Saturday, June 12, 2010
Welcome to LOETONIP
Welcome to my new blog, “Letters of Encouragement to Nobody in Particular.” My name is Ryan Haczynski and I am a 34 year old Social Studies teacher who resides in Tampa. Over the past couple of years, I’ve undergone some major changes in my life that have affected not only how I live, but who I am. Well, that may not be accurate. Maybe it is better to say that I’ve realized these changes in the last two years; they were certainly taking place all along throughout the course of my life, I just didn’t recognize that fact. Since noticing these changes, my life has been completely altered for the better. As a teacher, I’ve tried to show my students how something as simple as our thoughts can create the meaning we so desperately crave from life.
Though I’ve always enjoyed writing as a hobby and at one point toyed with the notion of trying to make it my profession, it wasn’t for me. I think the real reason it wasn’t for me was my intended goal was inherently misdirected—fame. I originally concocted this fantasy in my mid-twenties, inevitably when an idea such as fame still fascinated my mind. I don’t think I wanted to be famous for what it could bring me, like money or clout, but for what it could leave behind. A legacy. The next great American novel, or something of that sort. Stripped of this desire, I still enjoy writing but simply for its personal catharsis. Plus, deep down, I’ll always be a teacher. It is my dharma, my duty. I can’t even begin to imagine myself in any other role or career. Teacher first, writer second. Sometimes these worlds overlap—and it’s been happening a lot more lately.
Over the last year especially, I’ve had the great fortune to make a special connection with my students. This past year was the second year I taught AP Human Geography, which is a class that encompasses how the world works. The first half is centered on how human beings interact with one another (culture, language, religion, migration, etc), whereas the second half is centered on how human beings interact with their environs (development, agriculture, industry, urban patterns, etc). You can imagine how teaching a course like this lends itself to broader philosophical inquires about life. During many of these dialogues, students would wrestle with questions that have no easy answers and I would often supply answers through personal anecdotes about experiences that I had had in my own life that somehow reflected a possible answer to their question(s).
And then I started to write these letters…
I can’t explain why, but I’m a bit of a neo-Luddite. Being a Gen-Xer, I grew up with technology and can appreciate it for what it is—a tool; a means to an end. My students, inquisitive little Millenials that they are, view technology as an end in itself. One day, during one of my famous “rants,” I was discussing how technology actually breeds a sense of isolation for the human being. Think of how commonplace it has become for families to be in the same room but all doing different things. There’s a great Sprint commercial on television now that shows a family having “quality family time,” while the father finishes his presentation on his laptop, the daughter is texting like mad, and the youngest child, a boy, is playing a handheld video game. This is irony at its finest. But that doesn’t make it any less true. It was during this rant that I used the example of how little time we have for one another in today’s ridiculously busy society. People used to exchange letters, then it became phone calls, then email, and now texting. Each time the message gets shorter and more impersonal. For whatever reason, this became a personal affront to me. I started to write letters to people. Letter writing has become a dying art. I am personally trying to combat that trend. I don’t have any unrealistic expectations about my efforts to bring back letters; it is a throwback and will never be anything otherwise.
The first letter I wrote this year was to my students. In it, I described the personal metamorphosis I had been undergoing and told my students that this was possible for them too. That was the first day of school. Believe me, they thought I was weird. I know I’m weird, so it all works out for the best. At the end of each quarter, I wrote letters to the parents and students. Just prior to Winter Break, I wrote an open letter for all of my students called “All I Want for Christmas” in response to a student’s question. And the letters just kept coming. Before they took their AP exam, another letter. Then I was asked to write a letter to this year’s graduating class for the senior/final edition of the school newspaper. The greatest honor bestowed upon me this year, however, was being selected by our seniors to be the guest speaker at our inaugural Honor Court Banquet, which prompted me to lock myself in a room for 5 hours and type a 3,000 word letter to them.
The crazy thing about all this is that people tell me to keep the letters coming. Several of my coworkers, friends, and family members have all told me to “write a book or something.” While I don’t think I have enough time or talent to write a book, these letters keep pouring out of me. I think in some ways they are some of the best writing I’ve ever done because it is completely honest and, most importantly, not for myself. In an effort to capitalize on this momentum, I started this blog. These letters, then, are part of my small contribution to the world. I believe our main goal in life is to leave this world a slightly better place than when we initially encountered it. My letters will be personal and true. Part of me thinks it would be crazy to admit some of the things that have happened in my life, but it is only in facing those former challenges that I have become who I am now—or who I am in the process of becoming (it’ll make sense later). I hope that what I’ve learned from life thus far will inspire you in some way to make the changes in your own life. I’ve only just discovered how truly powerful each and every one of us really is, and I want you to feel you are powerful beyond all measure as well.
I should have my first letter posted soon.
Thanks for stopping by,