I taught middle school for two years. One year at private and one year at public. You would not BELIEVE the difference.
Having been raised in public school, I don’t think I was aware of how different they really were.
But I’ll save that post for another day.
At the end of both years, I sat on a stool in the front of the classroom and pulled out a Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.
Usually, this would be met with some hemming and hawing. Some we’re not babies kind of whining, to which I’d point out that they were indeed babies, as evidenced by said whining.
They’d eventually relent and allow me to read. (Guess what? Middle schoolers still love to be read to, and they even like books with pictures.)
As I would delve further into the book, the kids would begin to see that this Dr. Seuss story was not like the others.
Even in rhyme, even with pictures and silly words, behind Oh, the Places You’ll Go! stood a deep, meaningful lesson about life and perseverance.
By the end, I’d be crying, of course, because I cry at everything.
But some of them would be crying, too.
Because here’s the thing: Around middle school, I think we all start to realize that life doesn’t exactly hand out sugar cookies and red roses every day.
If we’re lucky enough to remain innocent by our preteen years, we surely begin by then to understand that sometimes it can be pretty crappy, this journey.
It can dish out some rough years, years where you were sick, maybe, or bullied.
Years of hurt after the death of a parent or their split.
Pain from not having enough food to eat, or the right clothes to wear to school, or the brains to do well enough to be considered one of those kids that teachers love.
***(FYI, teachers: While some of the kids in your class are super cute, wear all the right clothes, play sports or do cheer, have fantastic parents, etc. etc., there are others who are just trying to make it through another day. And when you favor those ‘perfect’ kids, which is easy to do, I know, don’t think the hurting ones, the left behind ones, don’t see. They see. And they remember. No judgment. Just food for thought.)***
I already knew that some of my students would end up in trouble, especially my first group, which were specifically troubled and in my class because of it.
But even my private school children had their issues: parents who were struggling, not a lot of money in the bank, self-esteem problems, and so on. And then some of them were just so privileged, I knew they’d figure out a way to mess it up, you know?
It was hard to look out over those classrooms and know that their little lives were not going to remain easy.
And I knew, because middle school was a moment in time for me that everything in life spun out of control.
My parents divorced, which would have been a very good thing had it been handled better.
My mother started working late at night.
There was a lack of money and a plethora of problems on the horizon.
I felt alone. Neglected. I acted out because of it.
I could carry on, but I never like to berate my parents on a public blog. They were—we are all—just doing the best we know to do, dealing with life the best we can, or sometimes not dealing with it because that’s all we know to do.
Numbness becomes preferable to pain, I guess.
By the time I entered college, I was a mess.
I’ve told this story. In fact, it has become my story, my brand, my personal wound that I keep covering then ripping off.
I had a baby. I got married. I thought both of those things would somehow magically fix a lot of brokenness instead of causing more.
Instead, I got stuck.
I entered the worst possible place, according to my favorite Dr. Suess book:
The Waiting Place. Where everyone is just…waiting.
For Clayford and I, the waiting was wrapped up in all we had left to do before we could become a “real family.”
There was school to finish. There were jobs to be taken, and houses to be bought and roots to be planted.
And it took a long, long time. There were some winding roads and some deep valleys and not a whole lot of mountain-top victories from the wounded and blurry spot where I stood and measured all things.
Sometimes the victory is just getting up to start another morning, one that often feels like life in the movie Groundhog Day.
That’s kind of how it’s been for me. Over and over, for years and years, I’ve woken up to the same life and the same morning.
There are probably more than a few moms out there who feel the way I do, especially if you stay home with your children.
From my stuck and tired place, Clayford was soaring. (He has not had the perfect life, so please don’t misunderstand.)
He had a well-paying and successful career, friends galore from childhood and golf and tennis and work trips, and he was able to come home and be a loving dad who hadn’t been around kids all day.
And then here I was, feeling like when I worked it was never enough and when I stayed home I was slightly less stressed but it was still never enough.
I’m writing broad and general, and it’s not to bash Clay or my parents. At the end of the day, the choices were mine for the choosing and not without casualties that I’ve had to bend the knee time and again to ask forgiveness for.
I began to feel very frozen in my life. I made it to 24 but refused to believe 28 would be the same. Then 30 came, and before I knew it, I turned 35 and realized I was living life from the same stuck place year after year after year, and no amount of new kids, new jobs, new moves or new resolve was going to unstick me.
So, here I am, writing on a blog at 36, still trying to figure out which way to turn, left or right.
Still having the up-and-down days that I’ve had in some form or fashion since I was a preteen.
Still trying to figure out life.
But it’s different now, more important, more crucial that I get unstuck.
I have four children watching me, and they will soon begin trekking their own journeys down weird and wild streets.
What do I want them to see? A mom who can’t get this right?
A mom who is too stressed and too stuck and too confused to make a coherent decision?
A mom who fails over and over again? Who remains perpetually angry and frustrated?
That’s not me!
I was a happy little girl who danced and sang and knew exactly what I wanted.
Like my About Me page tells you, I wanted to be a wife and a mother.
I wanted to make a home.
I wanted to love my Lord and be the very best version of myself I could possibly be.
Maybe I made some left turns where I should have made a right.
Maybe I’ve walked down some not-so-smart streets.
But this girl has brains in her head and shoes on her feet.
And though I don’t know exactly where I’m going, I know I’m leaving The Waiting Place.
Maybe you’re stuck, too.
You’re waiting for that perfect job. The diet that will change your body forever. Your husband to magically transform into who you need him to be.
You’re waiting for the right church or for your daughter to do this or that so you can live through her.
You’re waiting for a new home, a new bank account, a whole new you.
But standing still won’t get you any of those things.
Being stuck and living in the Valley of the Victim will not lead to progress.
Just like me, you have to wake up, take a deep breath and make a decision to change.
You have to get going.
We are off to great places, I feel it, I believe it.
And today is our day. 😉
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be as famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!