The signs may not be obvious, but they’re there for the keen observer. I haven’t written a book review since April. I’ve been much less consistent at replying to comments. My posts have dropped from twice a week to once a week, and this one is late. The previous two posts were both responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge instead of the brainchild of my own ideas… and this one is, too. Sort of. I’ll explain what I mean in a bit.
All these signs point to one fact. I’ve lost my blogging drive. I still enjoy the act of writing. I’m still floored by the numbers of followers I have – even after sifting through the spam followers that worked their way into the mix. I still feel like I have something to give to the world. However, I’m realizing that blogging was my place-holder for my real mission, and right now, the place-holder is starting to feel a bit flimsy.
I began this blog immediately after I left my last full-time teaching job. Despite my tagline, I haven’t been a “real” teacher the whole time I’ve been blogging. Last year that was OK. Last year I had a reason for my nomadic life, a set timeline in which I couldn’t hold down a full-time job. But I still wanted to be relevant, still wanted to reach teens and give voice to the wisdom I could impart, so I blogged since I couldn’t teach. I never lacked for inspiration that year. I read the books I wanted to read and blogged about them. I blogged about my changing scenery, about the struggles of the moves, the new challenges and demographics of each location. In one twelve month period I sat in classrooms in downtown Boston, small-town Illinois, rural Alaska, and multicultural Miami. I constantly drew on new sources of blogging inspiration, and I loved it.
That inspiration is missing now. The excitement has died down as I live in one town, one apartment for a whole year again, and I’m still not teaching. I’m not standing in front of a classroom filled with the same students every day, forming the bond unique to the student-teacher relationship, watching the light-bulbs go off over their heads as they grow into adults before my eyes. I’m not leaving my mark. Blogging helped provide consistency in a crazy whirlwind of a year, but now that the dust has settled, blogging is a poor stand-in for my life’s mission.
I realized the depth of my current apathy towards my blog two days ago when I turned once again to the Weekly Writing Challenge for inspiration, and I read these words:
“As individuals and as communities, we have an impact on the world around us, whether we leave our mark by scratching our names in wet cement, or pay homage to those who have come before through small tokens of affection. These symbolic objects and actions leave behind a lasting message…”
“…We’re looking forward to reading your interpretations of what it means to leave your mark, and honor those before you.”
I should be all over this prompt. I should be spouting encouragement to all my teen readers to find their ways to leave their marks on the world and their communities. I should be telling them not to wait until they are adults, but to start making a difference now. I should be citing examples of young people doing amazing things and leaving their mark. (For now, check out this story. The teacher is a friend of mine, and I’m floored by what her students did.) This is a prompt that falls directly in line with the initial purpose of my blog, but I struggled to write about it.
How can I tell others to go leave their marks when I’m not leaving mine? I’m grateful to all my readers and all the encouragement I’ve received, but this blog is not my mark. At least, it’s not the mark that holds the most meaning to me.
My mark is the 8th grade girl who told me she was afraid of writing essays until she took my class.
My mark is the high school senior who overcame family hardships and won a scholarship with an essay he spent hours perfecting in my classroom.
My mark is a 3rd grade teacher in Miami who didn’t lose her job because I was able to help her out.
A bullied freshman who turned to me for hope.
A brilliant but emotionally insecure 6th grade boy who found acceptance for who he was, not what he could do.
A group of juniors who entered class one day depressed, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, and left my room at the end of the period singing “You Raise Me Up” at the tops of their lungs.
A church in Seattle with an active teen youth group.
A school in Boston with the foundation for a full high school English curriculum.
That’s how I leave my mark. In the lives of the people I meet in my career, whom I encounter day after day as I teach and work with teens. After three months of subbing in the same district, I feel like I’m just waiting. I’m waiting for work. For motivation. For opportunities. I’m staring expectantly at doors waiting for them to open, hoping my world will soon be flipped upside-down in a good way and bring me back to place of professional inspiration. Life has taught me that everything might change in a matter of weeks. Or it might not. But all I can do right now is wait.