My daily work has regressed over the past several years from working in tangible ways with dozens of people in meaningful ways, to working with far fewer people in ways that hold less meaning for me personally.
It might be an unfair comparison, given the narcotic doses of meaning present in a classroom. Yes, teaching is both mundane and hard and at times genuinely rather dull – but most of the time, I found it deeply engaging, meaningful work. My life (and heart) was full of faces and souls for whom I could care and work. Delivering English lessons was valuable in itself, but what I loved was building relationships and watching students grow into flourishing adults.
My work at Erskine was interesting and creative and pushed me to develop parts of myself that hadn’t received much attention. But the circle of souls inscribed by my daily engagements was much smaller. Yes, I knew some students and even taught a class. But most of my labor fit within a single building alongside a handful of people.
Now my circle seems to be scribed even smaller. My office sits in my home. My students are connected to me through a phone line; I hear only their voices. It’s a mediated relationship – perfectly appropriate given that these are graduate students and practicing educators; they are not looking for a life coach; they are trying to earn a master’s degree. But the world is still smaller.
I’m thankful for my vocational journey over the past 5 years, but I’m unhappy that my life has contracted rather than expanded. It probably didn’t help that we are sailing the seas of Christendom looking for a new church home, another shrinking of community and reduction in meaningful work. I feel like a shadow of my former self.
I’m old enough to know that “this, too, shall pass.” We walk through narrow canyons as well as sunny fields.
But that doesn’t make the canyons any less narrow when you’re in them.