“The minute the Count brought the candle close, Westley raised his eyes to the ceiling, dropped his eyelids over them, and in a state of deep and steady concentration, he took his brain away. Buttercup was what he thought of. Her autumn hair, her perfect skin, and he brought her very close beside him, and had her whisper in his ear throughout the burning: “I love you. I love you. I only left you in the Fire Swamp to test your love for me.'”–The Princess Bride
We all desire that place, that person that makes us feel safe and secure. For Westley in the Princess Bride, Buttercup is his home, his happy place.
I’ve been reflecting quite a bit about home and happy places because of my job. It is mostly not my happy place. I’m slowly making friends at work (maybe, I do very much like all of them), I dread going into work on Mondays without fail, and the Lord must sustain me hour by hour, because every hour is so different. Coming home at the end of the day and being with my housemates and my husband, all the stress and ordeals wash away because once again I am home. I got through another day and now I can just be myself, relax, and enjoy my night until the next day.
And I was able to reflect further on this thought when I saw my alum put on a production of the Wiz. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s an urban reimagining of Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.
It has Gospel elements and the movie version was done with an all Black cast (including Diana Ross and Michael Jackson). The basic premise of the Wizard of Oz whatever version you see, is friendship and the importance of the journey (and there’s a good couple metaphors about growing up just for good measure) because as we know D0rothy had the power to go home all along, but she needed to take the journey, make some new friends, and see what she was made of.
I feel like that’s where I am at in life right now. I need to be at this school right now, even though it’s hard. There are people I need to meet and befriend, there are kids whose lives I need to step into, perhaps more for my benefit then theirs, and every week I discover that I’m more capable than I thought I was. Not to be morbid, but there is a lot of truth to the adage: “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”.
I love what the director wrote about The Wiz; she writes
“As Dorothy discovers, home is not about the structure, but about the people. People are looking for a place where others love them, understand them. It doesn’t matter if the people are made of straw, tin, or cowardliness. Grouping up is not about alienating others as much as it is a sigh of relief that other like minded people exist in a world where we all feel far from home.”
And that is one of the major strengths of this season of my life right now. The people: the people who create my home here in Boston (including crazy little Mittens) and the people I work with who support me in ways I don’t think they even fully realize. We have each other’s backs. We help each other come up with lessons. We vent about the antics of our students. We rejoice in the good we see in each other. We celebrate the small victories of our students.
The director also compared the journey Dorothy made to the journey students make when they go to college. I wonder in some ways if that’s what my students are going through when they enter the building, especially the freshmen. Sure they all go home at the end of the day, but we end up spending most of our waking hours at school. At the bare minimum it must be a safe place for the students to be themselves, at its best it can be home away from home for every kid.
I think about my college experience and how much it changed me. How by sophomore year and especially junior year it was my home. I had my Scarecrow, Lion, and Tinman, expressed through so many people. I was so happy in that time of my life. I’m still wondering if I’ll find that sense of home and belonging in every facet of life like I did in college. Post college adult life is very good and very different, but I am so out of my element in so many areas. I’m growing up whether I like it or not. That’s for sure.
I hope I can create a bit more home and safety for myself at work. Even more so I hope I can do that for the majority of my students. As my supervisor reminded me, teaching is delayed gratification. It might take a long time until I see the impact I’ve made. For some of my students I may never see it. I have to have faith that God knows what he’s doing putting me in this time, at this school, with these people. If nothing else he’s showing me that I have more depths of love to uncover, deeper wells of patience to tap into, and that I am entirely dependent on him for today’s strength. And that I can handle anything these teenagers have thrown at me. God bless them.