I Believe That I Am Expendable

Mary - Worth, Illinois
Entered on May 13, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65


I believe that I am expendable. The first time I expressed this belief was in a poem created during a fine arts workshop for teachers. The colleague who critiqued my poem nodded approvingly until she read the line which stated my belief. She lifted her eyes and said, “That is NOT true. No one can teach your music classes the way you do.” “I’m saying that I can be replaced, not that I’m not unique,” I argued. She persisted in her denial. I explained that, were I to call in sick, my students would not be left without a teacher. The administration would either secure a substitute, cancel music classes, or divide the students among willing co-workers so their classroom teachers could receive the planning time which music class generally afforded them. My colleague reluctantly agreed.

This incident occurred twenty years ago, allowing me sufficient time to test my belief. When my parents needed assistance following surgery, I took the twelve weeks allowed by the Family and Medical Leave Act to help them remain at home during rehabilitation. Not one, but two willing substitutes handled my classes magnificently. Years later, I used another twelve-week leave to get through chemotherapy. Again two talented substitutes, different than the original ones, joyfully managed my workload. Having experienced two leaves-of-absence with no ill effects, I eventually retired, knowing that whatever good I had accomplished would be embellished, not diminished.

It may seem depressing to think that my best efforts can be duplicated, even exceeded, by another. Not so. I think my expendability is a call to perform each daily task with as much love as possible. In the end, I believe I will be remembered more for HOW I’ve reached my accomplishments than THAT I’ve reached them. I will not fear being replaced.