Thank you to all readers who have been following this blog the last few weeks.
About a month ago I began a thread called Teaching Moments that was inspired by my students to whom I teach poetry and German in a small high school in Hawaii. Although I am also a full-time administrator, our Head of School recognizes the value of life experiences all his staff can impart as teachers and coaches to teenagers. Like them, many years ago, I was finding my way.
Truth be told, I was a bit of an outcast. Moving through high school in my day as a young gay man, it was hard enough for me to accept myself let alone have most of my family or many classmates embrace who I was. Back then where I grew up we didn’t have support groups. When I once went to a counselor who suggested to my mother after the appointment that I might be gay, my mother cancelled any future appointments!
So I did what I had to do to survive: I played hours and hours of tennis on my own, hitting thousands of forehands and backhands against a backboard, pretending I was at Wimbledon when most of the time I was alone. I practiced the bassoon and joined youth orchestras. I wrote poetry nearly every day. I dreamt about living in Europe where I hoped I might fit in and could speak German.
Once in a while, I even tried dating. Looking back, those attempts were pretty laughable but they were sincere — and confused. Recently, one of those brave friends who let me take her out on a date and I became friends on Facebook. I loved reading about how she has prospered in life.
In fact, many people from my high school who avoided me or whom I avoided express joy and some relief that I met the love of my life 15 years ago with whom I share the highs and lows of parenthood, that I still play tennis, that I’ve run 21 marathons, that I continue to write poetry and love the bassoon. And I’ve realized how curious I’ve been, decades later, to see how they have navigated their lives, how thrilled I am that many have made it safely and quite successfully to middle age, how much easier it is for me now to forgive the slings and arrows I so acutely felt years ago that were sent my way from some of them while others just stood by or joined in — but, as I’ve also since learned — other former classmates and even some family members wish they had been more supportive during those confusing teenage years.
I guess we were all sorting ourselves out. Many of us still are!
But back then, without the perspective that years and life experience can bring, all I was focused on was one major goal: ESCAPE.
And that will bring me back to wrap up the cliffhanger of my landing in a small town south of Vienna that eventually led to Hawaii. Stay tuned!