Life

Modeling clay

Last week, Greg, the boys, and I were honored to spend time celebrating a new marriage of one of my past students. Surrounded by so many individuals who were influential in my early career, I couldn’t help but be transported back in time.

I stepped into the classroom right out of college. And, when I say right out of college, I mean, right out of college. I graduated Ohio State a couple of quarters early on a Sunday in December, and I started my position less than 24 hours later. I spent three days in the classroom before taking off the end of the week to get married. If you’re going through some life changes, why not do them all at once? Although my undergraduate education and a variety of internships had done a remarkable job of preparing me to teach, it was obvious I still had a lot to learn.

I walked into a less-than-ideal situation. The previous teacher was one of those larger than life legends in the community and across the state. Tragically, he passed away unexpectedly, leaving a void in many hearts and in a classroom he had served for decades. And, now, fresh out of college, I was going to take his position and attempt to win these teenagers over.

I could write volumes about the struggles I faced as the new kid on the block, yet in all honesty, I’ve set many of those challenges to the back of my mind. Last week, back in the midst of the people who supported me and walked alongside me in that period of my life, I didn’t remember the times I ended the day in tears or the frustrations I felt when I didn’t feel like I’d ever make progress. Instead, I remembered the kind words of encouragement from parents and the feelings of gratitude to students who helped me win over their peers. Above all, I felt blessed, for I was reminded of something incredible: each experience we face in life, good or bad, molds us into a stronger person.

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That’s like the expression I once heard someone say: every seven years, we are essentially a new person. All of the cells in our body are replaced by new ones, and we literally are no longer the same person we were seven years ago. I believe the same thing applies to our hearts and minds. Like modeling clay, we are constantly growing and developing into new people. The trick is to allow ourselves to be molded in a positive direction and to never harden our hearts and minds to the people and events we encounter.

I know some of my former students are reading this, and to you, I say thank you. I am grateful for the time we spent together, and I cherish the memories, both good and bad. Although I’m no longer in the classroom, I truly believe because of that experience, I am a better version of myself. While I was the teacher, it was you who were teaching me the virtues of patience, grace, preparedness, and so many others. I may only pray that I, too, helped mold you into the adults you are today.

Experience… it’s the teacher of all things.

Farm, Life, Women in Agriculture

Juxtaposition

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I added the word juxtaposition to my vocabulary in sixth grade art class. Mrs. Dean introduced the concept of contrasting elements occurring in the same space. I can’t tell you which famous artist she used as an example or even the project we created on our own. All I can tell you is I thought the word was one of the coolest I had learned so far, and I felt super-intelligent when I used it in a sentence.

Vocabulary.com describes juxtaposition like this:

“If a waiter served you a whole fish and a scoop of chocolate ice cream on the same plate, your surprise might be caused by the juxtaposition, or the side-by-side contrast, of the two foods.

Any time unlike things bump up against each other, you can describe it as a juxtaposition. Imagine a funeral mourner telling jokes graveside, and you get the idea — the juxtaposition in this case is between grief and humor. Juxtaposition of two contrasting items is often done deliberately in writing, music, or art — in order to highlight their differences.”

Quite simply, juxtaposition is multiple unlike items coexisting in the same space. It’s been a few years since sixth grade art class, but lately, the concept of juxtaposition has returned to my life. This time, I’m living it.

Rose driving combine.The Loft at Pickwick Place

This fall, I have experienced juxtaposition as different arenas of my life, all with stark contract, have existed at the same time. Take for example the day I drove the combine, only to rush home, take a shower, and head off to our event venue  to meet a prospective bride. Or, the day I helped Greg apply liquid manure, only to volunteer in the boys’ kindergarten classrooms a couple of hours later. I’ve learned to embrace these various experiences and the beautiful picture they paint together. After all, variety is the spice of life.

What about you? Do you love to play in the mud and get dressed up? Do you feel as comfortable as can be in the seat of a tractor or in a seat at the boardroom table? Do you rock out to Van Halen as you’re driving to work but let Bach flow from your fingers when you’re in front of the piano? Enjoy those ebbs and flows. You see, here’s what I’ve learned about juxtaposition: initially, it may be challenging to understand how such dissimilar things can coincide in the same realm. However, just like in art, it is that contrast that adds richness and dimension to our lives and to the lives around us. Be proud to be juxtaposed.