Last week I spent some time with my sisters Karen and Tamie in beach chairs staring idly at the Atlantic Ocean. It’s late summer and the beautiful beach at Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, isn’t as populated as it is in the peak of the season. I can think of no more perfect way to unblock the mind and unschedule human endeavor (or my little piece of it, anyway).
I am suddenly struck with a memory—a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti titled “Wild Dreams of a New Beginning.” In the poem Mr. Ferlinghetti portrays a huge cleansing wave sweeping across the United States, wiping away all the vestiges of civilization and returning to the wilderness that once existed here.
School will be restarting in a very short time and I am experiencing that moment of hope, faith, and anticipation that precedes each school opening day. As a student and a teacher, I have experienced 55 years of school openings, and no amount of rational thought and accumulated experience can make that sense of expectation go away. The cycle of school life is driven by the hope of growth and renewal. The subsequent and inevitable deflation comes from the unravelling of our old life.
The growth that comes from learning doesn’t come comfortably. It shakes us. It tears us apart and rebuilds us as different people. It’s a messy business. We let go of our old ideas reluctantly. When the year is complete, we feel spent, exhausted, and defeated.
We are also changed and, in a cruel twist, we may not even notice the change at the time it happens. Some time needs to pass before we have a chance to step back and gain the wisdom that perspective provides. Perhaps it is that perspective that allows us to dream again of a new beginning. It gives us the courage to let that wave wash over us once again and the faith to believe it will change us for the better.