I sit here free with my mind, the trees, and a mosquito. I am love. I am earth. I am peace. Still I wonder. I wonder about the future. Tomorrow, Sunday night, Tuesday morning, March, April, May, September. I want to feel this-- this serenity, fulfilled, and loved in every moment. I want to capture it and have it ready in a pre-filled syringe to shoot up, whenever I need it. On a bad day, in the winter, when I feel less than. I am lucky, I think. But what is luck really? Unrelated coincidences? This is not that. I am loved--that's what this is. I am here because I have chosen this life. I am here because I believe in putting myself and my relationship with N first, above work and everything else. I am already a more evolved version of my parents, I think. Isn't it glorious to be able to create another being that is somehow a better version of yourself? My wish is to be a successful artist, but at what cost? Am I more interested in being successful or loving every moment of my life? Although in my soul, in the nucleus of every cell that is me, I know the latter is more important than the former, I sit wondering why I can't define success on my own terms. Why does it have to be about what others say, think, acknowledge? Just because I am writing a novel without a book deal, just because I am taking a ballet class without being in a company, just because I have a blog, without being a published writer Does it mean that I am not successful? I sit here under the toasty sunlight calmed by the island breeze. I sit here listening to the sea's current and the light hum of my lover sleeping. Nothing else matters. Not the test scores at the end of the year. Not the cold temperatures that taunt me to care. Not the apathy of others I work with. Nothing. I am successful here in my flip-flops, un-showered, releasing the sweet and salty aroma of sunblock and the Caribbean sea. I am loved. I love. I am successful.
Because there are so many articles and blogs and conversations that are so filled with how awful it is to be a teacher today and because there is so much that can make me get so frustrated that I want to scream, I am writing this post as a reminder mostly to myself and anyone else who is willing to choose to see the other side of the coin– at least for a day.
7 Reasons I am Still a Teacher:
1. I am never bored at my job. Not even once!
2. My students miss me when I am sick or take off for any other reason. The first words out of their mouth is usually: “Ms. C! Don’t ever take off again! We missed you!”
3. I get to pretend that any success that comes to my students are obviously due to my influence in their lives.
4. 7th graders make me laugh–out loud, a deep, from the belly type of laugh, one that is rambunctious, and brilliant.
5. At every school that I’ve ever worked (it’s been 4, so far), I am surrounded by adults who support me and have become friends whom I can call to share, vent, workshop a lesson that I can’t seem to wrap my brain around, or just chat about nothing.
6. With each challenge–whether it be parents, students, administration, or other teachers, comes growth. It is the one profession that in order to move forward to the next year, I have to look inward and grow into a better person.
7. Just when all the holidays are over and you are sitting with a few extra pounds and the temperatures drop, it snows. Then, I get a sequence of text messages from my colleagues and friends congratulating me on achieving a snow day.
So, yes the work I do, we do, is a lot which is an understatement really. Some days I am so exhausted that I envy the workers at Target and Whole Foods. Some days I rush home to share the funniest thing that a student did or said with N. Some days I rush home to cry about feeling demoralized. All days I hope to remember that I am in classroom because it allows me the freedom to grow, persevere, and most importantly laugh out loud.
This week Modern Family aired an episode in which Alex the younger, super together, daughter in the Dunphy family has a “breakdown” on her sixteenth birthday. Hours following the breakdown, she found herself a counselor and made an appointment because she is that responsible. As I watched Alex in her therapy session, I began to remember it all. My childhood and teen years. My internal conflict of on one hand this uncontrollable desire to be the best at everything and on the other this equally uncontrollable need to rebel against it all and be the cool girl. I lived literally on a roller coaster; one year getting straight A’s and the next almost failing a few classes, skipping, getting drunk in the daylight.
If you met me today or during my straight A’s years you wouldn’t believe that this other girl also resides inside me! I have always put so much pressure on myself to be better, the best, acknowledged by others. Last night, I was again reminded of that girl; the one that Modern Family‘s Alex portrays so well. We learned flip turns in my Lap Swim class. It is the first time I’ve attempted it and of course my expectations were abnormally high! I thought, my instructor would teach me how and I’d easily execute a flip turn and swim off into the sunset. (I am after all the female Don Quixote!).
When this didn’t happen, I was hurt, embarrassed, feeling generally lesser than, filled with chlorine. With each attempt I sank a little further into a pool of inadequacy. I looked at the one girl in class who just did it and looked great doing it. Ignoring the fact that this was the first time that I had attempted this: a somersault in water. Ignoring the fact that until this past August, I didn’t even know how to breathe and swim without feeling like drowning.
Unrealistic Expectations. You rule me. Even when I beg for you to leave.
Unrealistic Expectations and Comparisons are the detriment of my growth as learner. The moment I start comparing myself to others and their abilities or their journeys, I lose the ability to move forward. Knowing this and feeling this, however are two separate things. Knowing this means I can say it at anytime and even explain it very articulately to my students, friends, and family. Feeling it means letting go. Letting go of my insane expectation that the first time I learn something new, I am suddenly an expert, an Olympian.
Last week, I was so happy remembering that I am human and imperfect by design. I even celebrated it. Perhaps this week, I am still reminded of my humanity. Sometimes a girl has unrealistic expectations. She attempts a somersault and doesn’t tuck in tight enough to aid the rotation and flies up to the surface to inhale and try again.
Swimming in a sea of perfection I swallow it down drowning in chlorine She's better He's better they're all better What am I? Right left right breathe in right exhale exhale exhale "it's humbling," she says expecting to be perfect the first time in a new pool after an injury I look and remember grateful that today I'm not her I'm not perfect and actually don't care! Shivering in the lane I wait my turn I take off swiftly: my favorite stroke Kick, glide, breathe, repeat I am powerful I am strong I am confident imperfectly! I look to my right and want to yell: it's not humbling, It's perfect It's beautiful It's... It's okay! Instead, I smile and crack a joke or two We laugh and laugh and say our goodbyes until next time until next time with hope and courage we will return to dive in again.
At the beginning of this year, a colleague and friend told me that I was born to lead, but that I must learn to follow first. It was a time when I had made the decision to co-chair the English Department at my school. It got me thinking about the definition of a good leader. Forbes says that the top ten qualities of a good leader are honesty, ability to delegate, communication, sense of humor, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition, and the ability to inspire. Because this is second time managing adults and because I failed at it so miserably the first time, I come to this role with much apprehension. Unsure of what “follow” means. I have to learn to follow before I can lead said my friend and Mr. Ben Franklin. What does that really mean? Follow whom? The rules? The administration? The universe or god or whomever you may believe is out their guiding you with divinity? I mean I often tell my students don’t follow, lead.
As a teen and into my adulthood, I have prided myself in being a rebel. It is so much a part of my identity and my self-esteem. I thought that being rebellious made me the best or better than others. I thought it defined me and made me a better teacher. So much so that I made decisions without listening to others’ opinions about curriculum always thinking that I knew best. It is very hard to follow anyone in general and the rules specifically. My parents often tell me that from birth I marched to the beat of my own drum, ignoring all adult advice and rules. So when I was told to follow, it’s no surprise that I got confused. I don’t know how. I am so used to being the Queen Bee that I don’t know what its like to be a worker bee; one that supports and allows others to shine and allows life to unfold in complete and intentional imperfection. It was the role I played growing up in my family. I did it all and received accolades for it. I used to define, and perhaps to some extent, still define followers as weaker than those who lead.
This past September, I got the gift to this same colleague as my grade-level partner teacher. She follows rules. If she rebels, she does it in a way that no one would ever know. It’s magical to watch. Unlike me, who, when rebelling sets off fireworks to alert everyone that rebellion is now happening in Room C121. Working with Mrs. __ has allowed me a moment to take an easier road, one paved by the district. AKA I am following the rules more than I ever have in my eight years of teaching. What this has brought me is sleep-filled nights, less anxiety, less internal conflict, and less frustration.
So, I am following–something I never thought I’d ever do. Thus far, I learned that I don’t have to sacrifice myself and my passion for teaching certain topics. No, instead there is room for both–me and the district’s standards. While, there are days when I wish I had more freedom and autonomy. The truth is both of those ideals trigger many negatives in my life. I would like to be a serene person in life. In order for me to achieve the serenity that I seek, I must follow. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Conforming used to be a curse word in my vocabulary; the worst insult anyone could every spring on me. However, conforming or following allows me to live a more balanced life. It allows me to let go a little.
Then, what does to following really mean? Perhaps it means to let go and loosen my grip on life a little, allowing myself to watch things happen; you know take the back seat and look out the window as the beautiful countryside passes by. It something I often forget to do. Managing adults is hard, but the truth is some of what I’ve tried to do is not manage, but control. Controlling adults is impossible. What we as a department will accomplish this year is what we create together. It has nothing to do with a single person, but the group. Today I am loosening my grip on life and the department that I’m supposed to be co-chairing so that I can look out the window and watch the clouds glide past the sun creating large, beautiful shadows on the grass. Grateful for the progress I’ve made and hopeful for the learning that’s on its way.
I slipped on my Women's size 6 gray and teal Chuck Taylor's and stood up it was 70 degrees outside December A slight summer-like breeze brushed through the apartment hugging me wishing me luck All my belongings packed, stacked outside in a large truck the inside empty-- I couldn't help but remember that first day I walked into this very home 2 & 1/2 years ago empty just like this minus all the love and comfort our first place as husband and wife the place --where I found my job the place --where I started my novel the place the home my home The sun warmed my back I memorized the blue walls the very color that we had chosen holding hands --compromising. "you ready?" he asked placing his hand on the small of my back hand-in-hand we walked out leaving it behind: our first place allowing the sadness to dissolve into the new the new love the new comfort that would be our-- my sweet home.
Since it’s January and every year around this time I reclaim it all with giant hot-air balloon sized dreams and goals. Since a close friend of mine is considering starting a blog herself. It seems right to consider who I am as a blogger. I am dream2write. A gal who never thought she would write well; one who got mostly C’s on her essays through college. I started this journey with a dream. A dream to write about the love of my life: food. A dream to write publicly about not just my dreams but all that I learn day-to-day. I started this journey 2 years ago scared and excited. Yeah, I had that dream. You know the Carrie Bradshaw one in which a publisher stumbles upon my blog and magically offers me a book deal and I quit my job and become a New York Times Bestseller.
Two years later, I blog for some of those same reasons, but have evolved. I learned that I don’t need to be perfect as a writer. Additionally, I realized that writing fiction is also a huge part of my identity. I discovered that it’s not just about food, but about life in general that sparks my passion to write. This blog evolved and yet remains the same: It’s still about my experiences through taste and travel, but now it’s also about those little moments that are easily forgotten at the day’s end. Little pockets of gratitude, learning, frustration that shift and affirm my perspective on life.
So what, who cares? Who cares about my point of view? Who cares about what I have to say? With whom do I really belong in this blogging community? Ugh! I don’t know. Claiming the answers to these questions require clarity–a trait that I do not often possess, at least not today. I belong to the people who are able to connect with a post, a paragraph, a sentence, a word that I have written. I belong with artists. (Something I never saw myself as. In fact, in my youth, I often told others my brother’s the musician; I’m just a hard worker.) I belong with those who care to be better people, those who care to continue to work on becoming their best selves–emotionally and mentally. I belong here.
I help. Do I help? How can this measly blog help anything in this boundless world? I hope to put a bit of truth out there. I hope to help by allowing others to possibly see the world with a different perspective, through a new lens. (Not a lofty goal at all!) I think I want to help by taking a risk and putting myself out there without a Instagram filter. I hope to help by allowing those who read this blog to feel a connection–one that is simple, easy, human.
So there it is.
I am a blogger, a writer, an artist.
I blog on WordPress in America among thousands of fellow bloggers.
I help by reflecting on and demonstrating my imperfect self; one whose purpose is to be human and nothing more.