“Stephanie” 6×6, oil on canvas, 95.00 Buy Now
Today’s painting is a mockingbird. In the background, if you look closely enough, you’ll see some words scratched in. They are the words of Atticus Finch defining courage to Jem in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The inspiration from this painting comes from Stephanie who always struck me as some anxiety free super-woman who accepts life’s challenges readily and easily. Her story today shows a slightly different side. But it’s one that models, perhaps even more, just how courageous she is. Stephanie:
When you first asked for stories of bravery, I thought, “I love Denise’s story challenges, but I’m not brave at all.” And by not at all, I mean not in the slightest. When my children get injuries, I can’t even look at the injury if it’s not a bruise. When my former school installed safe rooms in case of an intruder in the building, I thought, “Please don’t let me end up teaching in one of those rooms. I won’t have the presence of mind to handle such a situation.” But as I’ve read your blog over the last week, it dawned on me: I had a very narrow view of what bravery was.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells his son Jem, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”
I don’t deal well with a lot of changes: moving, changing jobs, kids starting school or getting a new teacher, buying a new car or a house. I don’t make changes unless they are absolutely necessary. And when they are necessary, I have anxiety about them: I have trouble sleeping, I think about them constantly and become withdrawn, I feel sick. Every few months, my husband mentions putting together his resume, and I start panicking inside because I don’t know what this hypothetical new job will be like and what it will mean for our family. It’s really a bit ridiculous of me. But the point is, for me to change jobs is like crazy talk. But this school year, I did. Last Thanksgiving I was offered a job. I said I had to think about it, but I didn’t intend to take it. Then, at Christmastime, we found out that we would be having a third child, and I knew I had to take this job because it was what was best for my family. So I accepted it, and a few weeks later, I let my school of ten years knowing that I wouldn’t be returning.
This new job, it hasn’t been easy. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve felt sick driving to work. I’ve doubted my ability for the first time in years. Some days I want to run back into my old school and be with my friends and my old students. But I don’t. Each morning, I get up and pack my bags and leave before my own kids are usually awake. I try each day to give my new students my best. I try not to doubt myself. I fail often.
When I left my old job, a school friend who taught Mockingbird with me in our early years of teaching gave me a necklace with one line from Mockingbird in it: “Hey, Boo.” Scout’s line when she sees Boo Radley after she survives a vicious attack by Mr. Ewell because Boo Radley had the courage to save her and Jem. A note came with the gift; my friend wrote that I should wear the necklace when I needed to feel brave.
I wear this necklace every day. I was wearing it when I left my old school and my friends I had made there. I was wearing it when I started my inservice days at my new school. I was wearing it when I met my new students. I was wearing it when I gave birth to our third baby unexpectedly naturally. I was wearing it when I returned from maternity leave. I’m still wearing it. It’s my reminder that I can be brave and start something new. It’s my reminder to keep trying to reach my new students and to not give up.
I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be ready to stop wearing my necklace. I don’t think that I’ll ever be fearless and have the type of bravery needed to look at some terrible injury or be in charge of a safe room. But I know that I can begin something new and see it through, no matter what. And maybe that’s just the type of bravery that I’m supposed to have.
I still need more stories of bravery to finish out these thirty days. Please consider it. You can e-mail at [email protected]. And if you want to get these posts and stories in your inbox, please subscribe to the blog by entering your e-mail address below.