In the end I’ll know, but on the way I’ll wonder. It seems like it’s been a million years since I packed up everything I have, got on a train, and entered into this new life as a mentor and teacher at Regis Jesuit High School (Denver, CO). The reality is, it was hardly six months ago. This experience has been everything I had wanted it to be and more. I had so many goals for this year; there was so much I wanted to do. In college it was easy to fantasize about what life would be like. I’ll always go out for that drink with friends, I’ll always make it to mass, I’ll get all my grading done on time (whoops), I’ll always be able to do this and that and do it, not even well, but perfectly. I moved to Denver with two strangers in July, with no experience in the high school classroom, no friends that lived close, and no idea how I was going to adapt.
The first month came and went very slowly. That soon changed when my four, eighty-five minute long, classes began, on top of coaching varsity soccer, on top of assisting with every girl’s division Kairos, on top of being the leader of Grounds Crew for Freshman Retreat. The work/life balance soon became very unbalanced. I was coming home from practice, having dinner, and then going to bed around 8:00-8:30. I was falling behind on grading, and then was falling behind on lessons. I was overwhelmed by this silly idea that I was significantly underperforming in my job. I was terrified that I was setting these 80 students of mine up for failure. I did not feel like I was assisting them at all. Grades continued to lower, little by little, and I often found myself sitting in my chair after class ended, head in hands, utterly defeated and wondering if there was anything I could do to help them understand the material.
As the semester creeped toward final exam week I was more anxious than ever. Am I going to be “that teacher” that lets his students down? Have I set them up to not be successful in the future? These thoughts just would not leave me, and I found myself so overwhelmed, I just didn’t know what to do. I’m lucky to have an amazing mentor, Lindsay Cummings, who always is there to reassure me and support me. During one of our “formal” meetings she asked how things were going, to which I just responded, “I think I’m pretty bad at this.” It was the first time that I had verbalized this to anyone at all. All these doubts, all these insecurities. It’s a year of service and I’m not a “real” teacher by any means, but these kids have futures and these kids can’t afford a setback. Was my year of giving back an excuse for not being adequate at teaching high school Spanish? Even if it is, why am I the only ASC who will have full-time teaching responsibilities both semesters, on top of the usual ASC workload of extra-curriculars?
The thing is, I love the workload and I love being in the classroom. I have amazing students. I coach amazing kids. I have colleagues who are friends, and friends who are now a family. I am never more than a walk away from a Jesuit priest, or a faithful conversation. The community I’ve formed in Denver is a small, tight-knit group of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. The guys I live with, the Arrupe ASCs, and now our friends from the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers have formed this incredible bond. This experience for me personally, as I said, has been everything I wanted it to be. I wanted a year to figure out just what it is God is calling me towards. I published a book at 22, I hike every Sunday, I get to coach soccer, I sing karaoke on Thursdays, in short, this year has shown me and provided for me so many things. I feel like I have some direction that I didn’t have when I graduated in May.
I’m thinking about the future. Though teaching may not be my vocation, I have loved every second of it. I would love to stay and be a part of the good and Holy work that Regis Jesuit is doing. I don’t know what is in store for me in the coming months. I’m looking at some MFA and PhD programs for writing, I’ve thought about joining the Jesuits, I’m looking at jobs in Denver, at RJ, in coaching, and yes, even in teaching (though I may be a better English teacher than Spanish!). And despite all the doubts and struggles that had arisen last semester, I finally got the hang of it. The grades leveled out, the work got done, the retreats were impactful, the soccer was special, and the work/life balance got balanced out. The future is hazy, but ASC, and the ladies I teach, and the young men I coach have been a constant lighthouse through the journey. In the moments that light is pointing somewhere else, I have people like my housemates, my friends, my colleagues, the Jesuits, and God right there on-board the ship, not taking the wheel from me, but there to support just where it is I’m steering.
As this second semester gets going in a few days, girls’ soccer starts up, pastoral work resumes, and my personal life goes on, I finally feel confident – confident in myself to do this work and do it well, confident that I’m here for a reason, confident that God would never let me fail, and confident that it will all be revealed eventually. In the end I’ll know, but on the way I’ll wonder.