promise me one thing: don’t laugh at what i’m about to tell you.
the other day i found myself thinking about people like martin luther king jr., malcolm x, gandhi, hitler, barack obama, etc. people who have had a significant impact (for better or worse) on others. all of them have radically shaped history. life would be different without any one of these individuals.
and then it hit me.
they’re just people.
(go ahead. laugh. stare at me in disbelief like my playwright class did this afternoon when i shared this epiphany.)
but seriously. they’re just like us. there is nothing biologically different about the people we read about in textbooks or maybe even idolize.
for some reason this idea was really inspiring to me. so why can’t i be them?
my mind frequently wanders to my junior year of college at lawrence university in appleton, wisconsin. my parents strongly encouraged me to get an education credential along with my theater degree so at least i was guaranteed a paycheck/food/promise of not living at home. i reluctantly took my first ‘teaching’ course called multicultural education.
i hated my classmates. they were all bright eyed and ready to take on the world. they actually believed they could make a positive change by influencing the youth of today. you know the type. annoying, right? i sat in the back of the room, slumped over, truly convinced that i would never use any of the shit i was learning or be like these fools. i was going to be something better than a teacher; i was going to be an actor.
i’ll never forget one of the first days of class when professor perkey (yes, that’s real) stood in front of the class, straightened his bowtie and wrote one question on the board: what do you stand for?
what a waste of time. i thought.
on my way home from class, i remember thinking about his question. i didn’t know what i stood for. it was the first time that i was honestly required to think about mortality and the greater meaning of life. how was i going to use mine? the following week i changed my major from theater to history in order to pursue an education credential. i had fallen in love. with a concept. with something that challenged me, made my little beating heart have purpose.
don’t worry, i didn’t quite turn into one of those ‘teacher people’ who resemble a doll that cannot stop smiling even when you’ve told them something terribly offensive. i’ve still kept my edge.
over the years i have realized that all i’ve ever really wanted to do was impact people. when i was young, i thought the best medium was the stage. now, i understand that i have a stage every single day. i have a captive (sometimes not by choice) audience of 60 students.
i may never bring about civil rights for the disenfranchised or free a country from tyranny, but i’d like to think someday these 15 year olds might just write my name when asked, who has been influential in your life?
i’m not giving up the dream of writing a new york times best seller or someone approaching me to star in a feature film, but for now, i’m grateful for the opportunity to work with incredible people who share my quest in making life purposeful for kids.
after all, i’m only just a person.