It’s World Teachers’ Day today, and since I’ve spent most of my life inside a school (both as a student and as a teacher), it’s a celebration that means a lot to me.
You might be wondering why I spent so much time in school. I mean, school sucks, right? What kind of masochistic NERD would want to extend her time there by actually working in one after graduation???
Well, here’s the thing. Apart from a few bad days here and there, school never really sucked for me. I think this is probably because my parents were pretty cool about attendance. As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was really old-fashioned — so he was of the thinking that school was more like a time-filler for women.
Seriously. Way to be super sexist, Pop. But hey, I didn’t mind at the time.
And my mom — well, she was a little more progressive and a lot less sexist, but sometimes she got bored.
So yeah, since I was never really forced to go, I didn’t mind it one bit.
Whee! School rocked! Well, except for a few unfortunate incidents, of course… like when I lost that stupid spelling bee to my classmate Deanna.
Homogeneous. That was my Waterloo. I HATE that friggin’ word to this day.
So…moving on from my obviously still smarting spelling bee angst… When I got out of college, I had no problem at all going straight back to school to work. I wasn’t a teacher right away, because I didn’t have any teaching credits — so I started off as the administrative assistant to the Acting Principal.
Since I was fresh out of college and still pretty irresponsible, that was probably a good thing.
The job basically consisted of sitting in at confidential meetings and taking the minutes. It was kind of awesome, gossip-wise.
But I was pretty discreet. :) It was also kind of cool because even if I was just supposed to be part of the furniture, they wouldn’t mind TOO much when I’d burst into the discussion with my two cents’ worth.
I like to think that my sobbing outbursts saved a few kids from suspension. But no, they mostly didn’t. Sigh.
But the BEST part of my job was my boss, Mrs. Villafania (more popularly known as Mrs. V — because really, that name has too many syllables to handle on a regular basis).
I have to say that to this day - almost two decades later - I still think she is one of the most admirable human beings I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and the honor to work with.
I learned so much from her! But there was one lesson in particular that she taught me that really changed my outlook on life and steered me clearly towards the road to happiness.:
Gasp. It was so simple, yet so difficult. I couldn’t grasp it at first. It blew my mind.
I think most of us are more used to schadenfreude - or taking pleasure in the misfortune of others… which is totally the opposite. (I mean, come on, it even has a cool German name, that’s how popular snarky snickering at the misfortunes of others is!!!)
But this… forgetting your own desires and disappointments, setting them aside in order to actually be HAPPY when others succeed… this was new to me.
CRAP! Did I have to go and be all joyful about Deanna winning the spelling bee now? Apparently I did. So okay, fine.
NYARG. It’s hard, this nameless opposite of schadenfreude. Like, jaw-clenchingly, teeth-gnashingly difficult. But when you achieve it, it’s incredibly liberating.
Because really, when you’ve been around for a few decades like I have, and you think of all the happiest people you know, you’ll notice they have one thing in common… They’re SELFLESS. They care about others more than the rest of us usually do. And they lift people up instead of bringing them down.
I once read that unhappy people are like empty glasses, and happy people are like full-to-overflowing ones.
Can’t remember where I read it. It’s possible Mrs. V. taught me this too.
Anyway if you look around, you’ll see that it’s true. The road to happiness isn’t a solitary lane. It’s more like a massive multi-lane autobahn (yeah I’m really feeling the German today — it’s kind of wunderbar. :)) You’re more likely to get to where you’re going - and faster - when you’re able to move forward, bearing in mind there are others around you all trying to get to the same place.
So play nice. Let other people pass. If they overtake you, forget the road rage and just cheer them on. We’ll all get to where we’re going eventually, at our own pace.
Thanks for teaching me that, Mrs. V.
And Happy Teachers’ Day to all the teachers in the world! You’re all superheroes in my book. :)