I am the eldest. The first-born. The big sister. I have always been a role model, even when I wanted nothing to do with that title. My actions have always been observed, assessed, critiqued and judged…in one way or another. I have been worried about letting people down my entire life. So instead of disappointing, I have worked my ass off to please, appease, impress and thrill. It’s hard work. And a lot of the things I have accomplished in my life weren’t about me, but about getting a pat on the back, an award, a “CONGRATULATIONS”, some sort of approval.
You kind of get hooked on success. You get used to people saying they’re proud of you. It’s easy to start anticipating that feeling of satisfaction. Craving it. I was definitely hooked at an early age. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized it was ok to fail once in a while.
Being the “golden child” of my family has taken a toll emotionally, mentally and even physically. The stress-induced ulcer I developed in college will attest to that. And my sister’s spiteful comments, “We can’t all be perfect like you, Erica,” are further proof. In the back of my mind I have always feared disappointing the people I cared about and admired. I feared disappointing myself. I allowed myself to be ruled by anxiety more than my own dreams and desires. I abandoned many dreams along the way.
Becoming a teacher was never a dream of mine, but helping people has always made me happy. When I decided to go into the credential program, everyone I knew was surprised. Nobody could really see me in that position. My friends and family supported me, but they questioned my motives and worried that I would not find work in a volatile economy. None of that discouraged me. I was finally following my heart, and I was excelling far beyond my own expectations. I had finally found something that made happy, and I had done so without asking permission.
During my time in the credential program I came out of a shell that I didn’t know I was living in. I learned a lot about myself and really got in touch with my inner voice. I think my “awakening” was really brought about by the fact that I was doing what I wanted for a change. I wasn’t just going through the motions, and I wasn’t living my life for anyone else. I was proud of myself. And when I failed, which I did over and over again as I learned what it meant to be a teacher, it was ok. I wasn’t letting anyone down. I was just being human, and humans fail.
I have failed many times in my three short years as a teacher. But I don’t freak out or stress over it like I used to. I have a lot more resiliency now than I ever have. I know that my best is all I can give the world, and I am not perfect. Yes! I do fail. And that’s ok with me.