There is a beauty about being a teacher for years in the same community.
The hostess who greets my friends and me at the restaurant door happens to be a student I had four years ago who is working her way through college now. The lifeguard at the sprayground to which I take my kids was in my honors class two years ago and is getting ready to move for college. And the wedding invitation I receive in the mail is from a former student who has fallen in love.
Teachers love this feeling—being connected to these people who move on, live, grow, and change; students whose branches still extend to us from time to time ignite us and tickle our stomachs, reminding us of them and then reminding us of us—the us of many years ago.
Today was no exception.
Our friends invited us to a 4th of July celebration at their gym. We took the kids to play in the pool and eat grilled hamburgers, run around with red, white, and blue pinwheels, and have some fun with squirt toys. Standing in line, I ran into my former student from years ago who I didn’t recognize until I got up close. She works at the gym now.
She outgrew her teenage looks and now fit tightly into her adult features. She has one more year left to finish at a local university. We chatted, hugged, and went about our day—her at work and me with the kids.
It wasn’t until I sat in the car that I recognized something about her: she is the same age as I was when I met my future husband; thus, she could be about to make some really important decisions about her future.
The reason this stuck with me is because when I was her age, I was already engrossed in my to-be-husband’s family and making decisions about this new place in my life. I had already felt college heartbreak brought on by college relationships and met the professors that would tilt my future just effectively enough to make my experience count. I had already felt I arrived at a place that was very different from where I was just a few years ago.
She could be somewhere like that now. So I have to give her credit, recognize the kinship, and remember what that time in my life felt like. I have to reach back and tap back into it—not only because it makes me a better human but also because it’s eye-opening. Resting my head back and looking at old pictures, I’m reminded at the possibilities and insecurities that engulfed my early 20s. I’m aware that a decade later has offered new importance and new relationships.