Hey ATC Family,
I do about one of these a year, and before I start I’d like to express gratitude for all of the teachers in this program. I believe you are engaging in the hardest work we have available in this country — it’s deeply personal and requires a bending and morphing of every part of you (mind, identity, emotions, and intentions) to a degree that never seems to feel fair. So thank you for trying amid devastatingly hard circumstances. It is incredibly inspirational for others and it means you believe.
Our program and staff wouldn’t be here if we didn’t fully believe that you could do this well. So if you’re someone that is currently feeling near their deepest rut, the most challenging professional and personal part of your life that you can remember, please know that for what its worth one thing is certain to me: if you keep trying you are going to be stronger for it–even it feels like failure sometimes–and others are going to be stronger too. Ask me how I know.
The last time I wrote for the blast I went a little personal. It was about emotional intelligence and specifically the “Oh” moment I had as a first semester first year ALE teacher when I was feeling like a massive failure. In that moment, I realized how much choice I had in how I felt (“my thoughts control how I feel, I can control my thoughts, I can control how I feel!” type of thing). Today, I want to share my personal experience around wisdom and action.
The short version is that in the past year I experienced the lowest, most painful personal moments of my life and I find myself now, after a hard year, feeling sustainably hopeful again. It started with me realizing that I was fundamentally in a losing position: at the basic core level of my existence, I didn’t consistently love myself. (If this isn’t your language I promise this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.) I’ve been working to do that consistently, and the findings have been good for me. I recommend you show up for yourself every day first, then work to show up for others.
Now, a longer version…
We know we learn from other people, and we know we learn from stories. We know this from our current lives and we know this when we look at human history and the most effective and original ways that information was ever shared. When I say wisdom, I’m meaning the things that humans know; the ways of living, thinking, doing, and being that we’ve learned collectively through individual and group experience; the ways that are “better” than others.
Above, I mentioned that as a struggling novice teacher I had some wonderful moment of seeming epiphany – where I learned that I had lot more control over the way I felt than I had realized. Now was that actually an epiphany? Arguably no, because the wisdom was already there and I had already been shown many times (in many ways) that I had that power. It just took me failing to my own maximum degree of rock-bottomness (I think my body was about to perish from this earth) before I took the wisdom. I think it’s fair to state we have all been exposed to wisdom and that we certainly all have access to it…it’s just maybe a matter of “are we using it or not?”
Something about wisdom I find intriguing has to do with that moment when you meet an amazing human that actually “practices what they preach” — when you meet someone that is actually using their wisdom in their own lives, taking wisdom and making action.
Why does this moment feel so rare and special to me? Maybe my lens is blurred, I don’t know. In my experience, most of us seem to be able to give great advice to others. People can come forward with their struggles and ask for advice and most all of us can give them the info that will help them. We know this. The thing for me is that it feels so rare to come along someone that is actually doing said advice for themselves consistently. Also, the less the person giving the advice is practicing the advice, the less powerful we seem to let the advice be. We find ourselves in positions, especially as teenagers and young adults asking a presumed authority, “yea but why are you not actually being true to that yourself?”
Flip the script: you know what it’s like being that teacher on the soapbox and students are looking at you like, “wait, is this person actually legit? Are they living what they’re telling us or are they just another of the million older folks I see every day that aren’t actually happy and aren’t actually doing what they said or that they believe?” A lot of times it feels like kids and everyone else are looking for the answer to be “Nope, this person is a hypocrite.” It’s like a part of us is the constant critic, potentially by design to keep real work from happening (ya know, cause its hard) but I spend a lot of free time wondering why that is and I promise I’m getting to a point…
Why can we give friends, family, loved ones, students, coworkers, etc. all the great advice they need, while we don’t actually show up for ourselves in that same way consistently? Is it just me that notices this? This year I think I’ve learned something of this answer as it pertains to me.
I think the short answer is that its hard, so we naturally may not want to do it. I think that a much longer answer lies somewhere in a conversation around the human condition. But, this year I’ve learned that the right answer, for me, is around the notion that the problem actually starts with me. I’ve learned more this year than ever that the biggest detriment to me actually living by my wisdom, lies in my core value around myself.
I’ve realized (through monitoring my actions, self-talk, interactions, feelings, etc.) that I haven’t really been fully loving myself, that I’ve only been loving myself conditionally. I’ve realized that I have to choose myself every day. I have to decide, every day, that I’m worth effort. Literally, if I don’t make that affirmation to some degree each day, then I won’t be there for myself in those moments when I’m pressed the hardest and I’m fighting my impulses. (When I was a teacher, I had never been pressed so hard, moment to moment, all day, to be kind and loving and patient….and, guess what, this is the same in a romantic partnership).
Anyways, feel free to ask my about how I show up for myself every day. I’d be glad to share what I do and how I feel it helps. These things are my non-negotiables. If I don’t do them, all bets are off; I’ve learned that the hard way.
As far as you go, as you move into the new year, I’m wondering if you feel like you are completely loving yourself and showing up for yourself every day?
Are you following your wisdom? Do you notice that when you do one or some of these basic items daily that you feel better and do better: journaling, praying, meditating, exercising, stretching, eating well, practicing loving kindness, giving time, etc?
Or at least you probably know what the things are that you can do and control that make you feel better. And the question is: are you doing them consistently? And if no, the bigger question is, why not?
These things are your wisdom. Are you using your wisdom or no? I challenge you to ask yourself the question I had to ask myself.
All the best,