This Is What I’m Afraid Of

This started out as a regular Monday blog post in my weekly running blog. As I wrote, I realized that this was actually becoming a piece I had been meaning to write for a long time. I am glad to have finally put it down in writing. This piece is a little bit about running, but really it is about feeling like an impostor and doubting yourself.

All my experiences in running I feel can be applied to life in general. I have really adapted this mindset the past two or three years. So whenever I am going through a hard time in my life or I am in a situation that I am not sure how to navigate, I try to think of an equivalent situation that I have experienced in my running career and how those lessons I learned in running carry over to real life. And for the past six months, the situation that has been giving me the most stress in life is teaching. And I have been trying to use my experience in running to try and find a way to navigate my thoughts and feelings about teaching.

My doubts about teaching have always been deep inside me but I think the first time that I felt a sense of “I can’t do this and I don’t want to do this” was August/September of 2016. I had just started my student teaching and it was not a positive experience. My mentor teacher and I had different philosophies about education and I think I came into student teaching thinking I knew more about education than I actually did. I found student teaching really difficult and I dreaded it, every single day. I was very unhappy until that experience ended in November 2016. And during that time, my focus shifted to this idea that I was a fraud and I could not be a teacher. It was the first time where I thought that I was not capable of being a teacher. I truly felt like a fraud and an impostor in that classroom. But I think through many conversations with people I respect, I was able to rebuild myself and just count that as a really bad experience. I was able to say and (sometimes) believe that experience was not what it would be really like once I graduated college and got my own classroom. I applied for teacher jobs and luckily landed one here in Colorado Springs.

I started working as a teacher in late July. And immediately when I started, I felt those old demons/feelings I had during student teaching. I felt like an impostor and I felt like I did not belong. This was no fault of the school or my coworkers, it just seemed to me that everyone knew what they were doing and I did not. School started and I just tried to survive as best I could. I was teaching, coaching, trying to train for a half marathon, and still be somewhat social. That was all too much for me and I went into that dark unhappy place again, where I was during student teaching. Just surviving the work days and waiting for the time I had off. I felt like I sucked at my job. I felt like I had been working really hard at this thing for a long time and now that I finally had earned a chance to do it for real, I was failing. So that’s when I started to look at my running experience for answers.

The running experience that I think most resonated comes from my freshman year of college. The summer before my freshman year, I had put in so much work into my running. I followed the day to day schedule to perfection. I had worked my way up to running 45 miles week, basically twice of what I was running in high school. I thought I would go into college and crush my first year as a runner. Truth be told, the exact opposite happened at the start. There were a few positive results to start my freshman year, but once we started running full cross country races I bombed. I ran some really terrible times. I started getting my butt kicked in every workout. I felt like a fraud on the cross country team and like I did not belong to be on the same team as some of the other guys. I got really down about my running and I remember calling my Mom at the end of the season and just crying and talking about transferring and just let out all my frustration and disappointment. My Mom convinced me to just keep trying at Cornell and then we could reevaluate later. And while the second half of my freshman year was still disappointing and not what I wanted, I did see some better results and came to the realization that Cornell was the place to be. Fast forward the story, it was not until halfway through my junior year that I started to have some running performances that I was proud of. So basically, it took two and a half years before I started to be the runner I thought I would be right away. And I have always said that going through that two and half years of being bad at running was worth it. Those good experiences were all worth the wait. They were worth the suffering and going through the doubt of whether or not I would ever become the runner I was proud of.

So as I think of that running experience, I think the most positive conclusion I can make is that maybe I just need to suck and feel like an impostor at teaching for two and a half years and then things will all come together. And this goes along with a lot of advice I have gotten from other teachers. The first year is really hard. The second year gets easier. And the third year is when you really begin to feel like you have a handle on this career. Of course there are new challenges that arise after three years, but you are in the zone after that.

This is all great news right? I am just getting hung up on one thing. I am not sure that I want to be good at teaching. I am not sure I want to be a teacher anymore. This thought has been lingering since my student teaching experience. Going back to when I sucked for two and a half years at running, I don’t ever remember feeling like maybe I did not want to be a runner. But right now, while I suck at teaching, I feel like I might not want to be a teacher. And it really hurts to write that down and acknowledge the truth behind that statement. Because I have really been invested in this idea for 5–6 years. I have been working on it for a long time. I spent my whole college career focused on becoming a teacher. I feel like all the people I care about in my life have watched me learn and grow and become who I am as I pursued a teaching career. Teaching has been the thing that I have been most dedicated to in my life besides running.

I think that I have spent a large part of my adult life thinking about becoming a teacher and now I am terrified that it feels like that might no longer be the case. I feel like saying that is letting down so many of the people that I love and care about in life. And it makes me feel like giving this up might make me a failure.

What if I spend two to three years working at this thing and then it turns out it is not what I want to become? It feels like a waste. I know that I am only 22 and have time to figure this stuff out, but I don’t want to spend the next two to three years of my life on something that I’m not sure I want to be doing. And I’m not sure it is fair for me to be in a classroom for two or three years with these doubts.

These are just doubts that I have been dealing with in my life. And it feels good for me to write them down and acknowledge their truth. This started as a regular blog post but I will just post this one on it’s own. I think that what I am feeling is common for people among my age. I know that if I read a piece like this it would be something that I would enjoy reading which is why I have decided to write it. I also decided to write it because the process of writing is the best way for me to hash out my thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Tucker Horan

Tucker Horan

Just a guy who runs and tries to do some writing