“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Two weeks into my third year of teaching, I knew something wasn’t right.
Teachers often talk about the intrinsic rewards of the profession: The warm feelings inside when a student says thank you, the joy of seeing a past student come visit your classroom, the satisfaction of saying you helped someone learn something new today.
I felt nothing, aside from the angsty middle school hormones around me accompanied by an endless flow of drama.
I was desensitized to the experiences around me. I had lost touch. Touch with my students and community. But mostly, I had lost touch with myself.
Walking my dog later that week, a strategy for finding stillness after a chaotic day, I noticed a sign for beginning pottery classes in a nearby store front.
Classes started this week. Space was available.
I walked into the store and signed up.
I needed to feel again. Regain my sense of self. I had all the necessary prerequisites (making a pinch pot in kindergarten had to count for something).
I showed up with an open mind, and open hands.
Day one, my instructor introduced centering.
The key to any piece of pottery is centered clay. And, to center the clay your arms must be grounded on your knees. As the wheel spins, you must control the clay and bring it toward center. If you don’t stand strong, the clay will take the reins and shape you.
After the clay is centered, it’s a matter of opening up the pot, pulling up the walls, and shaping your piece.
These are the basics. The foundation to any piece.
I remember the instructor saying,
“You know there are over 7 billion people out there, so there should be 7 billion ways to make pottery. 7 billion ways to be, to exist. That’s what art is all about. Once you’ve got the basics, you are set.”
You are set.
Set to build, to create, to throw in anyway, because any way is the right way.
As I was teaching things became routine, standardized, a “well oiled machine.” Rules are followed. They are boundaries for growth.
As I was making pottery, knowing the rules, the basics, were important for knowing when to break them, let the feelings and sensations guide the way.
My experience at the pottery studio taught me how important it is to make space for authentic self in the lives that we live.
It took learning something new, getting a new perspective, to return to the center of who I am.
One of 7 billion.
One way, of many, to live and experience in this world.
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