Room for Growth

My seedlings spent too long in their yogurt cups of potting soil.  They grew double the height of their container or more.  I was busy, and they were neglected.  I wanted to plant seeds and see the ripened tomatoes, the lush basil, but there were important phases between the two.  There is a growing phase, an in-between “in progress” state that is necessary for maturity.

I often like to “shed” things in my life, have a fresh start, and rarely look back.  When I do, I find myself looking back at my personal gaffes, mostly made in ignorance, and not reflecting the self I feel I am today.  I don’t intrinsically like looking back at the “growing” stages once I feel I’ve grown past it, yet I know that honoring these stages are vital.

As a teacher, I see the “growing” state all the time.  Teenagers are constantly saying and doing things on a trial basis.  They are testing the waters, seeing what fits them, what benefits them.  This stage must be honored for the growth that it provides.  Being a teenager — not a child, not an adult — means having room to grow and develop into the adult that someday will be.

Yet I find myself frustrated with my students, more than is deserved.  As a language learner and teacher, I know that mistakes are necessary for learning, and I need to extend that idea outwards into every other part of my life.  I think the older teachers, the veteran teachers, have a better view on it.  They have seen this point in others’ lives — and their own — so often that they can look at a teenager and almost see beyond to the potential adult human being.  It is more difficult for me.  I am less than 10 years my students’ senior, and when I see their social gaffes, I think of my own.  I want to be past that, to be somehow more enlightened and wiser — yet I see their struggling masked with bravado and I think of my own states of growing.  I said things like that.  I had such opinions.  When I look back at myself in previous stages, in growing stages, I do not see the potential me of today, but rather someone who I no longer wish to me.

A repeating leitmotif in my life and spiritual development is this: you cannot love others before first loving yourself.  Here, this means not only myself as I am today, but myself as I am at any point of my life.  The self does not exist in an isolated time.  If I want to love my students for everything they are now, and not be frustrated at their “in progress” status, I must look back at myself and appreciate myself for all the gaffes, mistakes, and misguided notions I have had.  They were not be being less enlightened, but rather me working towards wisdom, the same process I strive to continue today.   The same, I suppose, is true for the rest of life.


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