I wrote this post some six months ago. I am not sure why I never posted it here. I probably thought I would revise, expand, improve, etc. Now, as we near the end of 2014, and many of us begin thinking about resolutions, I’ve found this post on my computer.
Below are my reflections on turning 40. They are equally applicable now, as the curtain of 2014 begins to close.
This past Saturday was by 40th birthday. As my family spent the morning finalizing the details of their spectacular plans, I spent the morning watching the memorial service for Maya Angelou. Now, you might think watching a memorial service on one’s birthday is a bit morbid. But, for me, this was a perfect way to start off this milestone day.
This birthday, more than any other, has caused me to be very reflective. I’ve been on this planet for 40 years. I hope to have 40+ more years. It was a good day to reflect on where I came from, where I’ve been, what I’ve accomplished, and where I hope to go in the days and years ahead.
Watching Maya Angelou’s service on this morning framed for me a life well lived. Listening as each speaker reflected on Maya’s life, I found myself challenged. Challenged to be a better teacher, a better writer, a better administrator, a better husband, father, son.
There were two quotes that struck me as I watch the service. Two sayings that struck me and have stuck with me.
First, Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch recounted that Angelou had said, “I am not a write who teaches but a teacher who writes.” As a doctoral student, I learned to write for scholars and graduate students. While I still value scholarly writing, and will continue to do some, I am more and more convinced that teaching should be the focus of my writing. This does not mean that I will not engage in scholarly writing. Rather, it means I find myself compelled to write more, and to write more for a general audience.
Second, Angelou has often been quoted saying “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” One after another, the speakers described how Angelou was always teaching. In letters, phone calls, and causal conversations, she offered insights that helped shape/educate those with whom she interacted. Perhaps I am the only one who often feels like I don’t have much to contribute to a conversation. As an introvert, I find it very easy to listen, learn, observe, contemplate, and formulate a response.
As a teacher, though, am I not compelled to speak, to teach, with every opportunity? I am sure that I have not been attentive to every ‘teachable moment.’ In the same way, I am sure that I have missed times when I needed to learn from others. I need to focus on being more fully present with every conversation, looking for those moments when I can be the teacher, as well as those moments when I need to be the student.
Writing more, being more fully present, watching for opportunities to learn, and to teach. This first blog post at this new site is a first step. This seems like enough for one birthday. But there is so much more. As a spouse, a father, a son, I realize that I have come a long way, but yet have so much more to do. I give thanks for these 40 years, the good and the bad, and for those who have joined me along the way.
May 2015 be the year that I, and perhaps you, teach and learn more because I write more. Join me in this journey!