(Written in Fall, 2016)
As I check over homework while still in my PJ’s at 11:45 am on a Thursday doing what could only be described as a ‘fair’ job of caring for two sick daughters, I come across the final sentence of a math worksheet, “Describe the relationship between the value of a dollar and the value of a dime.”
On the answer line below, I read, “They’re both money.” I hide my smirk, then call over my 4th grader to tell her she has to fix her answer. She doesn’t understand why her vague response is not acceptable, and it becomes a 15 minute lesson on fractions and word problems. I carefully control the volume and pace of my voice to simulate patience as she answers, “I don’t know” before I even finish asking her a question. We get through it, though. We eek out an acceptable answer, and she runs off to play with my old iPod. My reaction after taking a huge swig of my lukewarm coffee is, “Hey, I’ve still got it! I’m still good at this teaching thing.”
Yes, I used to teach. High school. It was wonderful and horrible at the same time. I counted down the hours to lunch and then counted down the hours to daily happy hour, but I felt like I was making a difference. Some kids actually learned, and I caught myself smiling quite a bit while I was in front of that classroom full of hormones and untucked shirts. But aside from teaching a subject I was passionate about, making other teacher friends, and helping to shape young minds, I also really liked having an answer to the question, “What do you do?” I always had an easy and quick answer. “I am a teacher.” And after a couple years, I was able to say, “I’m an assistant principal.” I had a title. I had a position. I went to one place five days per week and stayed there almost all day. I had a career.
Now, when people ask me what I do, I pause. About thirteen job titles run through my mind as the inquirer stares at me wondering if I understood the question. Hmmm, what do I say? Mom? Business manager (my trumped up title for working in our family business)? Soccer coach? Volunteer? Maid? Cook? Tutor? None of them seems to be The One, though. There is no quick, easy answer anymore. So, I’ve thought long and hard about what my answer will be next time. I want to be prepared. When someone asks me, “What do you do?”, I’m going to have an answer. One answer.
“I am a starter.”
Yep, this is what hours of contemplation has brought me to. It seems to be the only thing I do consistently. I’ve heard of people referring to themselves as “closers”. I think even I used to be a closer, but I’m not one of those anymore. The only thing I’ve closed lately is the book I gave up on after reading about 40 pages. At this rate, I can’t even close on a load of laundry. Actually, I just loaded the washing machine, walked away to help my oldest with something, and discovered that my 10 month old UNloaded it. It’s yet another job unfinished. But I did start it.
So, why can’t there be Starters? I start a lot of things. I’m quite good at starting. This morning, I started a cup of coffee. Unfinished. Yesterday I started filling out mountains of school paperwork. Unfinished. A couple days ago, I started planning a kid-free getaway with my husband. Unfinished. Last week, I started working on a business plan and website with a friend. Unfinished. I could go on for years. Literally. You get the point.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand the value of completing something and getting the job done. I love that sense of accomplishment. I’m even ashamed to admit that I’m the type that will write something I’ve already done on a ‘to do’ list just so that I can cross it off my list. I’m a planner. I’m a doer. But life throws you curve balls. Life changes. Life gives you three kids and a house sitting on the market for months with no potential buyers. Sometimes life gives you doubt… doubt in your plans, doubt in your choices, doubt in your abilities. And sometimes that doubt turns closers into starters.
Today, I started this blog. And for the first time, I feel ok about something being unfinished. I have no plan for it. I have no future titles, and I have no idea where it will take me, but I started.