Story behind the photo: “The Worst Day of My Life”

"The winter of my discontent" is how I should frame this story, because that’s the capital “T" truth. I was living in Oswego in a small, barely heated, basement apartment. I thought I was going to freeze to death, and used every burner on the electric range as my fireplace. My friends had all moved home, or gotten lives and there I was- alone- in a sterile, unfinished apartment that used to be a computer store. After teaching, I would return home to the same plain white walls as my classroom, cold from the bluish tint of florescent lights. I was commuting everyday in brutal snowstorms, to Liverpool, and some-what teaching. I say some-what teaching because it was survival, plain and simple. The teacher part was killing me. I was imprisoned in a small room with four desks, thirty kids, no books, no tools, no supplies. Basically, all the things a Technology Education teacher needs to survive.. I had none. The best part was that I student taught the exact same group of kids a few months earlier, but now I did not have the soft, warm protection of the master teacher. I was fresh meat and they smelled the blood. The kids hated me, and I was starting to think they were right and I was wrong. I screamed, I pleaded, I guilted, but mostly I was ashamed. Forty minutes later the cycle would repeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, but teaching was the first thing in my life that didn’t work by thinking it through and working hard. Every other problem in my life I steamrolled by either ingenuity or sheer volume of hard work. Neither worked. I learned my first hard lesson: you can’t manipulate the human condition.

     The day this picture was taken was the bottom of a series of events that reached the depths of all I had. I had thanked God for the snow day, as hours earlier I had decided that if something didn’t happen soon I was going to have to make a change. The scariest moment in your life is real clarity without options, and I got all I needed that morning. We had received a huge amount of snowfall overnight and there was so much snow the piles were above the roof of my truck. The family next door woke me with their snowblower, and I grabbed a shovel and a camera to capture the ridiculous amount of snow we had. As I stood there admiring my shoveling job the neighbors dog walked over and stared up at me, peering into my soul. He lingered, staring up at me, and I snapped this picture. If you look close enough you can see a reflection of me in 2004, in his eyes.

     I’m not sure what he saw, or what he understood from looking at me. But minutes later the sun came out, and my life slowly started to change. Shortly after, I moved to Liverpool, got a personal trainer, and connected with some friends. I always think back to that day, to that dog, and wonder why he needed to see me hit the bottom, why he needed to see it in my eyes to be sure. I’m not sure I received any guidance that day, but I definitely knew someone was watching out for me.



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