Saturday, November 13, 2010

The big picture first, the details second.



I think I might be hyperconscious. Sometimes I feel like I'm so aware of something - or the lack of something - that it starts to interfere with things that it's not even related to.

I have the feeling that that's closely tied to my expectations, and the conversation that Adam and I had about them last year. He made an interesting point, and I can follow it: if the expectation is less, then there is a better chance of it being met.

But I'm not sure I buy it. He and I have had a lot of conversations about surrounding ourselves with great people. I have done that, and done it purposefully. No one that's in my life is there by mistake; I have made a conscious decision to continue and actively work on my relationship with them. So then is it wrong to expect that they would have done so as well? Is it really that high of an expectation to want people to make a little effort?

I don't really think it is. The problem, though, is that I focus on the non-effort. It seems to me that I spend a lot of time thinking about the people in my life, saving up stories to tell them or asking to spend time with them- what better compliment is there than saying, I could be spending this time alone or with someone else, but I choose to spend it with you. I think that because I'm so aware of my desire to do that, to spend as much time as possible with the people I care for, that when I want to and I can't, it's hard for me to enjoy the alone time. I don't expect someone to want to spend every minute of every day with me - because frankly, that's exhausting - but there's something about the closeness of spending a lot of time with someone that's really really nice.

And I guess that's what I'm missing. I feel like my connections with people are spotty right now, even with the people I live with. I'm not sure if that's because I'm a first year teacher and I'm already drained, or if it's because of my emotional state, or if it's because I'm just focusing on what's not there instead of looking at what is. Maybe it's that I have high expectations of myself, even higher than the ones I have of others.

I want to be full of life. I want people to look at me and think, she's so alive. Surrounding myself with amazing people and holding myself to a high standard are part of that, so I'm not going to give those up. I think, though, that the way to work towards it is to be aware of the big picture first, and the details second. The other way round is making things quite difficult. I have the feeling that my expectations, both of myself and of others, are being met a lot more frequently than I realize.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yoko, Rufus, and Old Habits




I went to the MOMA this summer, and there was this exhibit there. It was a Yoko Ono exhibit; she'd installed a tree and then provided tags for people to write wishes on. I'd been spending the couple of weeks before going that exhibit feeling really overwhelmed, in great and not so great ways, so I decided to go simple. I wrote a Rufus Wainwright lyric on my side of the tag I was sharing. I guess that's not really a wish, but for me it was less about hoping for something and more about acknowledging where I was. Which I guess has always been something I've wished I could do.

I've always been one of those people that works in extremes. I'm either obsessively thinking about something, or not thinking about it at all. Ok, so maybe that's not strictly true, but I feel like it definitely can be at times. It's really hard for me to stop long enough to enjoy a moment actually in that moment. It's usually only days or months or years later that I can really acknowledge something, and what it meant to me.

I think that's because it's hard for me to trust things. I'm pretty used to just getting to the point of letting my guard down and then poof! whatever it was that I trusted in or felt sure about suddenly has some new quality that I don't know how to deal with or is gone altogether.

I'm not saying that those changes are never instigated by me - because they have been, and will continue to be - but these last couple of times have been doozies. I'm doubting some of my choices right now, even though I know that my first instinct was right and I'll pull through that doubt. I know myself well enough to have figured that out. It's just the going through it that's tough.

I think part of it is that for the last year and a half, I've been actively seeking life. I've been craving new experiences, new people, new thoughts. And it's been great, and difficult, and sometimes I've fallen back into hiding in my room for a few weeks before I'm ready to get out there again. I've been feeling like that lately, like I need to protect myself, and it's been forcing me to think about why. I'm realizing that it's because I'm one of those people who takes a long time to fully trust, and that makes it more impactful when that's shaken.

Not just my trust in others, but in myself, too. I've been letting myself down, and that is not a place I want to be. I'm frustrated with myself for letting little things at work get to me, for struggling to take things in stride, for the fact that I could so easily fall back into old habits. I want to live in the moments as they happen, and not always have my mind set on what happened last year or what comes next. I'm trying really hard not to do that, and I'm getting better. I've been able to say to myself a few times in the last week: This is an amazing moment and I am so thankful for it.

But other days, I'm bad at it. And those days when I'm not so good at it, I remember what I wrote on my card: I saw it in your eyes, what I'm looking for. All the sights of Paris fell inside your iris.

Monday, November 1, 2010

these women

Being a young, female teacher at an all-girls school is crazy.

Every day I encounter crazy amounts of attitude, inappropriate conversations, lack of ambition, overambition, and enough to make me seriously worry about how safe some of my students are. At the end of a day, I can feel a multitude of emotions: despair at how I'm ever going to get them to understand a concept, elation because they understood a concept. Hopelessness because they confided in me and I can't help them, hopefulness because they confided in me and I can help them. Humor, security, anger, exhaustion, the list goes on and on. I wonder some days if I'm strong enough to do this.

But inevitably, something happens to make me realize that they are, in fact, making me stronger. By testing me so consistently, they're helping me to hone my skills at teaching, at trying new techniques, and troubleshooting and giving positive feedback and just generally speaking to people. Through my experiences with them, I'm learning where my boundaries are and how to make them known. I'm learning how to speak my mind clearly and honestly. I'm learning what I believe are the essentials to humanity, what's important to me individually. Though I knew parts of many of these things, it is because of these young ladies that I'm learning to define and articulate it.

This job is incredibly difficult, and anyone who says otherwise has either given up caring, or never did in the first place. To be good at this job is to let it partially overtake you; it's finding the balance that is difficult.


When I see them in class next, I'm going to thank them. They'll probably laugh and say "whatever, Miss", but I know that some day they will remember that moment, and they will know what it is to help another grow.