Friday, January 14, 2011

(In)Vincible

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Did you know that "vinicible" is a word?

As I drove to work this morning, ever aware of my swollen achy hands (more on that later), I was trying to figure out what the opposite of invincible was. As in "I am so far from invincible, I am ______." And I couldn't find a word that I liked. Vulnerable? Conquerable? Breakable? Nothing seemed to fit the way I wanted it to, and I was left wondering if I could just ditch the "in" and call myself vincible.

Turns out I can.

I probably should have ditched the "in" yesterday afternoon around 3:08pm: one minute before Curtis called proclaiming he had gotten off early, twenty minutes before I changed into clothes to go out skiing, thirty minutes before I watched the temperature drop down to six degrees as we headed to the trails, forty-five minutes before I stopped at the top of a hill intensely frustrated because my wax was slow (due to both temperature and the need of a new coat) and my hands numb past my second knuckle.

I was feeling quite stubborn, however, and was determined to finish our normal loop. The wax issue continued to get worse, my hands continued to grow more painful, and about a mile from the parking lot I opted for a short cut that would let us cut off almost three quarters of a mile. Bad idea. Just as I was taking the short-cut-corner, I wiped out on a mini-ice rink sitting right in the middle of the trail. I bruised up my knee and shin, grunted an "I'm FINE" when Curtis turned around to check on my progress, and proceeded to the parking lot afraid to open my mouth for fear of what might come out.

Sometimes the trail and I don't get along.

This morning as I tried to think of a better word than vincible, I was feeling very aware of my weaknesses. Yesterday morning a couple students got in a fight a few feet from my classroom, a few minutes before the start of the day. It disturbed me. One of the students I have in class and know to be an intelligent and thoughtful person. Why stoop to a level of clawing at the other person's face? Yelling profanities as you get pulled away? I felt very aware of instances where emotions get the better of me, of all of us, and we make choices that are no longer logical or measured.

I have not thought myself to be invincible for a very long time; the older I get the more I am aware of how easily I can be conquered--by students, personal ambitions not attained, or really cold weather. And yet when I am surrounded every day with full classrooms of teenagers that act like they could conquer the world, I am often moved when they fall back down to earth. I want to hope that they can make it--out of family situations that drag them down, away from peer groups that might compromise their goals, into a world where their potential can be met.

Unfortunately, sometimes one is left the next morning with aching hands, a reminder that quickly made choices perhaps weren't very well thought out, wondering if there is something I could have done to keep the students from making negative choices of their own. And yet, the battle continues: in the classroom, on the trails, in my mind. Sometimes you have to keep fighting, despite the reality of brokenness, for the victories--even when they seem to be impossible to find.

Does continuing to fight for these wins despite all sorts of set-backs make me invincible after all? Maybe. And maybe hanging out with teenagers every day, who seem to never know when to quit, has some positive effects. After all, even when they fall hard, they keep trying, convinced (to a fault) that next time will work out better than the last.

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