what i do and who i am

It is shocking how many things one soul can find to hang her identity on.  Things that wrestle and wrack and disturb and haunt and nag her awake at two in the morning.

I don’t know how to stop making my career my identity.  And so the next month of my life is represented dominantly by fear, fear of being weighed and measured and found wanting.

I can think of an increasing handful of things that my kiddos have going against them on this road to competition.  I can think of an increasing handful of things that I have going against me on this road to competition.  I can think of so many reasons why it’s all going to be an epic failure.  I can think of an endless list of things I would do differently, if I could go back to the first day of school in August, knowing what I know now.

And I keep losing sight of the fact that I actually do get to do that.  Not go back to this past August, clearly.  But I get to make a fresh start this coming August, knowing what I know now.  If I choose to think of it this way, it’s one of the most liberating things about my profession.  I get a redo every single year, a chance to make all those things I learned the hard way in the previous year count.

Except for that one day that is glaring me in the face, and the way it narrows its eyes and tilts its head keeps me wide awake with fear of it.

I am making this one day my identity, and I am completely convinced that everyone else is making it my identity, too.  I am convinced that if UIL goes badly, all of my colleagues will see me as a hopeless cause.  The people who hired me will see me as a hopeless cause and a bad investment and probably not re-contract me.  I’ll be forced to start applying for schools again, and none of them will have a thing to do with me, because my UIL record sucks.  So I’ll essentially be unemployable as a teacher in the state of Texas.  We’ll be financially drained with a load of pointless student loan debt that we can’t pay off, an apartment that’s too expensive, staring down the barrel of 30 years old with nothing to show for ourselves.

That is literally where my head is at right now.  I’ve clearly been spending too much time with middle schoolers recently.  My head is this dramatic and ridiculous and rather gloomy place, full of worst case scenarios and harsh self-judgments and a waning knowledge that worst case scenarios rarely come to fruition.

I am so afraid of my administration and colleagues looking at me and regarding me as a failure as a choir director.  So afraid of it that it can only mean one thing:

I am taking this, this business of what I do, and trying to turn it into who I am.

This is not okay.  I am more than my career.  I am more than this one day in my career.  I am more than the sum of the thoughts and opinions of the people around me.  I more than this fear of the sum of the thoughts and opinions of the people around me.  I am more than this momentary lapse in foresight and faith.  I am more than my inability to cut myself some slack for once.

I, more closely than anyone, can see how far we’ve come this year at Sam Houston, my babies and I.  I can see all the ways they’ve grown, all the ways I’ve grown.  I can see the potential of this program for next year, and the year after that, and the years following.  So why is it so hard to base my thinking on that, instead of on this one day that so terrifies me?

I think it’s because no one else sees those things.  They see the concerts, the competitions, the numbers.  They don’t get to see the process.  So if the concert, the competition, the numbers don’t turn up in my favor, even though the daily did?

My need for approval reigns, y’all.  It matters less to me that I believe I’m doing a good job than it does that I think you believe I’m doing a good job.  I am not proud to say that it often even matters less to me that God is using my daily right now to bring heaven to earth in the lives of my kiddos than the perceived approval of the people around me does.  It is such a heavy way to live, and I know I’m not the only one living into this story.

It is shocking how many things one soul can find to hang her identity on, how many things that were never meant to be an identity in the first place.  And it is shocking how much time you can waste and joy you can lose trying to make that non-identity fit like a glove.

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2 thoughts on “what i do and who i am

  1. Kesha K. says:

    I’m a month late, but wanted to let you know that this post was so raw, so open that I’m sitting here crying. I hope that one month between your words and now was filled with grace, lessons learned, and peace. Can’t wait to talk about your recent experiences with you. ❤

    • indirtysoil says:

      I can’t wait to chat with you. Everything still feels very raw right now…it’s one of those rare moments where everything actually did go about as badly as I was afraid of. And yet, I know that this situation is still me being given grace. I know it’s all grace; showing and teaching me grace and goodness even when it all feels like the exact opposite of that. I’m so looking forward to a long chat with you and sharing the messiness that is life.

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