Ok, I have something to confess. I am an English teacher, but I don’t enjoy poetry. I don’t know what it is—poetry just doesn’t connect with me in the same way that prose does.
But, for the past couple of weeks, I have been going over poetry in class, and it has really been affecting me! Isn’t that weird? I feel like every poem we talk about reaches me and makes me think deeply. (Ok, maybe not “My Last Duchess.” That one was just for the curriculum.)
Today, I thought that we should read “If” by Rudyard Kipling. I remembered liking it in high school, so I thought the kids might enjoy it. I kind of glanced through it before class, but I didn’t really read it much before I presented it to my first class. Then, as I was reading, I realized it was the exact right poem for my mood today.
I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately—dreams for a house, finding meaningful work that energizes me and engages all of my skills, and dreams for a world without student loans. I’ve been focusing a lot on what I don’t have, not what I do have. It’s been a hard couple of days, to be really honest. But, today, while reading this poem, I was totally inspired, and I think I ended up gleaning more from it than the kids did (isn’t that how it always happens?)
This part really got to me:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
I feel like I have to remind myself often, “Keep holding on.” And, yes, in my head, I sing that in my best Lea Michele voice. How powerful is that? When your world is crashing down upon you, and your heart is breaking, just hold on.
Then, in the final lines, he writes, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” That’s what I want. I want to fill my days with things that matter, and I want to make sure that I am making my life worthwhile.
So, in conclusion, I went to school today feeling sad, but I left with my hope renewed. It was a surprise for the day, but I am so glad I taught the poem. Read the whole thing—you won’t regret it!