“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey
A couple of days ago, I spent much of the day perplexed by my inability to choose what it is that I should be doing as my vocation; that thing that I love, that thing that shouts out to me, ” This is what you have to do and love to do”. That thing that pays the bills and honors who I am and what I believe. The more I tried to force my ideas and came against the Great Wall of Thought, I pondered the idea that maybe I didn’t need to care that it was a vocation at all; just a desire for a road easily spotted, worn so clearly with the footsteps of others, clearly labeled and easily seen even in the sparse light of a crescent moon. Possibly even catching the tail of someone else’s dream that seems to be working out well…what about that?
The phone rings…. Oh good. It’s my husband. I can tell him how much I am feeling sorry for myself for not understanding myself better and cycle through all of my failing and frustrations. That is how the conversation begins, yet it is quickly diverted by an art and beauty within the man who chooses to share his life with me. He listens, and gently reminds me of my immediate antidote to this monster, which is gratitude. He does not use those exact words, but winds me through a path, with his words, that we are walking on today; a path that we have been creating for many years. It is not a path of instant gratification, but a path of learning everyday who we are and what we believe in together; trusting that the Universe sets us straight when we stray or have something else to learn.
We both remembered the day that we sat in our porch in Robbinsdale, Minnesota many years ago, and read things that we both had written about our vision of our future. That days stands out to me as the day that we both stepped onto a path that had not been well broken in. That is why there are days that I sense that I am lost in the forest of unchartered ground, desperately searching for something to inspire me yet I begin to settle for something that looks or feels familiar. There lies my choice, now isn’t it? When I feel that I am wandering, and stepping over fallen logs, and the sunlight seems to be growing dim, I get to choose to break more ground and maybe have to be caught retracing my steps in the dark and try, try again or choose to abandon myself for the safety of the path that is clearly marked and posted ” Familiar… and you may appear to have your shit together to others”.
So, if John Dewey is right and education really is life itself, then I can now open my eyes wide and see my education thus far. There is a path that has been worn here on the property in Marengo, Illinois that goes from the house out to the barn. That path was not there before we arrived here. It is a path that is filled with passion, love, fear, self-criticism, inspiration, anticipation, and persistence. The yellowish, worn grass on that path represents a truth and education of my own. I am educated by the steps taken to owning our dairy goats, watching wandering yet decisive chickens, fences built, visiting friends and family, conversations had, troubles worked-out, inspired thoughts and most importantly love received and given.
That day on the phone with my husband magically brought me back to the pen that I had put down, the future of milking our own diary goats, our children we choose to educate without a defined institution, the beautiful eggs to be found, washed, eaten and sold; the art to be crafted, the books to be written, the animals to be loved, the relationships to honored, gardens to be planted, first sprouts to be seen, friends to made, music to heard, written and played; old trucks to be driven, logos to be drawn, businesses to crafted, chevre to be made, books to be read, love to be given…it goes on and on.
They’re all my vocation. They are all apart of a whole of who I am and I choose to let them all educate and guide me.
The path is actually quite clear today in that there is more work to be done. I can do only what I can do. I live today like I have forever and like it is my last. I bask in the happiness of simple yet miraculous things like walking the path to the garden with my husband’s hand in mine; both of us anticipating the first potato plants arrival after their long struggle in the dark, until finally emerging to once again feel the sun’s warmth, just like all of us.