April 26, 2018
Today was my last day teaching photography. I feel so blessed. So honored. I'm so thankful for all my students (honestly, my friends) for giving me so much grace and love as we all navigated what it meant to, not really move on, but to continue forward with our lives forever changed by this experience; and to begin to figure out together what it means to still be alive in this world and to still look for the light, even in so much darkness. And I'm also thankful of course for their general grace in my very first experience of teaching.
I joke with them that for my last college final, which was a speech in front of the class, I had the distinct thought, "thank goodness this will be my last presentation I ever have to give." And I'm so thankful I was wrong.
In the beginning of this new experience, I prayed, "what does this mean for me?" Ever since I was little, I always felt a deep spiritual connection to my own past and future. Sometimes this feeling comes and goes, but I usually feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what I am meant to do in my life. So when teaching John's class suddenly fell into my lap (like I suspected it would), this sort of felt like new territory. Did this mean I was meant to be a professor? Should I try to get my masters degree? Is everything I predicted for my life actually wrong? The whole caveat of this teaching position for me was that it was going to end (the department needs it to be a full time position which I am educationally unqualified for at the moment), so there was a constant ticking time bomb of "oh I need to decide what this new experience means for me right now, because if I wait too long, it will be too late". Now that my time is up, I think I know what it all meant for me. And I think I know what it meant and will continue to mean for all of us.
For me, it's given me a second chance in a lot of ways. In the most selfish way, teaching at George Fox gave me a second chance to experience college. The college atmosphere is so beautiful and the post-college life can be scary and often isolating. I'm a very solitary person anyways, so being dropped back into college life was a breath of fresh air. I got to feel that community again and I am so thankful. In another way, it's given me a second chance at photography. It's one thing to take a photography course in college (not to discredit John in any sense). But in going through the classes and now teaching the classes, it's one thing to learn for an assignment or for a grade, and it's another thing to learn for the sake of learning. I got a second chance to sit down with these great photographers, learn from them again, and I started to feel my own photography change. I felt this because of my students too; their creativity and insightfulness is beautiful. I have learned so, so much from teaching itself, from the photographers we've studied, and from the conversations with my students.
And I think for all of us, it's allowed us this mourning period, this figuring out period, and this realization of just how important community is, especially in the face of tragedy. It's given us time to breathe. I think without this experience, I would be a lot worse off emotionally, and I don't think I would consciously be able to process and understand just what John did for us (and what all our teachers do for us). I cannot even imagine what my life would have been like without this experience. And again I say I am so thankful.
I think our community is even stronger now. I'm so excited to see what our next steps are and what we are going to do. In the beginning, I was so upset that the department would even think of hiring a random person. How could anyone replace John? How dare we even try? But I feel now is time. Again, moving on isn't quite the correct phrase, but I feel like we can forge onward. I've learned and am continuing to learn what it means to be human, and what it means to create. And what grace and peace really mean.
I don't think I have a really good closing statement. I feel a lot of different emotions right now. Happiness and sadness, deep gratefulness, and guilt for feeling that gratefulness. And a real sense that John is proud of me and of all of us.
It still doesn't really feel real, him being gone. It still feels like this past year was a dream, while simultaneously like he is just gone on a long trip and one day I'm going to walk into class and he will just be there again. Or like I'm going to wake up soon and this will all feel like a scratch in the back of my mind.
But he is do proud of us. And I think this whole experience is what he was teaching us for. Photography is about documenting life, about making sense of the world, about giving a language to the things we can't explain but still feel so deeply. It's about laughing and crying and discovering new perspectives. It's about changing our outlook on life, and about changing our life.
I honestly could go on and on and on, I keep thinking of so many tangents and ways photography continues to transform me. But I'll just say these last three things. 1. I seriously cannot wait to see what we do next as a little photo community. I've got a couple tricks up my sleeve and I also can't wait to see what our new professor brings to the story and what the students will continue to create. 2. I am forever changed and will never be able to say thank you enough to the department and the students for giving me this chance. It has been so terrifying and exciting and one of the best experiences of my life. And 3. I am always thankful for John. For what he taught me, for what he continues to teach me, and for all the things he's given me--not the least of which being the chance to teach in his place. I feel so humbled to walk where he has walked.
Oh yeah, and as always,
It's all about the Light.