I chose the title above because sometimes life gives you you-know-what (a four letter word for fertilizer, that is), but it changes a person’s direction and helps them grow. As. Mephistopheles says in Goethe’s Faust, “I am a part of the power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.” So here are two examples from my life.
When I was in grade school, I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up. (I cover this in more detail in my memoir, Immaculate Misconceptions: Tales of Catholic School, available on Amazon.) But I hit a wall in high school freshmen biology; the Kreb cycle became my undoing. Suddenly I had no direction.
Then, a nun named Sister Francis Borgia stepped in and filled the void. Her English class inspired me to look closely at literature, art, and film. Now I had a new direction in life, in the Arts, a direction I have followed ever since through what I would call a successful career.
The second example occurred in grad school for my PhD. One of my professors told me point blank that he didn’t think I would be capable of writing and completing a dissertation. (More on this on the short video “Inspiration,” on my YouTube channel stephenschrum.) His negativity inspired me to keep trying, to keep striving, as my hero Faust does in Goethe’s dramatic poem. In fact, Goethe’s Faust became the subject of that dissertation.
In my teaching career I always tried to encourage and not discourage students. That approach came from my experiences. Of course, you sometimes need those negative moments to react against, but why not help students find and navigate their paths through positivity?