I recently ran into an old friend of mine, a music teacher. He had retired in the last couple years, and I hadn’t seen him, so it was good to bump into him. I asked him, “what have you been doing …
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I recently ran into an old friend of mine, a music teacher. He had retired in the last couple years, and I hadn’t seen him, so it was good to bump into him. I asked him, “what have you been doing with your time?”
“Oh, you know, I get to play a lot now. So, I practice for a couple hours a day, and spend some time at the piano, too, you know, just to keep those skills sharp.”
Here’s a man who spent 32 years teaching music, and, before that, four years of six hours a day making music to get his degree, and who knows how much time before that to get good enough to get into college. And, what does he want to do with his time, now that the career is over?
He wants to play more.
Have you been able to keep up with what Peyton Manning is doing, now that his football playing career is over? Sure, he’s got his endorsements that he still works on, and is a highly involved father, apparently. But, he also spends a significant amount of time working on a series for ESPN called “Detail,” in which he breaks down the film of an NFL game, and, in particular, the play of one of the quarterbacks in the game.
A man who played professional football for 18 years, before that four years in college, before that from the time he could … You get the idea. And, among all his interests now that he’s retired, is still sitting in a room with a video machine watching a football game with an eye for detail that only the greatest to ever play the game could bring to it.
Is there anything in your life — other than family — that you love so much that, even when you don’t have to do it any more, it is the first thing you would want to do with yourself every day?
My friend and Peyton Manning got lucky — they were able to make careers, to build their lives and be able to pay the bills, doing what they had a deep passion for. But, not everybody is that lucky. Sometimes, you have that great passion and it’s not something that can pay the bills, so you have to find a way to live to support that passion. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. You have to feed your soul, one way or another, and if that means finding a different way to feed your family, then so be it.
My friend Jay and I wrote about this years ago. The quickest way to finding a life of meaning and value is to recognize and pursue your passions. That, in my opinion, is the most important purpose of schooling in America. As long as we are going to try to maintain the façade of educating the “whole child,” of having schools that are reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, as well as sports, and music, and drama, then what we’re really trying to do is point out to our kids what the world has to offer them. We’re not giving them the skills to make a living in public schools — we’re showing them the buffet of pursuits that will feed their souls as adults. They may love math, and become an engineer — awesome! They may also love singing, and become an engineer who sings at their church on Sundays and goes back to work on Monday refreshed and with an eye for building things of both function ‘and’ form.
So, if you have a high schooler somewhere in your life who is about to embark on another academic year, encourage them to widen their lens and explore the buffet. They may stumble onto something that gets them out of bed, even long beyond when they need to set an alarm.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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