Practicing What I Preach

I’ve had my next tattoo planned out for a while now, in fact I hope to be getting it relatively soon. I’ve only waited this long because I want the ink on my arm and I want my arm to be adequately sized. Now that I’m about a week and a half away from completing P90X, I’m just about ready and the tattoo will be my congratulatory gift to myself. What I have in mind for the tattoo is a quote:

“In the divine order of nature both life and death, joy and sorrow, serve beneficent ends and in the fullness of time we shall know why we are tried and why our love brings us sorrow as well as happiness.”

It comes from a sacred Jewish text that I encountered as a sophomore at ASU when the Symphony Orchestra performed Ernest Bloch’s magnificent Avodath Hakodesh. The text was set a part of the piece and was included in the program notes. Immediately upon reading it I was struck by it, and it has been a favorite quote of mine ever since and one that I have tried to keep in mind during the rockier moments of my life.

Perhaps it is divine fate, then, that at the moment when I am about to permanently inscribe words onto my body — words which I claim to live by — that I am the most challenged by them. I received some bad news today (not of the “life and death” sort, but certainly of the “joy and sorrow” sort). At this particular moment it is difficult to see this news serving any beneficent end. Maybe a bit of background story is in order…

I’m a music teacher. I love what I do and I am very passionate about it, but it took me a little while to figure out exactly where I wanted to end up and there was a period of time near the end of my undergrad at ASU and shortly after graduating that I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing this year–grad school, teaching, something entirely different? By the time I had figured things out, the time I’d spent dragging my feet combined with the abysmal job market made finding work tough. All things considered, I got really lucky and found a position teaching general music part time at two elementary schools in the west valley. Despite my lack of experience with the subject (teaching general music really IS an entirely different monster than teaching band) and the student population, I was excited to have found work and I was confident that, even if I hated it, it was only for a year and that I’d find a band position more to my liking the following year.

It’s been a whirlwind to put it mildly. I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that my passion isn’t for teaching elementary general music. But I haven’t spent the last year idly; I’ve tried to make the most of my situation. I have grown a lot as a teacher — in many respects, perhaps, more so than I would have if I’d found a band position. But all the while I had my sights set on the future: submitting applications to several districts as far back as December, schmoozing with potential future employers, etc. in the hope that I’d find a (high school) band director job.

I recently found out about a position that was going to be available that seemed like it would be right up my alley. Everything about it seemed right: the location, the type of program, the district. Even the circumstances that led me to find out about the position seemed like a good omen: I was tipped off and encouraged to apply by someone who had loose ties to the program and who, as he put it, wanted to see someone “good” get the job. Needless to say, I took that as a huge compliment. It’s true what they say, that it’s a small world, and I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a lot of fantastic and highly-respected teachers so insomuch as it’s true that who you know matters, I had a lot of people in my corner. On top of that, I spent hours (no exaggeration) preparing for an interview. I drafted a five year plan detailing goals and strategies I had to grow the program and I put together a portfolio that contained sample lesson plans, videos of me teaching and conducting, sample classroom materials, letters of recommendation, certifications, and my résumé.

In case I haven’t made it clear, I really wanted the job. I could go on and on about how much thought I’d put into it and how it affected the plans I have for the next five years of my life, but I’ll just leave it at that for the sake of time. Well, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t offered the job. The competition was fierce (again thanks to the terrible job market) and the position ended up going to someone with several more years of experience under their belt.

That brings me back to the whole point of this post: I am obviously very disappointed that things didn’t work out as I’d hoped, but I am trying to remember the words which will soon be written on my body. What’s hardest is that every alternative scenario that I can envision seems somehow not as good as the one I wanted. But the truth is that I don’t know what the future holds and that I simply can’t envision every potential outcome.

I have a close friend who recently ran into hard times I.t seemed as if his situation was bleak and it was hard to see how things could turn out OK but I tried to remind him to always move forward, that things would work out. As it happened, his circumstances landed him in a position far better than where he’d started out and he was presented with opportunities that he would have missed had things gone his way all along. It’s easy now to see the good that resulted from what, at first, seemed so bad. Now, of course, I’m forced to practice what I preach. That or be made a hypocrite…

As the quote says, “…in the fullness of time we shall know why we are tried…” I believe it and I am comforted by my faith that I too will be able to look back on this situation with gladness. There is, however, a certain amount of cognitive dissonance between what I know and how I feel. That, I suppose, will be alleviated with time and as I begin to see the positive side of this whole mess materialize. For now, I’ll just keep moving forward.

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2 thoughts on “Practicing What I Preach

  1. Wonderful blog Chris, and wonderful sentiments. You are at the beginning of your life, and even when you think you know what you want, many of those desires will change as new opportunities and experiences come your way. Be open to it all, as you said, ” I don’t know what the future holds and that I simply can’t envision every potential outcome.”

    Now for the suggestion part: Take all that you created for your interview, and consider it part of your living resume! Seperate from this blog, create a “webume” or “cv-site”. Either way, put yourself “out there” in today’s terms. Chriscoughlin.com is already taken, but christophercoughlin.com is not. It already shows that you have on-line talent, use it to display your musical talent!

    If you decide to do this and need any help getting it going, let me know 🙂

    You’re a natural writer!

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