I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doubt. I’ve spent much of my life wrestling with my doubts: self doubt and religious doubt taking the cake. The resultant anxiety from trying to resolve uncertainty has left me exhausted. And so the other day I had an epiphany. What if instead of trying to resolve my doubts, analyze and understand them, control them and thwart them, disprove and disarm them, what if instead I just let them be?
There is no guarantee. Your lover can promise to be faithful and forever, and want to mean it, but can still stray. Your career path can swerve unexpectedly, either by promotion or impromptu resignation or sudden termination, or even just lack of change or growth, no matter how many degrees and qualifications you may have. Your best friend can move away or even suddenly die.
I always envied those with faith. In my family, there’s a saying, on my dja dja (Polish for grandpa) often said before he was cruelly ripped from my family before I was born by a car crash (19 year old late to work at a Wendy’s blew a red light). Keep the faith. I’ve never been one to sit comfortably with dogma or organized religion, but I find myself coming back to that concept, especially when struggling with my doubts.
I’ll never forget the time I was struggling to finish my Master’s of Education while teaching 50 hours a week at the third largest comprehensive high school in Philadelphia. I daily struggled with culture shock, having come from a mostly white suburban neighborhood suddenly thrust into the most urban of landscapes, where my most of my students were not white and had endured horrors the likes of which I couldn’t even imagine. I was so emotionally burnt out. I wanted to be good for my students, but was woefully, despite my stellar academic background, underprepared for the realities of teaching in such a high needs area. I took every mistake personally. Sleep was my only respite, so I routinely went to bed at 9PM, eager to shed the light of day and let everything go dark. Horrifically, I recall at one point driving to work on the Roosevelt highway and thinking to myself how much I didn’t want to face the day…how it’d be so easy to turn my wheel into oncoming traffic. The realization that I could have such a thought scared me even as it made me darkly laugh as I confided this to a roommate who was teaching with me and who had the exact same thought.
I had a professor in the Master’s program who was determined to push us to consider critical race theory and apply it to our pedagogy, so that we might be better for our students. He pushed me to the breaking point publicly, unaware that I was already on edge and mentally berating myself for not being enough. After he apologized, he told me to keep the faith. I felt the disparate parts of my universe collide into sweet synchronicity. I felt hope. I felt familiar to myself again.
I don’t know why that memory came to mind now, except to say that I’ve been trying really hard to keep my faith. In myself, and all I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as an educator and as a writer in the last five years, since that day I sobbed publicly at Penn after a hard day’s teaching. In my relationships, even when they disappoint or hurt me. In my future and all that I couldn’t predict, no matter how hard I try to be prepared for anything.
Maybe doubt isn’t something I have to relinquish or let go of. Maybe instead it’s simply something I can acknowledge and then put away. Let be. And turn my attentions instead to what I’m grateful for.
I’m grateful for my parents. My brother, who right now is working himself to death trying to become a better doctor. My boyfriend. My friends. My cat. My apartment. Enough money to feed and clothe myself. A past that has led me to where I am now. Yoga. Books (currently enjoying A Little Life after reading all these rave reviews on social media). Quiet mornings writing out on the back patio before the rest of the world stirs. A moment watching a golden orb weaver flex ever so slightly on a string, then still.