I don’t believe I could count the number of people who, when they learned I was moving, remarked on how brave I was for doing so, how courageous I must be.
The first several times this happened, I was somewhat taken aback. Nervously, I thought: Bravery’s only needed in dangerous situations, right? So should I be worried? Do all these people know something I don’t?
Then I realized, the truly scary thing is simply walking away from the familiar and comfortable to face the unknown. What I was doing amounted to giving up the good in search of the great, refusing to settle for a life in which a few things were superb but the rest distinctly lacking. This is hard. It is lonely and risky.
And now, on my first first-day-of-school away from Alpine Valley in at least six years, hard, lonely and risky seem about right. Because today, I don’t feel very brave; today, bold feels more like reckless.
Going back for a moment to June, at the end of this past school year AVS hosted the Mother of All Going-Away Parties in my honor. It was almost like attending one’s own funeral, hearing and enjoying several heartfelt eulogies.
In a way, this surprised me almost as much as being called brave. Granted, I’ve wanted to be exceptional ever since I was quite young, as I imagined successive dream careers as a baseball player, a musician, then an academic superstar. Yet while I’ve hardly become immune to egotistical striving, eventually I more or less settled into what seemed an ordinary life.
Thus, when the words and gifts started flowing at that party, quickly approaching flood stage, I was quite overwhelmed. All these years (I’ve been involved with AVS since November 1998), I thought I was just being myself, just doing what I enjoyed. Shouldn’t everyone work hard and give all they can? Shouldn’t everyone try to be decent and do the right thing? What did I ever do that was so extraordinary?
Well, that evening I was honored, to an almost embarrassing degree. My community validated my life choices in a huge, palpable way. Today, however, I don’t feel so extraordinary. Today I’m unsure how to proceed in building my dream life; I worry about running out of money and not feeling at home.
I suspect this is all part of the process, the journey. I know I need to be patient and gentle with myself. At the same time, I’m open to suggestions. If you have any practical advice, concrete steps I might try in manifesting my dream—making a living promoting Sudbury schools (and generally, doing work I love) while also feeling at home where I live—please, speak up!
After all, misery may love company, but success requires it.