Skip to content

Bumps in the road

My students often learn quite a bit about my life. I tell stories, of course, primarily to teach lessons and entertain them while they learn.

But a great deal of my life can be found online, beginning with my Wikipedia page, so my more curious and nefarious students will spend some time researching my past, even as I implore them to find something more interesting to read and watch.

But many ignore my pleas. They go home, read about their teacher, watch his stories, and arrive in the classroom saying things like, “You didn’t tell us you owned a pet raccoon when you were a kid!” or “It’s hard to imagine you ever pole vaulting” or “How long did you spend in jail?”

Quality ways to begin a school day.

This year, my students have grown fond of pointing out how odd and occasionally disastrous my life has been with surprising sympathy and even sadness for my past.

A student will tell me that his frisbee got stuck on the roof over the weekend, and I’ll say, “I got stuck on the roof of a three-story building once, and I nearly died getting down!”

Or a student will tell me how she got lost in the mall on Sunday, and I’ll say, “I once got lost in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for two whole days!”

Or a girl performing in a play will tell me that she needs to hold hands with a boy onstage, and I’ll say, “My music teacher, Mrs. Carroll, once made me kiss a girl onstage in the middle of a school concert!”

The phrases my kids often use after hearing stories like these are:

“Of course, that happened to you, Mr. Dicks”

“Everything happens to you, Mr. Dicks”

… and more recently:

“The world doesn’t love you, Mr. Dicks.”

They say these things with such sadness and inevitability that it almost breaks my heart. I assure them that I’m happy with my life. Perfectly content with my past adventures. Just fine and dandy.

“A lot better than all of you!” I often add because I’m a jerk.

But I also said something to my students the other day that rang true for them and me, and perhaps, if you’re going through struggle or strife, it might mean something to you, too.

I said:

“The bumps in the road often bounce us into the light.”

And I think it’s true. Show me someone with confidence, inner fortitude, and unparalleled wisdom, and I’ll show you someone who has experienced many bumps along the way.

We don’t grow unless we are tested. We don’t evolve unless there is a struggle. We cannot achieve excellence absent strife.

“This, too, shall pass,” is fine, but maybe instead:

“This, too, shall pass, and I’m going to be the better for it.”

Or, perhaps more poetically, and hopefully more likely to land me in “Barlett’s Familiar Quotations” someday:

“The bumps in the road often bounce us into the light.”

Admittedly, one of my students said, “As far as I can tell, you ain’t seen much light, Mr. Dicks,” but that student was happily and sorely mistaken.