Monday, June 7, 2010

"I teach high school"

In just over two weeks, I won't be able to say that anymore.

For the past 3-ish years, those four words have been a huge part of my identity. Countless hours of small talk at evite parties, ward functions and chatting with new folks in my parents' ward has been consumed by me explaining what I do, where I do it and why. But being a "Teacher" isn't just a talking point. I am constantly in teacher mode - how can I teach this principle? How can I model appropriate behavior? I can't shut up when I'm with friends at Arlington Cemetery or about 3 dozen other sites in and around DC. And not 30 seconds ago I corrected a friend's spelling (though in my defense, she asked). I am a teacher.

So what happens when the label "Teacher" has been removed? Don't get me wrong, I'm not rethinking my decision to quit and go back to school this fall. I'm just searching for a way to re-identify myself, to explain why after only 3 years in the profession I'm leaving it for something else. Am I a "former teacher"? I feel too young to be a former anything. Am I just someone who needed the "inner city experience" for a few years to feel good about myself? Am I giving up too early? I don't want to be any of those things.

On one hand, I will always be a teacher. It has become a part of me. I apologize in advance to those of you who hang out with me at a museum or another particularly teacher-y location. I will continue to explain the history behind whatever monument / event / person we are visiting - I just can't help that.

And clearly, there are other things that define me. I am a daughter of God with limitless divine potential. I am a Chamberlain, the oldest daughter of wonderful parents who have set a high bar for their children. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm an Idaho girl trying to make it in the big city. I will shortly become a student again and that just thrills me. I'm a daughter and a sister and a friend and I love each role that I play. But I think that despite how frustrated I am currently with my job, I'm going to miss the role of teacher a whole lot.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Roommate of the month award... (and a confession)

This post is going to be a little less introspective than the last, but maybe just as revealing.

I have always prided myself on not being one of those squeamish girls. We all know the type. The girl who jumps on a desk and hikes up her skirt whenever a mouse scurries by (yes, I have seen a grown woman do that. best day of my life). I have no problems dissecting a frog or a fetal pig and on one occasion picked up a black snake to show my (slightly less adventurous) inner city students.

I do have a couple standard phobias. I really don't like heights, especially if there's actually a physical possibility of falling - for example, the ferris wheel in Chicago was considerably more traumatizing than the Ledge at the top of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. I'm also not a huge fan of bats or rats (mice are ok, rats are not).

The latest inexplicable and frankly embarrassing phobia that I've discovered is of this little guy:

(Ewww. It took all the self control I have to search for and post a picture of that thing. And to be honest I might take this post down simply because I can't handle looking at it. )

A few of these charming little creatures have found their way into our bathroom in the past few weeks. Not only are they actually very large bugs and ugly as sin, but they JUMP. I can't think of anything more terrifying while you're using the bathroom or showering than one of these jumping on you. I heard about the first one because Callie had strategically placed a toilet plunger over the cricket to keep it in place until we could get someone to kill it for us. After the first , she got brave and killed the next couple herself. I was sorely disappointed to learn that I am a little squeamish after all.

So. Roommate of the month award goes to my dear camel-cricket-killer-Callie.

And now the confession. A week or two ago as I was washing my face, I noticed a large blackish spot on the wall that wasn't usually there. When I put my glasses on and discovered what that blackish spot was (suddenly in focus and VERY close to my face)... I grabbed my toothbrush and avoided our bathroom for about 24 hours. I should have dealt with it, I know, but I just couldn't. Next time, Callie, I promise.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


How exactly does one become a happy person?

I'm not saying that I'm unhappy. But I want to be more consistently happy with who I am and the things I'm doing with my life. I want to feel like my efforts are adequate and acceptable to God.

Every once in a while I catch glimpses of this woman that I want to be. She wakes up on time every morning, really studies her scriptures before leaving for work and starts out every day with a positive attitude. She is alert and productive at work. She manages to not only keep her classes under control and teach about the Treaty of Paris, but also nurtures students that desperately need it. She comes home from work, chats with her roommates and heads off to the gym for a challenging, stress-relieving workout. She spends her evenings reading or volunteering or practicing the piano and hanging out with friends. She keeps the gospel of Jesus Christ at the forefront of her mind throughout the day and consciously bases her decisions off true principles of the Gospel. She remembers that everyone is a son or daughter of God and treats everyone she meets as such.

I struggle figuring out how to actually become that person all the time. I realize on reflection that even the people who seem "perfect" have days where they feel like they've fallen short. I just want to feel like this amazing woman more often than I do. So how do you balance striving for perfection with the knowledge that perfection is unattainable? It's our end goal in this life, definitely, but that means that for the next 60 or so years, I've got to deal with failure. And unfortunately, like most humans, I am terrified of failure. I'm trying to change my vantage point. I'm trying to develop the courage to pick myself up when I've fallen, to move beyond my failure and to choose to be happy. I had no idea that achieving success and happiness would take so much courage.

I made a list a few weeks ago of things that make me happy:

  • crossing things off my to-do list
  • a clean house
  • reading a good book for hours on end
  • starting / working on a new creative project
  • sitting at the family piano on sunday afternoons and singing with my family
  • camping
  • waking up first on a camping trip and having the dawn all to myself
  • long walks, alone or with a close friend
  • singing along with the radio at the top of my lungs
  • phone calls from old friends
  • experimenting with new recipes
  • walks in the rain

In creating this list, however, I've discovered that sometimes I have a hard time actually doing the things that make me the happiest. This makes no sense. Why would I not jump at the chance to become happier? Again, I think it goes back to courage. It's easier, more comfortable to take a lackadaisical approach to life, to just let things happen instead of proactively seeking out opportunities for self-improvement. Happiness takes effort. Achievement takes effort. Perfection takes a whole lot of effort. And I have to convince myself that it's worth it.

So here's the best part:
Jesus Christ already prepared a way for me (us). He knows exactly the challenges that I face. When I choose to rely on him, I can receive the strength that I need to get me through life's challenges, even if the challenge is simply being happy.

Elder Richard G. Scott wrote in a talk entitled "The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness" the following:

"True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord’s time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours."

I'm striving to make this my new mantra. I could use your support as well.