“I always thought about teaching,” says my new friend Byron as I sit in Java Kai, taking a break from writing.
“Oh, yeah?” I smile at Byron. He is easily in his 60’s, healthy, and wearing his freshly laundered Saturday t-shirt, coffee in one hand, Ipad in front of him. “What did you want to teach?”
“Well, I have a masters in Political Science, and I thought I could teach at the college, too.”
“Is that what you – did?”
“I was a financial analyst in Iowa, now I am here, retired.”
I smile, “I think the college kids would really benefit from someone teaching them something they loved.”
Byron smiles, and hesitates.
“What?” I offer.
“Well, what do you do when they ask you a question you don’t know the answer to? That’s what I am afraid of; kids today know so much.”
“I was just writing about that,” I honestly respond. “I tell them, ‘I don’t know.’ And some of them are shocked, but they aren’t tapping into the other 95% of things I do know. So there is one thing I don’t know. I just tell them I don’t know, but I will find out the answer by next class. Or at least try to.”
“Yeah, but if I was a kid today, I wouldn’t want to have me as a student.”
“I didn’t ask the questions I wanted answers to because I knew the teachers didn’t know and I didn’t want to embarrass them. But today -”
I saw a sweetness to Byron, and the conversation’s perfection. Just this morning I realized that there were some pretty big questions that I didn’t have the answers to, and I was starting to feel afraid. How would I provide for all the things I wanted to do? How would I ensure that the next step I took would capture the passion and the fulfillment I was looking for? Good enough was no longer good enough..so what was I going to do about it?
Nothing, especially if I stayed afraid.
There is the nothingness of knowing that all will unveil itself; and there is the apathetic doing of nothing, from frozen fear. They may look the same on the outside: but one has fire, the other is ice.
Fear looks like fear. Fear is what happens when we don’t have the comfort of seeing the outcome, but what in our lives ever, really, goes exactly as we planned? Whether we are afraid to teach a class for a phantom student to ask us a question we may or may not know the answer to, or we are unsure of a big move because we may be wrong or assuredly out of our comfort zone, or we are resigning from a position that no longer fits, before the safety net appears.
There will be questions that are unanswerable until they are answerable.
Sometimes we need to move in blind action; sometimes we need to wait in perfect preparedness until the answer appears. The “yes” always appears.
Leap and the net appears.
I remember when I saw that on a refrigerator magnet the first summer I was in Kaua`i and I actually scoffed audibly at the saying: I would never do that.
Well, I did. I dissolved and reemerged through many unanswerable questions, and I am still breathing and living: Why did I think the questioning would stop?
Why would I think that the edge of learning would soften and dissipate? Why did I think there would be no more hard questions?
“I don’t know Byron, I think you should check the human resource section online, and they’ll have postings for lecturers this coming semester.”
Byron smiled off to the side of the table, and into the horizon saying, “I think I would really like that.”
And I realized that when we are on the cusp of a question, we may not get the answer we want, but we will get the support that we need to keep going, even if it is a stranger sipping an Americano on a rainy Saturday on Kaua`i.
You just never know where your “Yes” will find you.