Sometimes, when I’m walking down the stairs in the morning, I pause for a moment. “Did I remember to do This, or to bring That down with me?” I ask myself, and then I know whether I need to keep going down or go back up. Since The Dog is part Border collie, he’s my faithful companion at such times … and that means when I stop, he stops. And waits. And follows me down or up, as the case may be.
But pausing between steps is harder when you’re a dog. You take up two or three steps, and it’s not very comfortable when your head and ears are below your hips and tail. And yet, when you’re a dog, you want to be where the action is, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at the moment.
I’m still thinking about the implications of funnels and megaphones, of sweet spots and communities, and all the other images that I’ve been exploring this week. But as I walked down those familiar steps this morning, paused to make sure I’d remembered to turn off that one light switch, and looked at The Dog as he, too, paused a few steps below me, I realized I needed to think more about the image of pausing between steps.
One of the joys of the academic calendar, at least for teachers and students, is the pause between steps every summer. “How was your summer?” I asked H and his sister when I “just happened” to run into them the other day. H’s sister has finished her program at the community college and is working all the time; H, still in high school, is trying to figure himself out and decide who or what he wants to be. “I’m leaving The School,” he said, “and I’m going somewhere else, but I might come back.” His sister tells him he’ll miss the community, but he’s convinced he won’t.
H is pausing between steps, and so is L, who’s looking for a fresh start at a Much Bigger School. L grew up and matured tremendously when I knew him, but it’s hard to escape the label of “bad, lazy troublemaker” in a small environment. When I looked at L, I saw brilliant and unchallenged, but that’s not what Many A Ms. X and Mr. Y saw. I hope L’s fresh start works out as he hopes, and I hope H figures things out, too.
This week has felt like a pause between steps … or maybe like those long moments when the traveler in the Robert Frost poem stands gazing down the two roads. One road looks safe and familiar; though it would certainly have challenges, they’re mostly familiar challenges. It’s tempting to take that road, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that road’s direction and mine are too different. The other road appeals: “just as fair,” as Frost says, and “less traveled by.” Exciting, but unfamiliar, with new challenges and new opportunities … and its direction and mine seem more aligned.
I haven’t seen L to ask him, but I wonder how he felt when he looked at his two roads and chose the unfamiliar one. I know how H feels because he told me: there are some things he’ll miss, mostly people, but he’s looking forward to a new challenge. “You’ll miss it more than you think you will,” his sister tells him. But she isn’t trying to stop him.
When I think about my two roads, I feel an inner conflict. “You’ll miss it more than you think it will,” says part of me, cautious liinke H’s sister. “Remember those Good Old Days? Maybe they’ll come back!” H’s sister and her friends were part of the Latin Family in those Good Old Days … but of course those Good Old Days were a mixture of good and less good, and H’s sister herself is a lot happier now, a lot more comfortable with herself and her life, than she was in those Good Old Days. Another part of me sees that, sees the unfamiliar road, and longs for a joyful new adventure. I pause between steps, knowing that there’s no bad option … but knowing, too, that taking the better road comes with a cost.
“You know what you need to do,” said another Wise Friend when I talked with her a few days ago. And I do … and that’s what I plan to do. But the pause between steps was important, and the joyful learning communities I belong to have helped me tremendously as I paused. Unlike Frost’s traveler, I’m not alone as I make the choice, and I won’t be alone on the road I take. The pain of choosing is real, and so is the joy of choosing … but it won’t be “ages and ages hence” before I can tell the story, and I don’t think I’ll be “telling this with a sigh.”
I wish you joy on your journey, peace of mind when you choose your better road, and the presence of a supportive joyful community when you pause between steps to make decisions. And I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await on our roads today!