On Ingratitude, and Why It Doesn’t Matter

Dearest Protege:
Today I had the great misfortune of seeing a Twitter post from the parent of one of my students that read (and forgive the errors–I’m quoting verbatim): “teachers strike. simple. lock the gates and keep them out. next meeting in one year. overpaid underworked no accountablility #teachersstrike”. I wasn’t sure where my feelings lay. I was simultaneously disgusted, dismayed, and disappointed. You see, not only had I taught one of this parent’s children, I also coached another last year. The same parent “volunteered” on occasion with the team by coming to practices, helping to run drills, and attending games when he wasn’t out of town (he missed a couple because he was in Fiji on business–I remember feeling envious that I could never afford to go to Fiji myself). I spent a considerable amount of time with him, and had a couple of friendly conversations with him. To read this now made me feel incredibly sad. Aside from the time I spent in the classroom helping one of his children succeed in my subject area, I spent countless hours away from my OWN child in order that HIS other child could have a team to play on. I stood on a pitch for hours in blizzards, freezing rain, regular rain, and beating sunshine cheering on my players, and making sure that they had the best experience possible, despite my own health issues. I could spend a lot of time addressing what he said in his post (in fact, I did, but then I deleted all of it) but ultimately none of it matters. His ingratitude is irrelevant to me, and what and who I am. I don’t teach my students and coach my players because I’m looking for some kind of affirming and resounding Thank You from anyone. I am who I am. I do what I do because I am who I am. Other people are entitled to their own opinions. And that’s OK–we’re all entitled to our own version of the truth. But at the end of the day, I know which truths count for me, and that’s all that matters (even if it means NOT doing something I enjoy because there are higher stakes, and larger truths, involved). So Dearest Protege, as you continue on in your own career, which will be long and successful (I have no doubt of that) remember this one thing: Don’t look outside yourself for validation or confirmation. Do what you love, love what you do, and hold fast to your values and principles. That’s the only real road to happiness.

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