Deep Thoughts

You Were Gone?


Student desk and dictionary at the Hines Creek Museum.

Recently I contacted someone I’d worked with for years to let him know that I’m available as a substitute teacher. My ego was deflated when he said, “I wasn’t aware that you weren’t teaching full time.”

Really? Wasn’t aware? To me, it seemed that this guy and I were at every meeting and at every conference together. I saw him often.

I’ve been out of the local school system for over a year now and this former colleague never even noticed. I would’ve been happier if his response had been, “I wondered where you were!”

Listen to me read this post:


The one-room schoolhouse in the community of Green Island.

But he didn’t wonder. My presence or absence didn’t affect him much. Most of the time, we don’t notice what our passing acquaintances are doing. We’re happy to see them or to hear from them when we do, but beyond those moments, we don’t give others much thought.

It can be a bit of a letdown, realizing how infrequently others notice us. On the other hand, this realization can be very freeing. Over the course of my life I’ve spent way too much time worrying about what others might think of me and my actions. In a way it’s nice to discover that they barely think of me at all.

When I decided to resign from my teaching position in December of 2016 to attend university for a year, I was concerned about how people might react. In the end, people simply congratulated me or thanked me or said nothing, and then very quickly, we all moved on. It’s what we do. We keep on going.


Another desk at the museum in Hines Creek north of Fairview where I grew up.

A skilled young teacher stepped into my former position to start her own career, and I began studying writing and editing. Surprise, surprise. I’d made a change and the world didn’t stop turning. In fact, my decision to change benefited two lives, mine and the new teacher’s.

Change is scary because we don’t like uncertainty. It’s not comfortable. That’s why we plan and try to control the things yet to happen. But no matter how much we schedule or plot or analyze, it’s impossible to accurately predict the outcome of anything we do. We can chart and graph until our eyes dry up and fall out of our heads. All our planning won’t stop the rain from raining or the snow from falling.

Life is uncertain. That’s its nature, and we’re forced to work with this uncertainty in which we exist. That’s reality.


I had a desk like this in Grade One! I remember that heavy drawer.

Now that I’ve just returned to the classroom as a sub, I realize that my big career change was no big deal. I can tell this by the reactions that span, “Oh, you were gone?” to “Welcome back!” Neither of these reactions indicates an earth-shattering event.

This career change and its consequences have shifted the way I view making larger life changes. Big decisions aren’t as daunting now. I worry less about what others will think because I’ve got proof that they won’t think much about what I decide either way.

And if they do consider my actions, their considerations will be brief, like the shadow of a flying bird passing over the ground. “That’s dumb” or “That’s smart” or “Maybe I should try that.”

Others’ reactions to our actions don’t last long and they sure don’t matter much. What does matter is our acceptance of uncertainty and our willingness to change, to take a risk. We can’t know where any path will lead us. All I know for sure is that the view from the bottom of my deep rut was way less open than the wider view I got when I climbed out.


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2 replies »

  1. Glad to hear your view is 360 and wide open again. I think you’re spot on about how often others are watching/recording our moves, even the major ones sometimes. One of the perks of aging, as you said, is that you realize this. Ultimately it’s freeing. Not realizing we’re not the center of everyone’s attention is what makes most early adolescents miserable. What a weight to be the focus of all eyes (and wagging tongues). Who needs it?

    One of the great perks I’ve always thought of being a writer rather than an actor is you get to keep your anonymity. To walk down a street without disturbance. To meet a good friend–one of the several people in your life who you DO want to care–without interruption. A true and thoughtful post, Lori.

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