After writing my latest blog post two days ago I headed to bed exhausted and frustrated. Before nodding off I picked up The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which had been collecting dust on my night stand. Long ago I perused the first pages about a shepherd boy in Andalusia, before setting it down in favor of The Game of Thrones.
I don't know what inspired me to read a few pages that night, but I did. And after a evening spent venting and pondering about my direction in life, I read a few pages to find the shepherd meets a very Jesus-like fellow. What came next gave me goose bumps.
This Jesus-like guy spoke to the young shepherd about how our life's dreams fade with age. When we are young, we dream big, but then somewhere along the way, the realities of life weigh in, and we are forced to settle for less. He pointed out a baker who wanted to travel the world, but feared to leave behind his comfortable lifestyle his job provided.
It was like the book spoke to me! I can't say that I've ever had something so prescient happen. The cynic in me says it's just coincidence, but it still was a special moment.
I once had big, clear dreams. Dreams I sometimes can't remember. But seven years ago I started a business with a close friend that was supposed to change the world. I believed in the power of each and every one of us to affect change. I wanted to see the world. Start a business. Or two. Make a difference.
I chose another path and became a teacher, which isn't something that I regret. Indeed, I saw teaching as an avenue to do as much, or more good, than my social enterprise. Kids are awesome, kids are our future, and our society will only be as good as they are. If I could do my part to make them well-educated, civicially-aware citizens who were conscious of their effect on the world and empowered to change the world for the better, well, that would be the greatest service of all.
Yet somewhere along the way my aim drifted. Some mix of professional responsibilities, frustration with co-workers, student apathy, emails from parents, ever changing education standards, Family Guy reruns after work, or who knows what, blunted my purpose. Things became frustrating. Things became dull. Things became routine. Ideals worn down by the harsh grindstone that is reality.
And all that made me think.
More than pursuing dreams, a secret to a happy life is enjoying the little blessings that happen each day. A great class discussion. A conversation with a friend. A student inviting you to eat lunch with them. Playing with my dog. Its amazing how the petty details and frustrations of each day can smear themselves like ash, blotting out all the good we encounter, or preventing us from experiencing the at all.
The last two days I've let go of those gripes the best I am able. And my last two days have been better than the previous 20 combined. I'm not fighting the battles that don't matter and focusing on the things that do. Teaching has been more fun than it has in years. And maybe if I keep this up I can hope to accomplish what I originally wanted to: making a difference.