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.