And oh what an adventure it is! For the eighteenth year in my life, it’s another first day of school, only this year is different for me because this time…I’m the teacher! At the end of the day I was reading through some things my students had written, and one responded to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with “a veteran.” His answer made me laugh, and though I’m not quite sure what he meant by that or if HE knew what he meant by it, it made me think. I think this is actually something we all struggle with at some point in life. There are inevitably things in life that we see and think, “I wish I was like that,” or “I wish I had that.” But so many of those wonderful things we see and dream of are end goals that we often don’t see the long, grueling journey behind. Think about a military veteran. Veterans receive awards, honor, respect, compensation, and benefits, and are people we often look up to. But think about everything in those men and women’s stories that we would never want to go through. For me, I look at veteran teachers and wish I could do things as cleanly, efficiently, and effectively. But…it took them years of experience and hard work and challenges to get them there and to learn those things. I think of a strong and fruitful marriage that so many people long for, but also of the effort, intentionality, and struggles that build that strength. I think of the ways that I’ve grown strong and the challenges that are the very things that strengthened me. Those are things we don’t see when we see things we wish we could be. We want strength, joy, peace, love, happiness, wealth, success…but we often want to skip right to it. We want to be veterans. But being a veteran comes from putting in the time and work. Wanting to “find” happiness, wealth or success is as silly as an eight year old saying he wants to grow up to be a veteran. If he wants to be a veteran, he needs to first be a soldier. If I want to be successful, I need to first be a hard and dedicated worker. If you want to be wealthy, you have to invest wisely or work toward a high-paying career.
But it’s also a wonderful thing to see the end reward of what you do, and know what you are working toward. To want to be a military veteran means you can see the reward of the sacrifice it takes to get there and to be dedicated to committing a considerable portion of your life to it. Wanting to become a veteran teacher means seeing how I want to improve and knowing that my growth as a teacher isn’t finished just because I’ve graduated, earned a degree, gotten a license, landed a job, and begun teaching a class of my own. Look at how much my students are already teaching me! I know there are so many ways we will all learn from each other this year, and am delighted to begin the adventure together. And when I grow up, I want to be a veteran too.