There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
After I graduated with my bachelors, I strongly considered finding a job that was not at all teaching-related (to the point of sending out resumes to museums and theater houses because porque no). This was in direct opposition to the voices that spoke through their lapels with bad PowerPoint backdrops that said, “find a way to stay involved in teaching, and you will be more prepared when you finally do get that teaching job.”
Yes, teachers think that way: you will not get a job. Es la verdad. But there is always a subbing temp agency with a smiling face waiting to call you at 6:00 am and send you off to magical places.
The reality of substitute teaching (at my particular temp agency) was that we had to call them. Talk about a strange conversation.
“Thank you for calling __________ ____________,” she said, in a happy tone.
“Hi. This is Linus. Reporting for, er, calling. Calling in. Calling in for work.”
“Hi Linus,” the voice suddenly became dry and ill-humored. The weight of her oppressive morning — reporting to work at 5:00 AM or earlier, listening to hundreds of voicemails from schools asking for subs, and dealing with subs de mala leche who had petty excuses to skip work — shone through that voice like a Lite Brite. “Nothing yet. We’ll call you back as soon as that changes.”
“Okay, thank you.”
Hallelujah! Now I could continue eating my cereal, or continue lying in bed, or whatever activity that did not involve preparing myself for a long day of educating young minds. Glory be!
Unfortunately, they usually did call back; but, there were those wonderful days when the phone never rang again. And I never pushed it by calling them myself to find out if something went wrong. Too much cat petting was at stake.
At the end of spring, I went in for two job interviews in my campo of music teaching. One was for high school and junior high band (yay for waving a baton around!), the other for bilingual elementary-general music (yay for practicing my Spanish!). The first interview was at the elementary school, an urban school with plenty of that savory diversity that I could just sink my teeth into. Both principal (USA) and associate principal (Colombia) were present, though the principal did the majority of the talking, including the questions in Spanish. Aunque no sabía mucho español, me puso nervioso porque lo intentó al menos, without fear of failure. Although my Spanish was decent, my fear of failure was too. And elementary music was not what I wanted for my life. Was speaking Spanish worth the intimidation of lying about confidence?
I left in that type of daze “that-they-never-teach-you-about-in-college.” Several days later, I interviewed for the band position. This was a subject that was more familiar to me. I could talk your orejas off about band. Everything seemed to go well, I think, maybe, whatever, it was systematic and quick and clean and, well, I had no sense of fear in my stomach throughout any of it, though, well, maybe, I think, I wish I had, I wish I had fear, I missed it, I missed having fear, having fear, having fear was more alive.
I was asked to return to the elementary school to teach a mini-lesson. To second-graders. On the penultimate day of school. For fifteen minutes. If you know niños, or enseñanza, you know that it was going to be a fifteen minute classroom management nightmare. Which it was. Pero me dijo que mi español was great. Then, I had a small post-interview interview thing. What I did not tell the principal (USA) in that post-entrevista entrevista was that earlier that day, while I was subbing for a fired Spanish teacher for the third day in a row, I received a call from the high school and was offered the band job. I did not tell the principal that I would not give a direct answer until after teaching the fifteen minute lesson. I did not tell her that I wanted that band job more than I wanted to feel alive and intimidated and afraid.
No le dije que sentí un miedo que quiero. Hay un miedo que quiero experimentar de nuevo… el miedo de viaje, de no saber qué or quién or cual… de ponerme en puestos imposibles y luchar a liberarme. Soy un hombre sentimental y egocéntrico, y nervous, y afraid, porque I’m in my 20s, porque I received advice about nothing but how to better yourself, Linus, because you’re in your 20s and need to find balance. Linus, oh Linus, you need to. Then, turn around and say: but it’s not all about you.
When put in such a corner, how can one fear appropriately, productively?