My friend tells the best story about her first year of teaching. She is a band director and had inherited a band that was set to take trip to New York City for spring break. Not wanting to disappoint her students or be blamed for ruining someone’s senior year (the ultimate affront to an 18-year-old). My friend finished collecting the money and booked the charter bus. In April she found herself on a bus in the middle of Manhattan with a bus full of teenagers. They hit some sort of snag with the schedule or the traffic or something, maybe they were lost. Anyway, there was a moment when someone asked who was in charge, and she looked around to find that person, only to discover that she was the one who was in charge. She was in charge of the bus, the schedule, the 100 teenagers on the bus in the middle of New York City. How did that happen? But she did it, of course she did it.
I too had some moments in my classroom where I look for the person who is in charge, only to discover that it is me. Every mom has a story of being left with their child and suddenly realizing that they were the mom. I’ve been thinking that a lot lately, because I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately.
I have been thinking about it because I have a thing, a message, that has been handed to me, buried in me, grown out of me, and now it is here, and I am scared. A TEDx talk and a book? Who am I to be saying this stuff anyway? Who am I to write a parenting book about bodies and sexuality? I mean, who knows if it worked for me, I don’t yet have adult children. I may have hung out with teenagers for most of my adult life, but I didn’t get an advanced degree in adolescent psychology. I didn’t get an advanced degree in anything.
Who am I to talk so boldly about sexuality and body ethics? Who am I to say that we are in desperate need of a cultural revamp? I’m not an expert on cultural studies.
But I am a woman who has noticed something, who has chosen to open her eyes and connect the dots. I am a person who has put together a simple message that people may understand, but often do not know it, like really know it, in a way that comes out in their every day actions. I’m someone who thinks that words can change things, so I want to make sure we are using good ones, having conversations that will shape hearts and minds.
I want to tell stories that are true.
And I have one. I know because it changed my life. It changed the way I talk to my students and my own children. It changed the way I think about other people. It found the root of the thread I was unraveling about the way we think and are taught about women and men and everybody’s body. I connected the truth, that all humanity is fully human and worthy of respect and love because God first loved us. With a concrete message even my kids could understand. So I pitched a TEDx talk, I wrote a book, I’m selling a t-shirt. And I am hoping for a better conversation to start taking place, person to person.
And it scares me. It freaks me out pretty much every day. Am I doing this right? Do I say enough? Am I tweeting too much? Do people need reminded? Is everyone annoyed by me?
I don’t know that I will ever feel brave, or that I am totally qualified to do this, or anything really. I think we convince ourselves that other people feel totally ready to do the things we admire from them, and we should wait till we feel that too. I don’t think that feeling is real. I think most of us are doing it scared. I’ve considered deleting this blog post at least 16 times. No one wants to know that I am scared. I am constantly learning to do it anyway. Do it because it burns in me, even though it makes me scared. Stand up shaking, say it scared, write it out as best I can.
Because really, who am I? I guess I am the person in charge of this message. I’ve looked around, and sure enough this baby was left with me. So I will nurture it the best I can and trust that it is enough.