There was a time in my teaching career (early on) when I believed in doing hard things. That is still true, but I’m noticing that my thoughts about that have changed some. It used to be that whenever my high school students would back down from doing something that frightened them, I’d say, “Yeah, it’ll be hard. Hard is okay. You can do hard things.”
I believed that then and I believe it now, but back then I didn’t challenge myself to do anything hard. I just said it to the kids, until the first summer I drove to the Grand Canyon. I packed up my music and got my car tuned up and off I went to a (wonderful!!) writing retreat right there at the Canyon. Sunrise writes at the edge of the canyon, sharing my writing with people I liked and respected, it was all just great. It was on that trip that I started thinking about hard things, and realized that it was easy to tell the kids to do hard things, but I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.
This was evident the night I went to a Thai restaurant to eat, alone. I was given a table, and just after my food was delivered I was asked to move to a different table because my table was big enough to seat a larger party, and since I was alone I could go to a tiny table by the window. I didn’t want to move, and I said “No, I don’t want to move.” They insisted, begged, cajoled and I was firm in my denial. Now I can’t remember why exactly, but it undoubtedly hd to do with the thought that they considered me less important than those others who were couples.
Looking back on it I think I over reacted, but at the time it mattered that I stood my ground. Later, I decided to do something really hard. I’d wear my bathing suit out in public, and take a swim in the hotel pool. I wrapped up in a towel and took the stairs down to the pool. I knew the elevator opened into the lobby, so I thought the stairs would be a more private route. Until I got down there and realized that in order to get to the pool I’d have to walk through the fancy-only-go-with-a-date restaurant. And it was closed and packed full with a private party. All kinds of people dressed up enjoying a fun evening in the restaurant and around the pool. Yes. The pool I was going to swim in.
So, do you think I turned back and hightailed it to my room? That would have been the logical thing to do, but I was doing hard things. So I took a deep breath and walked right through that restaurant and got into that pool and paddled around for a while. Then I got out and went back through the restaurant to go to my room. Whoo, did I feel victorious! A little out of breath too.
So now fast forward about fifteen years to now. What is hard for me now? Swimming suits don’t really faze me anymore since I have a pool in my yard. I still love to travel alone, but maybe not internationally. Maybe that’s a challenge I could tackle. Wait. I know one. I have a distinct reluctance to dance in a room full of women at a retreat, all of them yelling and groaning, and waving their arms in the air,letting out whatever makes them feel stuck, in their writing or otherwise. And I will have an opportunity to do just that with a group of wonderful people this summer, at a writing retreat that I’ll be attending. So, it would seem that I have my assignment, wouldn’t it? Yeah!