Monday, January 28, 2013

The Next Level

I had this wonderful teacher in high school who had two last names. (A last name as a first name and a last name as a last name, for the uninitiated) I've tried to think of a great moniker for him but I can't. He's just Anderson.

Anderson taught me to love jazz and blues, taught me to sing into a microphone. He taught me to own a stage, and to look like I was having a good time doing it. He taught me to always be prepared ("You gotta get to the gig!") and responsible for myself. He called us all "Doctor."

It's been many years since I was in high school and yet Anderson remains a wonderful friend, a touch stone. I call him every few years, we go to lunch, I tell him my news, he tells me his, and then inevitably, he ends up saying to me "Doctor, you're now onto the next level." It has been his way to tell me I was making progress, that I had passed an invisible milestone, that I had gotten to the gig.

Only this time it was different. This time, I was giving a different kind of news, news of hope and growth and change and love and peace and just plain being happy in the face of struggle and challenge and busy-ness. Although all of my news was not good news, even my bad news was being shared through rosy tinted shades of optimism.

Anderson was impressed. He didn't tell me I was onto the next level, though.  This time he said something that blew my mind. This time he told me his work was done. He said it had been the first time in 20 years that he hadn't had to try to bring me to a positive place, to see my own value and to feel confident in making some noise. I was already there, already cheering myself on, already leaning into the downbeat, anticipating the changes rather than dreading them. These had been the true lessons he had wanted to teach me and here I had learned them.

He said his work was done. I said he was onto the next level.

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