i have been reflecting on my favorite episode of “growing pains“. yes, reflecting on an episode of “growing pains”. for those of you who do not know, and have been deprived of this piece of television wonder, “growing pains” is a family based sitcom that aired in the late 80’s early 90’s, stared one kirk cameron, and, in its later years, introduced a young leonardo dicaprio to the world (of course soap opera fans had met him, but pre-teen and teenaged kids watching growing pains were getting their first dose.) here is a better synopsis i found on tvtropes.org. “Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns are Jason and Maggie Seaver, a Happily Married couple living on Long Island with their three children: mischievous teenager Mike, brainy Carol, and precocious Ben. Maggie has decided to return to her pre-motherhood career as a journalist, and Jason has moved his psychiatric practice into the family home.” one more note, they got away with saying the word “boner”, which was the nickname of a kid on the show named ‘richard stabone’, yes, richard stabone, probably the real reason i watched each week. just waiting for that ‘boner’ – wait a minute.
my favorite episode, and forgive me if you are a true “growing pains” historian and i am not recalling the show perfectly, but it had to do with mike, the “mischievous teenager”, staying home from school “sick”. mike couldn’t believe that while he was out sick – other kids still went to school, his two buddies got in trouble in science class and when he turned on the television, that shows continued to air at their regular time. mike realized, but i don’t think fully accepted, that the world didn’t revolve around him, that the rest of the world went on without him, that he was a part of the world, but not the only one in it. simple right?
i have not written a post in two weeks. my family and i went to the gulf coast for five days and then flew back to wisconsin, our home state, to visit with family and friends. it was our first visit home since moving to alabama. there were many wonderful, thought-provoking and inspiring events that occurred in the last two weeks, and to process all of them in the course of one blog post, giving them any true respect, would be ridicules – and hard. i imagine that they will seep out of my posts over the course of time.
one of our stops along the way (‘along the way’ was – waukesha, milwaukee, madison, wisconsin dells, west bend, eau claire, madison, and milwaukee) was a visit to the school where i used to teach. needless to say, anxiety kicked in 20 minutes from the door. “would they care? did they even know i wasn’t around? was the place better without me? was it worse? would the kids be indifferent to my visit? ” all these thoughts ran through my mind at breakneck speed as we approached the door. i carried h. (should read ‘clutched h. uncomfortably tight’) thinking that she could be my shield for any awkwardness that came my way, yes, she would protect me, and give me an “out” if things got really weird. “uh yah, would love to stay but someone just pooped. ha, ha, ha’ – and i could be out the door. but, why would things get “really weird”? well, because i was walking into a situation that i had only known professionally, and not only that, but i spent nine years of my life building that “something” up with wonderful people, and i was now an outsider, i was entering a situation where i used to be in full control, and now, now, i was an observer, a guest. i could have skipped the whole thing and saved myself the anxiety, but we knew i had to do it. i had to visit the people i cared about and not run from a situation that may be uncomfortable. i have done a lot of that in my life, run from uncomfortable situations, but r. and i have vowed that we will try to put ourselves in life situations, however uncomfortable, and deal with processes fully. try to.
now, i am not arrogant enough to think that the school would be drastically different without me. right? i was one piece of a puzzle that worked towards a common good, with frequent positive results, but, but, but, i was “andy”. okay maybe i am arrogant, or too honest, but i was the guy who made the world run. right? wasn’t the school going to topple over without me in it? wasn’t i the one who directed us to these results? how could any one person do what i did? as hard as this is to write – i have to. i obviously had/have good rapport with (i think) all those i worked with, and what made us successful (our kids successful) was the fact that we all worked insanely hard in positions that we excelled in to help kids reach their full potential. it is difficult to speak about the “self” while talking about a job that is purely for others, but i think that completely rejecting your ego is dishonest. i did not work for my benefit, but i knew that i was good at what i did. i wanted to be the best at what i did (obtaining more degrees, reading, observing and training) so that i could offer more to those i serve. yes, i took pride in my work, and although i know someone else could do the job i did, i know i did it well. now that i have stroked my ego enough in this paragraph, i will say that i am proud of what i saw when i visited our school. the school looked great, the teachers were calm and the kids appeared to know that they were wanted and felt safe. it was awesome. i am happy. i am proud. the school was excelling in its mission – without me.
a family member asked if the visit back to the school was emotional. for those of you who do not know, i can be a pretty emotional person. i couldn’t believe that the answer to the question was ‘no’. now, by emotional i imagine that she meant “did you tear up?” or “was it hard on you? did you miss what you saw?”. it is weird, and comforting, that i felt calm. i felt as though i knew, even more, why i am, where i am, at this point in time. the school was functioning well, i realize that i had a place in it, that i was still there in some way, but that i wasn’t necessary. i am necessary where i am now, as i was necessary there – when i was there then. make sense? when we choose to function fully and honestly in life, no matter where it is, that is where we are to be, and that is where we will make the greatest impact. really, that is everywhere we are – always.
the above mentioned feelings and lessons would never have been obtained without confronting my fear. if i would have given into my anxiety and skipped the visit – i would have been left wondering. i would have never properly said goodbye to a place that made me who i am – i did not make it what it was and what it is today. people come together to create regardless of your involvement. if you are present for those creations (work or life experiences where something bigger than any one person, or one persons imagination, are made), you know that you are the one who receives the most – the show goes on whether you are there or not. i had my “mike seaver lesson”. i have been “home sick” thinking that the world operates dramatically different when i am not around, and really, it operates as it is meant to. our trip home was full of these moments. it makes me wish i could go back in time and re-do a few transitional elements in my life. say goodbye to a few friends i ran from, attend a funeral, and otherwise ‘deal’ with moments that seemed too hard – we can’t, but we can stay home sick some days and know that the world is just fine without us. we can also face our anxieties that transitions bring, and recognize the lack of permanence and importance that our lives have by themselves.