When I was in middle school, the Vice Principal was this kind of strange guy. A balding, stout fellow with a love of birds and a hatred for middle schoolers with chewing gum, he’d march down the hallways and toss menacing looks at students while ordering them to get to class.
But behind his upteen years of experience in teaching and administration of 7th and 8th grade students that gave him this tough exterior, was a kind, gentle man. I landed myself in Mr. Lynch’s office on a couple occassions for various good-student stuff, like honors society awards and the like. And it always struck me how good natured he was about working with students during one of the most awful times in adolescents.
Every morning Mr. Lynch led the morning announcements. He’d remind kids to not leave Sun Chip bags lying around, not to loiter in the halls, information about an upcoming assembly on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and other items of note. But he always ended every morning announcement session the same way, with a phrase I’m not sure he made up but I definitely credit to him.
He’d say: make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.
Now, my fellow classmates loved to mock his saying, tossing it around at each other in a coy fashion. As an old soul and not one to make fun of the administration, I took his words to heart. But as an 8th grader, I never fully appreciated the message behind those words.
I thought Mr. Lynch was just telling me to make my day great. And in a way, he was. But that’s as far as I took it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately, and the role that choice has in joy. Under the shower head the other morning (one of the places where I do my best thinking), I realized that I can choose joy. I can choose to live a happy, full life, regardless of what’s happening around me, especially those things that are out of my control.
Dear, old Mr. Lynch was suggesting I should make my day great. But not just that. He was also saying it was my choice to make it a great day. Not my friend’s choice or my math teacher’s choice or my parent’s choice. My choice. I could choose to have a great day. Or not.
I love this idea of choice because if there’s something I don’t like, it’s feeling forced. I wouldn’t want to be forced to be joyous – or forced to be unhappy. And, sometimes, as the minutes drag on day after day, and I find myself sick of toddler games and The Fresh Beat Band by midday Tuesday in this stay-at-home-mom role, I feel like a prisoner in my own life. That nothing about my life is of my choosing.
But that’s not true. Everything is about the choices I made.
So I’ve been thinking about things differently. That each day I choose to be home with Kate. And each day I can choose joy. Each day I get to choose my life.