“I’m just going to cry for a few minutes.”
I was laying in bed last night after saying one of the hardest goodbyes of this transition and feeling pretty sad. So I forewarned my husband that the tears were going to start flowing…and they did. And through my tears, I said, “It’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s that I don’t want to leave.”
Comfort is a dangerous thing, isn’t it? I am really, really comfortable in my life here in Alaska. I’m happy in my life here in Alaska. There are a lot of things that help me to feel comfortable and happy, and the one that I was mourning the loss of last night was my house. Just before bed, I was walking around our home—unusually still and quiet since my big boys have already gone east with my parents—and I was profoundly sad. Superficial though it may be, I love my house. I spend a lot of time here, and so I am grateful every day for what this house has to offer. During the week, I leave the house maybe three times: an errand bundled with a trip to the library, a play date at a friend’s house, and perhaps another errand bundled with another field trip of some kind. Other than that, I’m at home in my perfect house with my wonderful and quite imperfect children. There’s lots of room for the kids to play, we have wonderful neighbor kids that stop over to play or to help with my littles, and we have a large, safe yard (except for the occasional bear or moose) with lots of nature to explore. And as we look at properties in Vermont, there’s nothing quite like it. And so I was sad. And even though I want to go, I don’t want to leave.
I wonder if you have ever felt this way. Perhaps you are a great teacher whose students consistently perform well. And perhaps you have heard of a different way to do things, and it seems promising, and you’d like to try it, but…you don’t want to leave your house. You don’t want to leave the perfect comfortable way of teaching that you have developed and made your own. There’s no real reason to change because everyone—students, parents, administrators, you—is happy with your teaching. Yet the possibility of something better calls.
This past weekend, I was watching ‘The Hunt’ with Matt and the kids. (It’s narrated by David Attenborough, and I would watch a siesta competition if it were narrated by David Attenborough.) This particular episode featured several arctic predators; one of which was the arctic wolf. The episode showed a pack of wolves attack a massive musk ox bull. David Attenborough said that each time that a wolf lunged for the giant musk ox, that wolf was putting its own life at stake. Each wolf continued, hoping that it would survive the fight, take down the musk ox, and be able to enjoy some of the meat. The alternative? Chasing arctic hares ad nauseam: safe, comfortable, exhausting, and not very filling.
Comfort is the enemy of progress. Matt and I are making this move because we think that our family will ultimately be better off for it: better off in the long haul, any way. But right now, it’s kind of terrifying. But we’re doing it. I’m sure that we will find a house eventually that I will like. I might even love it. Maybe I will love it more than this house; but maybe I won’t. But the things that we are hoping will be better for our family are more important than a house, and so I’m okay (I’m going to be okay) saying goodbye to the perfect house because better things are in store for us.
I wonder if there is something that you want to do—that you think you should do, perhaps—but you haven’t yet because you are comfortable now. You’re happy now.
You’ll never know how happy you could be if you don’t try. You’ll never know how happy your students can be if you don’t try. And just like my life is really messy right now (packing boxes everywhere, piles and piles of junk to give away, one car on a barge and another for sale, 2/5 of the kids in NY and 3/5 here in AK, movers arriving in a week but with no destination…), the transition out of your comfortable place will probably be a little messy, too. And just like I’ve thought countless times in the last few weeks, you will probably doubt your decision to make the change. Ignore the drunk monkey telling you that you made the wrong choice, and keep walking it out. And just like I might never find a house that I love just as much as I love my current house, there will probably be things that you miss. I remember that once I switched to CI based instruction (I mean real CI), I felt like I lost ground in classroom management and I lost my easy-to-follow textbook road map. But I gained joy and my students made gains in proficiency. Ultimately, those were the more important things. And so it was worth it.
I wonder if you might be willing to get uncomfortable this summer. And perhaps hearing about your journey out of comfort will encourage me in mine ❤