, would be very selfish, my wife and kids gave up more than I had to, they gave up time with Dad on the weekends and nights for many years. But then the day came, I finally finished that degree and was now free to look for that new path, that new direction, teaching.
Long story short, I landed a teaching assignment at a school and was suddenly elated. I was through the roof filled with excitement. My wife and I laughed and joyfully celebrated. I started to prepare for the classes I was going to be teaching by writing out the syllabi for all of my classes. I meticulously thought about each assignment and what the significance of each assignment would be for the students along their learning path. I gave each and every class some serious thought and consideration. However, here I am the day before I take my first step down that path, and well, I am just a nervous wreck. Good lord why? I have presented design and advertising concepts to “C” level people. I have managed teams of designers all working on multiple projects simultaneously. I spoken in large auditoriums filled with hundreds of people. So, why in the world is my stomach doing back flips on itself.
The only conclusion I can come to is that I don’t want to disappoint people. I certainly don’t want to disappoint the school who is giving me this wonderful opportunity. I don’t want the students to be disappointed. And most importantly I don’t want to let my wife and family down. But what I have been struggling with is a bit deeper, I don’t want to let down that hand full of teachers that truly left a mark on my life. Teachers like Mr. Glassman, and Janice Lowry, and Mrs. Hemphill, whose spirit echoes in my being. They all raised the bar for what it meant to be creative, to be passionate about creativity. I do not wish to disappoint those folks some of who have already passed. But in their spirit, I just want to live up to a small fraction of what it means to be a guiding, inspiring teacher. I want to live up to the standard that they showed me. I want to help nurture the creative energy that the students have entrusted me with. I know, it’s a very tall mountain to climb, if you are lucky enough to have known any of these people, but I am sure you too have a Mr. Glassman or a Janice Lowry in your life and know just what they meant to you. So, there it is, the root of my anxiety, it’s the bar with which I measure a teacher’s ability to inspire.
Now this is where the crazy big mystical magical sauce gets poured all over this story. I am a believer in the power of the universe. I believe that there are energies at work beyond our control or understanding. You can call it God, call it love, call it whatever you like, but there is a higher spirit, energy, frequency at play in the universe. As I struggled with my nerves, my anxieties, about this new venture into the world of teaching and inspiring, I received a note from a young family member this morning. Now mind you, that may not seem all that strange, a note from someone in your family. I get it, it could just be a common occurrence, a note from a loved one. But I have not spoken to this person in well over a year, could be two for the sake of this discussion. Let’s just say, it has been a long while. The comment came by way of a post to a social media account and it was posted to a painting that I had put up quite a few years ago. She wrote:
“My art teacher asked us to upload a picture of our favorite piece of art and I am submitting this. This painting has spoken to me since I first saw it, every time I enter my room (it’s outside my door) I ogle at it. The texture blows me away every single time, and the colors compliment eachother so nicely. That little bit of orange sunset in the top corner KILLS me, and I’m so glad you chose the color brown for the background buildings. Any other color would’ve been a mistake.”
WOW! What timing. It’s hard not to be humbled by the power of the universe when you take a step back and allow the powers that be take the wheel and steer. Took my breath away and I wrote her and said give me a minute I need to catch my breath, I actually told her I need to wipe the tears from my eyes. She responded with a lovely note back hoping that the tears are good ones and then went on to tell me that I am “a huge inspiration” to her. Well I cannot ask for any more of a sign than that. So as the rain continues to fall, and the butterflies in my stomach continue to flutter, I lean back in my seat and relinquish the wheel, go ahead steer me into tomorrow.