Patchi over at My Middle Years is hosting the July Scientiae, a round up of blog posts from fellow scientist bloggers, and her theme for the month of July is "Mirror, mirror on the wall." Now normally I don't participate in these things, but I figured this is a good excuse to reflect on life and who I am, seeing as how July may very well be the month that changes my identity forever.
She asks us to "Think about who you see when you look in the mirror. How do you see yourself? How do you think others see you? Who would you rather see? Some days it might be hard to even face the mirror, other days you might stare at your teenage self looking back at you and wonder what happened since. What do you think that person looking at you is thinking? What would happen if you could step through the looking glass?"
When I look in the mirror these days, I see grown woman who's finally got clear skin for the first time in, I don't know, say 24 years?! I also see a woman whose body has undergone major changes during pregnancy, namely, an evergrowing belly and chest. But I have not fundamentally changed. I don't view myself any differently, really. Some days, if it weren't for the mondo belly that is constantly on the move, having practice contractions, and kicking up horrendous heart burn and acid reflux, I wouldn't even believe I was pregnant. It is still a bit of a shocker that I am pregnant and will be a mom perhaps even sometime this month.
I will be someone's mom.
How will that change me? I have no idea. I can't predict that. Everyone says it changes you, but does it? Really?
I know the dynamics of the Field Notes' household will change. But I cannot imagine undergoing some radical or monumental shift in my own personality or identity. I'll still be Field Notes. The responsibilities will change, but not fundamentally. I'll still have to get out of bed everyday and tend to others' needs, clean house, stay informed, earn a living, pay bills, set a good example.
My whole life I have been preparing to be a teacher.
That is who I am. That is my identity.
Being a mother, a parent, is only a very specific kind of teacher.
Once upon a time, as a little girl, I would arrange my stuffed animals in a classroom and hand out papers, teaching them lessons. Later, as a teenager, I would teach my classmates and friends, and occasionally my sister when she'd have it. I actually made homework assignments and textbooks — not real, actual textbooks with hard bindings and all, but notebooks full of information and pictures — material for my 'students' to use to learn. I wish I still had the anatomy book I made. I remember being fascinated with anatomy and drawing colored diagrams for the book I made, complete with parts for the 'student' to label.
Eventually I became a college professor and got paid to teach! At some really, really top notch schools too. I loved teaching, but I hated some of the crap that went along with it, namely the expectation to publish, publish, publish and apply for grants and always be spectacular. Now that I've been on a break from all of that, I can see that I am and have been, much happier and much less stressed even though I have much, much less disposable income.
Will I ever go back to academia? I don't know. It might not be for me. But I vow to never, ever let myself believe that I am squandering my education if I don't.
I will always be a teacher; indeed, a great teacher.
Being a mother, a parent, is just a very specific kind of teacher.
And, it's exactly the teaching role I am looking forward to now. Bring it on!