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Ten years after I graduated from college, I felt like I had a dual life. On one hand, I was a husband and new father. On the other hand, I was a salesman with a $14 million, 5-state territory.
The two parts of my life battled each other. I performed the job from my car and was the classic "road warrior." It was not uncommon for me to leave on a Monday morning and spend the majority of the week calling the other portion of my life from a hotel telephone.
I was in Canada on a sales call when my wife had the ultrasound showing for the first time we were going to have a little girl. Truth be told, the battle between the portions of my life was rather one-sided, and the "other" portion of my life was losing.
I fancied myself able to balance both portions. I convinced myself while I laid in a bed, which wasn't my own, my wife understood why I wasn't with her. “The man must be the bread winner,” I rationalized. I told myself if I were just present for the "big" things, it would good enough. It went on for several years.
I was home one weekend in the summer after my eldest daughter had learned to walk – an event that I missed. We were in the backyard, and I was closer to her than my wife was. She fell as she tottered on the sidewalk and hurt herself.
As I went to save her, she ran around me to get to my wife. I stood and watched my daughter run to what mattered most to her – and I wasn't it.
My life changed in that moment. My carefully crafted world shattered as I instantly realized I had been managing my life – departmentalizing pieces of it so it suited whatever situation I found myself. Nothing had permanence. Nothing had legacy value.
Sure, my bank account was large enough, but it could never have been large enough to pay for my shame. I'm not too proud to tell you I cried that night as I found myself trying to understand a life with very little purpose.
I had read one time about putting away your “old self” and being renewed. In essence, the words said it was possible to start over. I did. I quit my job. I went back to school and got another degree to follow a dream that had for years lay dormant in my heart. I became a teacher and began a new portion of my life.
It was unified with one purpose: I would live a life displaying what was the most important thing to me. My daughters would know beyond a doubt where they ranked. My wife would never question if I’d be there. My students would know, in this crazy world, their teacher valued them consistently.
By no means am I the first guy to take real control of his life. In fact, my story isn’t all that uncommon – well maybe the quitting your job and totally doing a 180 is unique – but the dedication to family and priorities is a regular occurrence in our amazing community. It’s also a regular occurrence in our schools.
This month thousands of teachers welcome back to their classrooms thousands of students. They will begin a journey together full of ups and downs. However, above it all will be an emotional connection to changing the world.
The kids are the future, and the teachers know the result of their love, effort, commitment and dedication can be a bright future. It is their legacy.
I wanted to share one little piece of my story to encourage you to make whatever you do matter. I want to encourage you to question the legacy you are leaving behind.
I want you to know the teachers of Shelby County share your hope and passion and are beginning another new beginning this month. They are dedicated to the legacy, and I believe they will transform our world.
Ryan S. Allan is public relations coordinator at Shelby County Public Schools.