Be careful what you ask for

This summer I’ve had the good fortune to get everything I’ve asked for. I really shouldn’t complain, but I am so busy now that the summer is flying past and I haven’t even been to the pool once! The To Do list hasn’t gotten any shorter and I’m almost in panic mode. So I’m taking a deep breath, metaphorically, to tap into an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

First, I was able to spend two entire, uninterrupted weeks with my mother in West Virginia. She is elderly and getting more forgetful and frail. I cooked dinner, planted flowers in her front yard, and I fed the neighborhood cats that gather on her back porch. These little things make her so happy. We drove along the Ohio River up to Point Pleasant, where the Silver Bridge famously collapsed in 1967 following all sorts of paranormal activity. We went to the Mothman Museum and she was a good sport, posing with a 6-foot black figure with red eyes just for a good photo opportunity. Every moment I spend with my mother is a gift. What is it about trying to help other people that makes one feel so content?

Second, I was given a summer organizing job I applied for with the teachers’ union. It’s something that I truly support – going out and having conversations with new (and not-so-new) teachers to find out what makes them tick. I used to be in advertising sales, so meeting with people and listening to their stories comes naturally to me. Who knows what will come of these collective conversations? But I met a guy who lives in my neighborhood – on my street! I didn’t know him before and now I do. If nothing else, at least I can say hi when I see him around. I value the face-to-face interactions that become so difficult once the school year starts.

Third, I asked to teach one English class next year. Instead of a class with new ESOL students with interrupted education, I’ll be teaching an Honors English 12. I’m really excited and, I’ll admit, a little nervous. I’m rereading all the classics I’ll be teaching – Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, The Stranger. I’m looking forward to interacting with students who will actually read for homework, and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. It will help me grow as a teacher and a professional.

And finally, I’ve been asked to race on Saturday. I’m too out of shape to pull an oar through the water in competition, but I will be sitting in the coxswain seat tomorrow and taking charge of a 8x at Diamond States in Delaware. I’m excited and nervous because we might actually win and they’ll toss me in the water if we do. That’s better than swimming in a pool, isn’t it?

The way I look at it is, if you don’t put challenges out there to yourself – especially as you get older – then you risk getting stuck in a rut. I feel the clock ticking away the summer days, but each morning I wake up excited to start on something new.

Now I can cross one more thing off my To Do list.

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Eva K. Sullivan teaches English Language Learners in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. She was an English Language Fellow with U.S. Department of State during the 2017-2018 school year, working with the Ministry of Education in Laos, Southeast Asia. She writes short stories, personal essays, and has completed a memoir about her experiences as an expat in West Africa in the 1990s.

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