Yesterday a student stopped me on the landing to ask me what I teach. When I told her that I was an English teacher, she said, "I knew it! You look like an English teacher."
I said, "I'm not sure that's a good thing."
She assured me that it was. She said that she had planned to be an English major and that being an English teacher was her dream job.
So what does she plan to do? Something with fashion. Why did she change her direction? She didn't go into much detail, but I got the sense that a mean-spirited English teacher along the way redirected her.
I decided to take her at her word and to believe that it was OK that I looked like an English teacher. I also asked myself who I'd rather look like. A painter, perhaps. A biologist who works in the wild, that Jane Goodall look--although I don't think I have the body to pull off that look.
But perhaps I'm wrong. Earlier yesterday, a spin class buddy and I were comparing notes on different teacher. I talked about our Friday teacher who loves sprints. I hate sprints, which makes me think I should do more of them.
My spin class buddy said that there was no one in our class that he would rely on more than me. He said, "Like if we were biking in the Grand Canyon, and I broke my leg, you're the one I would most depend on to get me out of there." I assumed he meant my relentless cheer and can-do spirit.
But then he said, "You're a machine!"
Again, for a brief instant, I wondered whether to be insulted or complimented. But he meant it as a compliment.
I don't see myself as a machine when it comes to working out. Maybe I'd be a machine at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I'm a machine when it comes to how much I can read in a given day--I can plow through a lot in a little time.
But I don't think of myself as an exercise machine--which is strange, when you consider how much exercise I do.
I thought of this again driving home last night after a church council meeting. The classic rock radio station played several songs in a row that were popular during the autumn of my senior year of high school (like Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and U2's "New Year's Day"). The timeless Christmas decorations twinkled. For a strange minute, I felt like I'd fallen through a hole in time. Would I get out of the car to find out that it was 1982?
I thought of my dad who often enlisted my help as if I was a big, burley guy: "Hey, Kris, come help me move this sleep sofa." I've never been treated as a frail female, at least not by people who know me well. Where did I get this idea of myself as a non-machine?
Part of it is my inner critic, that unrelenting voice that reminds me of all the ways I'm not good enough. I'm grateful for the other voices who chime in to remind me otherwise.
This Year's Summer Reading List: Take a Look!
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