“You haven’t failed until you decide to stop trying.”
This quote is written on a chalkboard in the elementary hallway of the Columbus public charter school where I teach 4th grade. When you’re a 22 year old brand new college graduate in your first year of teaching and living in a brand new city, quotes like this definitely resonate.
I have certainly had a litany of difficult, trying, and frustration-inducing moments in the two months that I’ve been officially teaching and living here. I’ve had panic moments where – honesty hour – I have literally wanted to run out of my classroom and not return the next day. I have felt like I have no idea what I’m doing. I have felt like I am failing.
But I haven’t stopped trying.
This past summer I was the assistant director at my church’s summer day camp. I have worked there in various roles since I was a counselor in training way back in 2009. I had practically memorized the schedules, the field trips, the routines, and how every single thing should and would play out. Even so, there were still times where I felt unfit for the position. There were times where I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. There were times where I felt like I was failing.
But I didn’t stop trying.
From January through April of this year I had the opportunity to complete my final semester of college by student teaching in Budapest, Hungary. I was placed in a 2nd grade classroom at an international Christian school and lived with a missionary family for about 4 months. I navigated the challenges of adjusting to an entirely new environment while also building relationships, teaching children from multiple countries, and trying my best to explore the beautiful city I was living in (more on Budapest in a later post). At times I felt like I was unfit for teaching. I felt like my introverted extrovert self (yes that is totally a thing) could not handle “being on stage” all day as a teacher. I felt inadequate.
But I did not quit trying.
Throughout all of those unbearably painful and seemingly hopeless situations, I did not stop trying. I’ve found that the most important thing to do in this life when facing what feels like an impossible barrier is to push through. The only way out is through. The only way to keep going to is to choose to keep going.
Oftentimes I will tell my 4th graders that no matter what happens to them, they can choose how to react or respond. Recently I’ve been majorly challenged by the advice that I daily hand out to my students. When faced with a difficult situation, we need to courageously and boldly look it in the eye, choose to handle it, and ultimately reflect on its purpose.
Pema Chodron once said, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
There is a purpose to everything. Most often that purpose is growth. Change. A hard lesson learned. We can choose to be stubborn and prideful and upset and negative about it. Or we can choose to change our perspective. Soften our hearts and our minds. Accept grace and embody humility. What do are we supposed to learn? To change? To accept? To let go?
Life is all about choices.
Don’t choose to quit. Don’t choose to be hard. Don’t choose to be negative. Don’t choose to let fear win.
Choose life. Choose light. Choose laughter. Choose to be soft. Choose to be kind. Choose grace. Choose to shift your perspective.
Life is all about choices.
What will you choose?
words by Meredith Blair and photo by Hannah Jin