By Louis De Lauro
I remember visiting Russia. It felt like another universe.
I remember wearing really short gym shorts provided by my middle school in the 1980’s. The shorts made me feel nearly naked and embarrassed. I remember traveling to China and walking the streets alone looking for the best dumplings; an old man told me he was impressed by the grandness of my nose. Yes, I have a big nose.
I remember when I was a kid and my friends and I tried every sport we could. We even raced our bikes around the school track. We never considered that our bikes might have damaged the track. It was the 80’s. We should have worn helmets, but we didn’t. It was intense and invigorating racing on a track, even though I finished last.
I remember my Uncle Teddy giving me fish eyes to taste when I was a kid. I remember thinking they were actually olives and he called them fish eyes just to freak me out. The truth is they were fish eyes. I remember being afraid to walk on the glass floor at the CN Tower in Toronto over 100 floors above the ground. I remember my hands sweating and having trouble breathing. I remember my wife rolling around on the glass floor and laughing.
I remember teaching so many friends to juggle. Some embraced juggling and still enjoy juggling today. Others wanted to quit in two minutes claiming they were too klutzy and it was too hard. I remember thinking, “I am klutzier than you, my friend. Don’t quit. Don’t quit.”
Maybe the best way to learn to step outside your comfort zone is to visit a foreign country. I have been to China and Russia and a few others. Maybe you will meet an old man in China who will notice your over-sized nose or pretty green eyes. Maybe it’s best to simply embrace trying a brand new skill like skiing or surfing or juggling. Yes, you can try juggling anywhere, and it will take you out of your comfort zone. Please don’t quit after two minutes.
Doing something new always makes me uncomfortable for a few minutes. But I like feeling uncomfortable. I like not having a clue. The reward for learning the new skill or living through the experience is big and almost always worth it!
In the future, I want to learn a new language. I speak a bit of Spanish, but I want to spend months or a year in a South America really immersing myself in the language. Spanish is beautiful; I want to sound beautiful when I speak. I also want to become close friends with someone from the opposite political party. We all need to find a new friend who thinks differently than we do. I want my new friend and I to hate each other and love each other.
Staying in a rut and not trying new things makes you feel like you are not quite living—just waking up and falling asleep. I did not have an epiphany that I needed to try new things, it just gradually became my way. My Grandma Grace was a daring soul. She embraced life each day, and I truly admired her. Now that she’s gone, I want to be like her.
Years ago, I volunteered at a camp for children with cancer. It was and still is the best thing I do. I have brought over 75 college students to camps for children with cancer to volunteer, and I’m really proud of myself for that.
Sometimes when I’m watching television, I will leave on a hockey game. I’m not a fan. I like baseball and football. I don’t mind basketball. I always want to give hockey a chance. So far I still absolutely hate hockey, but I’m trying. The puck is too small to see on television. I can’t relate to men on skates. Hockey is awful, a train wreck of a sport. Ice fighting with a score, but I will give it another chance. Go Devils!
I will watch any movie: good, bad, or ugly. I am too willing to give movies a chance. I should probably watch less. I watched Sharknado and almost liked it. Something might be wrong with me. I read the Hunger Games and loved it! It’s a book for teens and tweens about a girl who fights for her life. Before reading it, I only read Malcolm Gladwell and books about Buddhism and baseball. Maybe I should read Twilight next?
Five years ago I did not know how to use a computer, and then I did. I studied and attended workshops. Little kids at school think I’m a tech wizard. Funny, because five years ago I only knew how to use email and surf the net.
Before retiring from teaching:
I made sandwiches at Panera.
I worked the front desk of an Emergency Room.
I taught children with severe behavior issues to juggle.
I taught children at a Yeshiva to play chess.
I danced on Broadway!
No, I didn’t dance on Broadway. But I took my daughter to see Matilda, Stomp, and the Blue Man Group. You should see these shows too. In the spring, we are seeing Frozen on Broadway!
I am teaching again, this time at a small Catholic Academy in Pennsylvania. It feels like another universe. I practice Buddhism now. I like to mediate. I like to breathe. I like to use the right words. I like to find beauty in little things I never noticed before. I like to step outside my comfort zone.
Louis De Lauro has taught elementary and middle school students for 27 years in NJ and PA. He is also a loving husband, dad, son, and friend. In April of 2017, his short story about his wife and daughter “Right from the Start” was published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Best Mom Ever.” Back in 2007, Louis was featured in the award-winning documentary “Juggling Life” about the charity he founded, Juggling Life Inc. The charity recruits and trains volunteers to teach juggling and chess at camps for children with cancer. In 2008, he was featured in a Star Ledger Series called “I Am New Jersey.” In 2011, Louis had four submissions published in the Pearson textbook, “Child and Adolescent Development” by Woolfolk and Perry. Louis enjoys writing about teaching, family, friendship, and Buddhism.
Editor: John Pendall