Every stage of life brings experience and perspectives we may not always recognize the value of during their campaign. This week I was in Northwest Arkansas, a favorite place I once lived. The period of my life was long ago, a young wife, later a divorced graduate student and much later, a young married mom teaching at the University and at a public school. Fayetteville is a beautiful town. In those days some twenty five years or more ago (suffice it to say…a few years ago), Fayetteville was a different culture than the pine forests and country folks I had grown up with. There were amazing things in the “city”, malls of stores with seemingly unending choices. Buses and cabs and students on bicycles everywhere. The most exciting thing to me was the conversations. Engaged minds seemed to be everywhere on every topic you could imagine. I had never seen people so passionate about expressing themselves or learning.
This week I returned to Fayetteville, Bentonville and the area to see a friend, do a bit of business at the campus and to enjoy the Ozarks in the Fall air. A last moment trip, sometimes you just have to seize the day and opportunities. I was glad I did. Treasured friendships of more than two decades were reacquainted. Walking across campus to a building I once taught and did research within was a mindful experience. I think I travelled in time as I remembered walks down the sidewalks on other days, fresh, young, and so completely in love with learning and my life as a graduate student.
The city has grown up, there is barely a change of scenery from Fayetteville to Bella Vista, where there used to be stretches of farmland in between the four towns of Fayetteville, Springdale, Johnson, Rogers and Bentonville. Our friends in industry in Bentonville have brought so many opportunities to the landscape, but personally I missed seeing the farms enroute to my more northern destinations.
Memories are a funny thing, much like my Germanic upbringing, I am more likely to remember my failures than to celebrate my successes. I was taught early and often that to think too much of oneself was a dreadful thing. I do not disagree with that teaching, but this week I deviated a bit as I saw the fruits of labors long ago. My roles at the school and at the University involved being part of a team that developed the Masters of Arts in Teaching program, a unique program that integrates students of education in the classroom at some participation level their entire venue during five years of training. It offers a much more inclusive, hands on experience as one prepares to become an educator. I met students, now instructors, who not only went through that program we dreamed of so long ago, but were fluently sharing how important its format had been to their now advanced education. How they felt utterly prepared for their own advanced degrees and experiences because of our choices in the program. Extraordinary, as a teacher, it is rare to truly see the fruits of your teaching, your labors, your experiences writing grants, and fighting for change, but there it was…unexpected…and breathtaking.
I tend to think of Fayetteville as where I failed. Where I failed in marriage, where a young bride was left for another. Where the shame of that permiated my life for years. A place where I failed in my deepest life goal of a one husband life, though I achieved advanced degrees, and a few other accolades that mattered to me then, and I suspect if I dug around my heart…matter to me now. I tend to forget that I was a first dually certified classroom lab for children with special needs to be put into a classroom with “usual” students. My dual certification in gifted education, special education and regular education made me a hybrid and we tried a very daring thing (at that time, all special need students and gifted students were removed from regular classroom instruction) . We planned themeatic programming to allow all levels of academics to be instructed together in the same room….a maverick of an idea in a world that labeled anything different in learning. I remember teachers arguing against ‘those kids” in the room as much as they did me for wanting them there. The children flourished on all levels when brought together with enough support. It was a wonderful three years at Jefferson Elementary and the University Graduate School. I graduated in one from UA, but remained for longer on invitation to teach and research. Later, after I had remarried, I welcomed my first born home from Washington County Regional. I remember so well thinking what an adventure to parent, professor, and provide instruction in an elementary school all in the same year. And it was an adventure of the very best sort and one which has changed who I am today in so many experiential ways.
This week was a kind one for memories, I had folks walk up to me during gatherings and meetings at the U, and share what a difference this or that had made in their walk. I had the rare opportunity to hear and see how work I had engaged made a difference. What a humbling thing. It caused me to re examine how I’ve always thought of that period of time, my perspective that I was simply “not enough” to prevent a divorce of a young marriage, of being left. Perhaps at 51 I see it differently now. Perhaps we were just young kids who didn’t know how to be adults much less how to manage marriage. Maybe it wasn’t about failing as much as it was about not finding our way. Long ago is indeed long ago now, a marriage of many years a part of my now story, and one that is a love story of maturing years, blended children and lives and choices made.
It is good to revisit the history of our lives at times…but personally I want to live in the “now”. On the flights home I really took time to think how our perspectives change everything. How too often we are too close to a situation to see what its value truly is…or isn’t. However, it surely is something when you realize that perhaps your perspective of yourself and your history is indeed limited….and that perhaps there was more to your past actions than you knew. What a blessing.
It’s good to be home at #thetackybrownhouse, and I am ever so thankful for time spent with my friends and family in a place dear to my heart long ago and now a part of my life in new ways once again.