In South Texas, leaves fall in December. In January, they are piled up high, smelling earthy and soft. As a child, I loved playing in the leaves, kicking them high in the air as I walked to and from school. I loved the leaves’ fragility, their texture, the sound they made scraping across the concrete. I loved knowing that I could kick the leaves only for a short time each year. Kicking leaves felt special. As a child, it never occurred to me if anyone noticed me kicking leaves. I simply didn’t care.
Like most people, as an adult, I have thought too much about what others think, how they’ll judge, that they’ll judge, and I have limited what I do because of that fear. With students, I strive to demonstrate to them a person who does not shy away from controversy, difficulty, or a challenge, someone who will stand up and do what’s right … no matter the cost. I’m not always successful at this. I do wrong things often. I don’t stand up when I know I should. Sometimes I find myself going along just because it’s easy, because I fear, because I fear the consequences of standing up and challenging. I hate that I fear. But these are choices I make. I can make other choices, too.
Today, I still love kicking in the leaves– without shoes, even– and without a care of what others might think.