Sometimes, you have to walk in the rain

Teaching

Teaching | Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Sometimes, you have to walk in the rain

An unplanned walk in the rain helped me remember the importance of trying new experiences that not everyone is willing to try.

Today was an unseasonably warm yet gloomy, drizzly day in Indiana. If you were in a school today, you might have spent it indoors, away from the elements and completely dry.

I spent part of it walking in the rain. On purpose.

I was leaving the airport and making my way toward the long-term economy parking lot. Gray backpack filled to the top with electronics on my back. Red roll-aboard suitcase with clothes and books right behind me.

As I entered the ground transportation center, I had a couple of options:

  • Turn right, wait for the shuttle bus and ride to the economy lot. (This is the choice I always make.)
  • Go straight, walk through the short-term parking garage and continue on foot to the economy lot. It’s about a 10-minute walk. (I have only done this once.)

I’m an active guy. I like to run. (Yes, even when I’m not being chased.) A 10-minute walk doesn’t scare me and, on this day, actually sounds pretty satisfying.

The autumn leaves are turning fiery yellow, orange and red. Even though there isn’t a forest of them at the airport, it’s still pretty.

I choose to go straight and take the walk. Then I realize something.

The drizzle isn’t a drizzle.

It’s a steady, slow rain.

I realize this as I’m about the leave the cover of the parking garage. And I’m confronted with a question …

Do I turn around and go back to the shuttle bus like I always do …

… or do I stick to my guns and keep walking — in the rain?

It’s not a long walk back to the shuttle. It would keep me dry.

But I’ve just recently discovered that I don’t have to wait on the shuttle. I can walk — control my own schedule and destiny! — and I want to try it.

Then, something else dawned on me …

This was a bigger question than convenient transportation to my parked car.

Sometimes, we have to leave the comfort of a sheltered bus ride behind, step out and WALK IN THE RAIN.

It was a question about how I live my life. About how I lead and educate others. About blazing untested trails.

(OK, that trailblazing part was an exaggeration. It was paved the whole way. Except for — gasp! — the three grassy spots where I had to carry my suitcase!)

I buttoned up my jacket and decided to walk in the rain.

Because, really, we have to be willing to walk in the rain in our lives sometimes.

We have to be willing to leave our comfort of a sheltered bus ride behind, figuratively, with all the other travelers at the designated shuttle stop …

… and to go get soaked.

Pretty quickly I was wet. Not totally soaked, but the jacket was definitely coming off when I got to the car. The rain beaded and dripped from my bald head steadily.

I’m not saying that walking in the rain was heroic or life-changing. But it did give me a different perspective …

  • Everything sounds different in the rain.
  • The air was enjoyably humid.
  • I was outdoors with my blood pumping.

It was a unique experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise …

… you know … if I hadn’t gone walking in the rain.

I started to cross some grass while lugging my suitcase by hand. I crossed paths with a car and locked eyes quickly with the driver. I had one of those mental conversations with her … you know, the kind you entertain in your mind that would never actually happen in reality?

Driver, rolling her window down: “It’s a little wet out today.”

Me, my glasses fogged and covered in droplets: “I’ve noticed.”

Driver: “You know there’s a shuttle that takes you to your car.”

She was the classic doubter. When we do crazy things like walk in the rain, we meet these people in our minds. They say things that real, reasonable people would never actually say to us. But, for some reason, our imagination still plays them out in real, vivid detail.

And if you’re like me, these people can follow you around for an hour or more … sometimes for the rest of the day or even the week.

(Sometimes they look and sound a lot like real people that we know.)

In my mind, almost as a reflex, my response came immediately. Not consciously, remember … more as an impulse.

Me: “It’s my choice, and I’m living in it.”

OK, to be honest, that’s a bit of an edited version of that response. The first version was, “It’s my choice, and I’m living with it.”

But then I decided I didn’t want to live “with it.”

“I’m living WITH IT” is like suffering through the consequences of a bad decision. “I’m living IN IT” is like enjoying the benefits of a purposeful decision.

Living with something is like suffering through the consequences of a bad decision.

I was living “in it.”

That meant I was enjoying the benefits of a purposeful decision.

(Hey, it was my made-up mental conversation. I have the creative license to change a word or two around.)

I finally made it to my car. Tossed the suitcase in the trunk. Shed the jacket. Cleaned the water and fog off my glasses.

And I was glad I walked in the rain.

I wasn’t totally, totally soaked. But if I had been, it would have made for a better story.

I got a part of the airport experience that most people never see.

And I felt like I was part of a secret society — “The Economy Lot Walkers Squad.” (Yep, lame … but I’m living in it.)

(Unrelated side note: Fifteen seconds later, I spilled coffee all over the passenger seat — and my phone — and drove a wheel up on the curb. Full transparency.)

I see so much of my life through the lens of education these days. This experience reminded me a lot of taking risks in the classroom.

We can go through our careers getting on the same parking shuttle, checking our phones and just waiting until it’s over.

Or we can explore.

Go on a mini adventure.

Try something new that has some real potential for fun and greatness.

Even if it’s a flop, we get mini-inspirations and new ideas. You know, something new that we can try later.

There will be doubters. They’ll crack their car windows just enough so they don’t get wet themselves.

But who cares? Because it’s your life. It’s your classroom. It’s your lesson.

You’re the one enjoying the rain, enriching your life and your students’ life with the experience.

You’re living in it. And you didn’t even need the parking shuttle like the others did.

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