During the years I studied sociology, I encountered a variety of theories about aging. The one that always made the most sense to me was called continuity theory which posits that as people age, they maintain ties with their past interests and passions. In essence, they remain who they always were. So, for example, it’s not surprising that my late mother, who always loved helping people, filled her retirement years with a variety of volunteer projects for her church and local community.
I was thinking about this the other day after a mentoring session with a budding twelve-year-old novelist. I may be spending most of my workdays writing after spending decades as a teacher in dance studios and college classrooms, but my excitement about teaching remains just as strong. When my talented student makes a new discovery and writes a great scene, I’m every bit as pumped as I am after a good day spent on my own work!
We are never too far, I don’t think, from who we’ve always been. I’ve been very lucky to have several passions in my life, and one has certainly been teaching.
Moreover, few things are as gratifying as knowing you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s life, one of the perks of being a caring teacher. The other night, we got together with one of my former dance students and his wife who were briefly in town for a family funeral. As we were parting, my student, who went on to have a distinguished career in modern dance performing with a major New York company said to me, “I really want to thank you. You were my first dance teacher, and you set me on a wonderful journey in my life.”
I was incredibly touched.
So yes, I’ll always be a teacher at heart.