"I don't know if we each have a destiny or if we're just floating around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time." -Forrest Gump
April 10, 2017
Recently, a good friend of mine mentioned an important, yet sometimes overlooked, symbol from the Robert Zemeckis film, Forrest Gump (Paramount Pictures, 1994.) After reminding me of the notable image from the movie, she simply said, "Be the feather." And while I'd seen Forrest Gump hundreds of times and could quote scenes verbatim...
"Run, Forrest... run!"
"Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away."
"I'm not a smart man, Jenny, but I know what love is."
...I'd never really stopped to consider the impact that feather has on the overall message of the story. Not until my friend told me to "be the feather."
My friend's wise words were inspired by the possibility of a career change for me. A big one. After twenty-five years as a classroom teacher -- spending the last sixteen years at the same school-- I faced the possibility of leaving for a new position completely outside of public education: Director of Advocacy and Education at NAMI Delaware.
And while I knew my skill set was right for the role, the idea of venturing off the career path I'd been on for a quarter of a century caused me to second guess myself. I worried that the families at my school would be upset. I worried that my colleagues just wouldn't understand. I worried ...well, let's just say I worried and leave it there.
How I wish I was the kind of person who can find something to do and just keep doing that thing until they do it really really well. And then just keep doing it really well again and again and over again. And be happy doing it.
But I'm not that kind of person.
So when I learned I may be able to spin my part-time passion for mental health advocacy into a full time profession at a local non-profit I loved where I'd volunteered for years, I knew I had to go for it. I couldn't possibly pass up the chance at applying, right? It was a long shot that I'd actually get the job, but it couldn't hurt to try...
As the weeks stretched into months, interview after interview...I became more and more convinced that I wanted this job. That I was perfect for it. It was at this final step in the interview process that my friend reminded me of Forrest Gump's feather when I had said to her, "What do I do if I don't get the job?" And then I'd followed up, more panicked, with "But what do I do if I DO get it?"
I had always believed my destiny was to be a teacher. My parents had identified the bossy-pants take-charge attitude in me at a young age and fostered it saying that I was a "natural" teacher. When I went to college, it was never a question of what I would be. Rather, it was a question of what I would teach.
But now, twenty-five years later, I was considering a job that did not involve seeing students' faces every day. A job outside of a classroom.
That thought caused a little tickle of worry to float around inside my mind, float around like a feather. Yes, we're back at the feather again.
Not often am I driven to write poetry, but, in this case, poetry seems the only suitable medium in which to express my sense of wonder at all that has transpired in the last few months.
A feather floats along
looping, lifting, lingering
as if to smile
gently cascades downward,
softly settling into
Thank you, to my dear friend, for reminding me to be the feather. Like Forrest Gump, I believe it's both accidental-like and destiny happening together. Maybe the breeze takes us where we're supposed to go, but we decide where, when and if we will land.
I will begin my new position of Director of Advocacy and Education at NAMI Delaware this spring. I'll just be the feather.