A few months ago, I ran into an old middle school teacher of mine. Mrs. Hall was one of those rare teachers, who, though she wasn’t a favorite and was actually often quite strict, she still garnered the respect of most of us thirteen year olds simply because she always demanded the best of us. When a student did not live up to her expectations, one could see it on her face and that look of disappointment, however fleeting, was worse than the low grade which inevitably followed it.
As I stood before her that day, making small talk, the years faded away and I was once again in that public school classroom, under her fixed stare and hoping that the promise I had represented as a youth had materialized before her. Was I what she thought I would become? Did I validate her life’s work or make her wish she’d picked another profession? Was I where she thought I’d be, all these years later or did she see, as I often did, that I was merely treading water at times in the simple hope of trying to stay afloat?
Whatever she saw or didn’t see that day, she kept it to herself and I am left wondering if who I was and who I had hoped to be, is still the larger part of the me today or if that youthful & determined spirit has been overshadowed by the years and the daily, tiny struggles of a somewhat ordinary life?