“It’s almost a definition of a calling that there is strong inner resistance to it. The resistance is not practical– how will I make money, can I live with the straitened circumstances, etc– but circumstantial: Can I navigate this strong current, and can I remain myself while losing myself within it? Reluctant writers, reluctant ministers, reluctant teachers– these are the ones whose lives and works would be examples. Nothing kills credibility like excessive enthusiasm. Nothing poisons truth so quickly as an assurance that one has found it. “The impeded stream is the one that sings.” (Wendell Berry)”
-Christian Wiman, from He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, The Faith of Art
I spent two hours last night trying to locate somewhere on the internets an article I found once a year or two ago that read like I had written it in a parallel universe –one in which I hadn’t walked away from my desire to teach. The writer shared her own character traits and personality quirks that should have disqualified her from teaching, but she carried on, became a teacher, and taught anyway, mostly out of sheer determination to make it happen. I couldn’t find the blog post, and that annoying little voice in the back of my head (you know the one, if you write) reminded me that maybe I needed to write my own (whatever) about it, rather than sinking into someone else’s words. I was this close to successfully ignoring the impulse when the above quote showed up in my Twitter feed (I’m reading, not posting these days).
“When do you let yourself fall apart a little over dreams you’ve let slip from your grasp?”
That was my one redeeming sentence in an otherwise-mediocre essay I’ve written and re-written around that one ache of a sentence. I made another stab at it last month, and I think I’m closer to the story around it that it needs. It’s the story of my resistance against following the calling back to school and the calling to write, a sort of personal inquiry of myself as to why it took me so long to get over my fears and do what I knew was mine to do. And now, I think I realize why it was the right time to write that, and the right place for that raw ache of a question.
If you know me, you know the end of that first resistant dream to finish school and write: I graduated college, and have written at least a couple hundred pages of stuff since then, some of which is terrible, but some of which is out in the world. And yet, I’m finding myself at the threshold of another resistant dream: next semester is my teaching concentration semester, and I’m scared to death about making this actually happen. I’ve dragged my feet up to this point, tried to forget about it, put it out of my mind, and yet, well, here we are. See, I have trouble even admitting it outright: I want to teach. Typing that sentence was more painful than you can see on your end, just so you know. It feels like standing at the end of the high dive, in that half-second bounce past the commitment to take the leap.
Pulled from that essay I wrote in the last few weeks, here’s one of my favorite parts, and one that feels terribly relevant in this season of my life:
“Brené Brown claims in her book Daring Greatly that joy is the most terrifying and difficult emotion, and I believe her. Joy, for me, is a liminal space. Joy is the cliff’s edge, the weak-kneed anticipatory moment before the jump, the thrill of freefall before remembering the ground beneath, rushing toward you, threatening an end. Joy feels like half an emotion, like the first part of something that won’t end well. Joy is potential energy. It opens us up to the power of gravity to pull us back to earth, shattered.”
Can you blame me for being a little hesitant? Still, this morning, I’m grateful for Christian Wiman, bringing to the page just the encouragement I needed this morning. Maybe all this resistance is a sign that things are exactly as they should be, after all. “A story is a character who wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it.” (That’s borrowed from Donald Miller, but he might have gotten it somewhere else…)
So, here we go. Maybe it’ll pan out, maybe not. Either way, I know at the end of the road, at least I’ll have a story.