For about 15 years I have had a wonderful poster in my house, given to me by some parents at my old school at a time when I was making a huge transition. It has continued to inspire me every day, especially when I am in the midst of change. These last few days, the way I have been able to get myself out of bed in the morning is by spending some time remembering all of the times I have “jumped” into change, and it has been incredibly successful. When I do that, I remember clearly why I am making this (stressful) change, and that it is exactly the right thing to do, and I also feel incredibly proud of myself for all the brave things I’ve done in the past.
So here’s what the poster says, a quote by Goethe:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans.
The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
raising in one’s favor all manner of unseen incidents and meetings
and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic to it.
I will share a little bit of a “retrospective” of my life here, three of my bold decisions, and the way that Providence has given me assistance and made it absolutely clear that I was doing the right thing.
When I first was getting into elementary teaching, I was a reading aide in Pennsylvania, working with Mennonite children. My supervisor was an experienced (perhaps a bit jaded) teacher, extremely Catholic, although I did not know that. I tend to be a talker, and in our driving time out to the small school where we worked, I probably mentioned that my dad was working in biology, studying evolution. It turned out to be a huge problem for her, and she started ignoring me, barely speaking, and treating me really badly. At the time I didn’t understand why, and just tried to cope with it, but about a month before school was out for the summer, I realized I couldn’t handle it anymore. I went to the assistant superintendent who made a meeting for us all. I prepped for many hours for the meeting on the phone with my dad, and when the time came I was calm and clear and very confident, although shaking inside. The supervising teacher had worn her shortest skirt and lowest cut blouse, and made it clear that her problem was a religious one. I was appalled that she seemed to be trying to use sex appeal to plead her case, and then brought religion into it. The end result was that the superintendent transferred me to another wonderful supervising teacher for the last few weeks of school and that was that. All I know about that woman was that they didn’t allow her to have an aide anymore. I was ecstatic. I will never forget that experience, not that it taught me to keep my mouth shut. If you know me, you know that I tend to be open about basically everything. Heart on my sleeve…whatever. This experience actually guided me into many years of teaching in private schools, where I could develop and experience my philosophy of teaching, which includes play, art, music and free choice time as essential parts of the learning process.
Another experience involving teaching, was the one that was happening when I was actually given the poster. I had finally decided I needed to get a public school job, after thirteen years at the school I was in at the time and over six at other private schools. Although I loved the teacher collective where I worked, I was going into debt, it wasn’t enough to sustain a family with a single mom in the bay area. In good conscience, I had to resign in February, although I would work till June. I began to look for a job, as an experienced teacher. I went to job fairs, I interviewed with panels of educators and parents, I sent resumes out to every school in the area, my friend got me an interview with her principal in a neighboring city. Everywhere I went I ran into either age discrimination (“I don’t think you’ll have the energy we need in a teacher”) or the problem that I didn’t know the latest public school lingo for the current educational craze. I cried many a night, and felt almost hopeless, as if I’d have to get a cleaning job or something to support my kids. But I kept trying. I started called principals in Berkeley to “see” if they’d gotten my resume, and ended up talking to an actual principal (instead of a secretary), took a big breath, and went on for five minutes about all the qualifications I had for any job opening they might have. I managed to get an interview, then I got the job, and a more perfect public school job I couldn’t have imagined. My decent salary kept us going (even when my ex- partner sneakily put me in debt for over $20,000 right before we split up), my great health coverage got me through the cancer treatments I needed, and now I have a regular, (if quite small), retirement salary. My school was located in a place that made it easy to be available for my kids when I needed to be, and I had only a few minutes more commute than I did before. I felt so lucky. I also met some wonderful teachers, including the one who married me last week!
The last huge transition I want to mention has to do with the move from Minnesota to California. A huge move away from a place I’d lived for seven years, where I helped to start a school in which I became director. But we wanted to be in a gay-friendly place to have a family, and that meant the bay area. We hired a moving van to drive our furniture out for $1,000, loaded up our truck with valuables and our cat, and drove out. I had already gotten my job at the teacher collective mentioned above (and at that time, had my choice of about 4 private schools from which I had job offers), we had obtained the lower half of a duplex in the mission district in San Francisco from a friend of one of the teachers I would work with (who has now become my dearest friend), and were excited about the prospects of planning a family. Although my first year was really hard, both at the school, and with the commute across the bridge, the second year we got half a house in Berkeley for an incredibly cheap rent (associated with the school), I had a wonderful school community, and was eventually able to adopt my two children who basically grew up in that community and still have it in their lives. It all was meant to be. That move, which got me to California — my children, my house, my partner, good friends — had the most major impact on my life of anything.
I’ve always thought it was crazy for older people to move away from the place they’ve lived and loved for most of their lives, yet now I’m getting ready to do that. (I’ve probably said all this before…) Really, financially, it’s not a choice if we both want to retire. But I’m also going to a place that I love with all my heart, and that will allow me to be retired with my partner, doing exactly what we want to do. And I’m once again going to a community that suits me, even though I will definitely miss some key people here. Providence has moved to help wih this change, by giving us great buyers for our house that has appreciated enough to sustain us, and giving me more health than I have had in the last few years, as well as the ability to get health insurance in another state, something I wouldn’t have been able to do before Obamacare. My poster and inspiration is coming along with us, to have a place of honor in the new house.
My own words for this have gone into the chorus of a song I wrote several years ago, when “jumping” into my relationship with Sarita.
Jump into change from your heart
Fly, like the bird in your soul
Leap across the canyons of old.
Sing all the songs of your loves
Words filled with life in the stories told.
(The whole song is on Soundcloud on the profile of CaseyWayland, called “Jump into Change.” I’m putting it on the blog after the move, when I re-record it with Sarita playing the accordion.)
So the real question is: What exciting things are awaiting me? I have my new dreams — perhaps I could sell a song, or have one song published or sung by another artist. But the universe has a way of surprising us when we go all in for our changes. I wonder what’s next?