Have you ever taken the time to study tree rings? When I taught eighth grade science, I conducted a lab each fall which analyzed tree rings for evidence of past events. It turns out, you can tell a lot from the cross-section of a tree. Thin rings indicate dry years; thick rings indicate a year with greater rainfall.
Sometimes, you can see evidence of scorching in forest fires or insect infestation. Trees in temperate climate zones will generally produce one ring per year, a clue to the tree’s age. For very old trees or cross-sections of timbers used in ancient structures, analyzing annual growth rings provides information about climate and other events that occurred before detailed records were kept, thus providing historical information.
Why am I telling you all this about tree rings, when I haven’t posted anything new on this blog all summer? First, it’s been a busy summer for me. For the past eight years, I’ve spent the summer months recovering from a stressful academic schedule and catching up on household and personal tasks that I put off throughout the school year. Last school year was no different in terms of stress and stalled personal projects. What’s different this year is that I resigned my teaching position at the high school for pregnant and parenting teen girls and began a new job as a curriculum writer for the local vocational-technical school. I’d been teaching technology classes part-time for them since May of last year, but I’m excited to now be writing curriculum for some of their adult certification programs. I still teach technology classes, and I still teach composition at the local community college, but I’ve added a third part-time venture to my repertoire. Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, my life just got spicier!
The second reason I just presented a lesson on tree rings is that it occurred to me recently that this summer I’ve been growing my own “rings”—me rings, if you will. Crucial life experiences form lasting effects on you, artifacts that you can study and interpret only after more experiences are added. Some events starve your soul; others feed it. I expect my growth rings would demonstrate both thick and thin years as a result. If you could somehow examine them, you might see where a few scars or scorched areas led to new growth . . . or not. You might see evidence of learning experiences that I worked very hard to acquire, and if you look closely you might note where some experiences caused changes in the direction of growth. No matter what, each ring is vital to the survival of the organism. This summer, I’ve intentionally chosen a new path and have been busy learning how to put my growth rings to work in a new professional setting. There have been a few frustrations, of course, but I’ve mostly been invigorated by this new adventure; I’m learning so much!
Making use of past experiences to create stimulating present experiences is one of the most rewarding pursuits I can imagine. The process of turning well-honed skills into the expertise I’ll need to succeed in my new venture is already creating a distinct pattern in my life. In five or ten years, I wonder what evidence I’ll glean from this summer’s “me rings”?