Why I Stop Taking Pictures

My colleague threw herself into the chair next to me. “What’s wrong with us? This week is horrible as if we have no time to breathe at all.”

She was right.

The last two weeks were crazy. Well, rather perfectly normal for end of term.
Grading papers through the nights and finishing all grades for the report cards. Conferences and meetings.
Spening all day at school.
My apartment looks like a big mess because I’m hardly ever there to clean up. All I do there is sleep. Since I don’t have time to cook I mostly eat sandwiches and fast food. So much for healthy eating resolutions.
I am just rushing from one thing to the next.

I must admit I do appreciate a certain amount of stress in my life. I like it to have several things running at the same time and seeing the tables turn my way.
But there comes a time when stress becomes too much.
You know how I know?

When I stop taking pictures.

When my heart can’t detect beauty anymore.
When my eyes have seemingly become blind to the gifts surrounding me.
When my soul has become numb to the creative sparks around.
When I breathe in beauty, but have become unable to exhale gratitude.

Last Friday was such a day.
I just needed some breath of fresh air.
There was still so much to do.
There were unanswered emails, unprepared lessons, unopened letters on my desk.
I. didn’t. care.

The sun was out, so I bundled myself up in a winter jacket, gloves and hat and went for a walk. I had no specific destination, I just needed to walk.
Walking despite all the things I still had to do.
Walk off the stress of this week.
Walk against the exhaustion of these countless meetings.
Walking off the frustration with people and schedules.
Walking towards a new perspective, towards restoration.

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It took a while, but then it happened.

First I recognized birds chirping in the cold winter air.
Then I saw the snow flakes glittering in the sun.
I inhaled fresh air and felt it fill my lungs, my body, my thoughts.

It seems ridiculously easy to recharge ourselves.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Go for a walk.
Have a glass of wine.
Let work be work and treat yourself.
Read a book, just for yourself.
Take a nap.
Let the sun shine on your face.
Inhale fresh air and let it fill your lungs, your body, your thoughts.

What does a breath of fresh air look like for you?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

When People Surprise You

For those who’ve been around this space for a while know that I am a newbie teacher who just started to experience ‘real work life’.
I work 100% even though it often feels more like 250%. I get up early, make some coffee, go to work, run around school all day from class to class, get home exhausted and prepare for the next day.

Continue reading “When People Surprise You”

When the Sky Surprises You

Last week was super busy for me. It was the first real week of teaching and I got the full load of classes, admin work and students.
Additionally, we had parent’s meetings. Three days in a row I spent about twelve hours straight in school, preparing, introducing myself, answering questions… Continue reading “When the Sky Surprises You”

This Is Not Real

I walked out of the building and just stood there.
This was not happening.
This could not be real.
Just a few minutes ago the examiner had said, “Congratulations, you have passed.”

You see, this “Congratulations” was the last one to a long series of practical and oral exams as part of my teacher training.
And now it is over.
I am a teacher now.
Time to grow up and be a ‘real’ adult.

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I can’t really describe how I feel.
I am still dizzy from excitement and a bit giddy that everything went to well.
I am still doubting that this really happened and it’s really over.
And yes (you know me), I am a bit nostalgic.
And era in my life comes to an end. Two decades of learning and training and education. From now on I get to teach and to train and to educate.
This is exciting, but immensely scary at the same time.

Life is full of transitions and changes, and you know what, that’s good.
Time passes by so quickly, and if we’re not careful, it passes us by.
So let’s enjoy now because you can never get it back.

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Live in the moment.
Take in the beauty of today.
Spend time with the people around you.
Be thankful for the time that has passed by, for all the goodness you have seen, for all the grace you have received.
For all the treasures you’re able to pass on to the next day or person.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

And Yet

Just one small candle, its flame hardly seen against the bright blue sky.
But it was there.
Shining.
Making a statement.

Twenty something students and I had just visited a concentration camp to get a first hand experience what our dark past had been like. The memories of torture, suffering, and death where looming over the hill. The lives of so many who had died here were still somehow present.
And now we were here to remember them.

It was an eerie feeling.
These people had died at the hands of those who no longer seemed to be people.
They were animals.
They had taken away whatever humanity had still been left in the victims and treated them like a piece of waste.
No dignity, no honor, just shame.


Silence.

We remember those who suffered in the past, but realize the suffering of today as well.
The people who are forced into slave labor.
The people who suffer in prostitution or the porn industry.
The many refugees who wait at the gates of Europe and are met with nothing but hatred and spite.
The people who don’t fit into our little view of the world and we so often judge.

People are still cruel today.
Humanity and dignity is lost in so many places.

And yet.

One small candle makes a difference.
As more and more people light candles we come closer together.
We are all individuals, but we are also all together.
And together we can make this dark world a little brighter, a little better.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

It’s Different Now

About a year ago I wrote about my first weeks into the new teaching job. I wondered how I didn’t know who I was anymore because life had changed so much in a few months.

A year ago our school had a winter sports day and I went ice skating with 250 students. I had been at the school for a week and didn’t really know anyone, so it was pretty awkward standing at the ice rink watching students I didn’t know the names of, together with teachers I had just met. Conversations were rare and circled mostly around job-related questions or people kept to themselves. We were the new ones.

photo-1447702027526-66133549fbd7This was a year ago.

A few weeks ago we had the same winter sports day and once again I went ice skating. Mostly the same teachers, maybe even the same students.
But it was different this time.
I was standing at the rink, talking to other teachers. They aren’t strangers anymore, they are colleagues. Some of them even friends.
We shared the latest news, exchanged teaching ideas. We laughed at the students on the ice because we knew the stories behind the faces.

“Mrs vD, look at me! I just learned to skate!”
“ Can you take a picture of me?”
“Mrs vD, why aren’t you on the ice? You have to join us!”

So I did. And I was treated with smiling faces of some happy students.

What has changed in that one year?

Yes, I still have to get up quite early, and many mornings it’s a real struggle to get myself out of bed. But I have learned to appreciate the early mornings and have been blessed with so many beautiful sunrises, God’s abundant gift of generosity.

Yes, I am still tired a lot and can’t always stay up late. But I have learned to manage my time well so that work can be done in a reasonable amount of time. I am surprised that lesson planning and all the teaching work does get faster as I gain more experience. I have discovered that I do in fact have time for friends and hobbies. That I have to make time for these in order to remain sane and spiritually healthy.

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Yes, I have had to cut short some relationships and my inbox is still ridiculously full with emails of dear friends waiting to hear from me. I have mourned how some relationships have changed over the years. But I have learned that I can also meet great people in new places. I have made some interesting connections with colleagues in the course of the year, they have helped me a lot settle in to this new routine and life. God is present in my mundane, and I often see Him in other people.

Yes, teaching is exhausting. You get the hang of lesson plans and how to be creative in like no time. but there’s still the people. No matter how good your ‘script’ is, it can all fall to pieces when your class doesn’t get what you mean or just has a bad day.

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A group of 20-30 youngsters is a bunch of lifestyles, opinions and knowledge and it’s quite an interesting challenge to work with them each week. Each class is different and you can’t predict what’ll happen. This is scary and exciting at the same time.

Most of all, though, the classes are full of people.
Individual human beings, each with their unique biography and life story.
A story that deserves to be heard.

photo-1457369804613-52c61a468e7dA lesson passes by so quickly and time to listen, really listen, is rare.
I only get to see bits and pieces of my students, but once in a while they allow me a glimpse inside their heart. And I can’t help but find myself wanting to talk to them, to listen and discover more.
These are no longer people I don’t know or some strange kids. These are my kids.

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Yes, life has certainly changed quite a bit in the last year.
I have learned so much about life and work and other people.
In all of this, I still know who I am. I am still me, there are just a few new features in my life now.
While some aspects of the job will always be a struggle for me and I won’t always enjoy it, I have discovered that people are the real adventure. They make all the difference.