Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time. A not-so-wise person once told me that I am a “future thinker.” For someone that I esteem to be not-so-wise, this was a rather shrewd observation of my character. Said person made this observation in contrast to living in the moment, which is never easy to do.
The last couple of weeks have felt very present-minded. Not thinking so much about Monday on Sunday, Tuesday on Monday, lunch at breakfast. Trying to appreciate each moment for what it is. Whether it’s a good or a not-so-good moment. And funnily enough, this new-found kinda sorta nirvana has produced the sanest three weeks of my school year. And best grades (overall) from my students. And most calmly composed and well-thought-out lesson plans.
The irony of finding this (maybe temporary) peace during January is not lost on me. Generally, each year’s kick-off month is marked by bleak skies, fleeting hours of sunshine and long evenings of pining for summer. Amazingly enough, 3/4 of this usually dreary time has flown past and I am even looking forward to tomorrow morning. (Maybe it’s because I’m on duty this weekend, so feel like I didn’t have much of one. A weekend, I mean. But I’d prefer to spin it and think it’s because I’m looking forward to the week.)
Even more shocking than a quick January is that I am actually looking forward to February. (No weekends on duty and one long weekend of course sweeten the deal more than a typical month #2 of the year, but I’m also looking forward to it in terms of my classes.) I’m ready to get kids excited about direct objects, reading comprehension tips and si clauses….
Right. Well. Let’s not over-stretch it.
Here’s from whence I think my newly acquired peace came:
1. feeling more relaxed in my role, and
2. embracing the idea that I can only do so much. My new year’s resolution this year was …. wait for it ….
To not place expectations on myself. That might sound odd, but I tend to get crazily intimidated by details and to-do lists and illusory perfection. When I let that happen, I always feel like I’ve failed, no matter how great things might have turned out. As 2009 came to a close, a very wise person (yep, my mother) advised me that I could not continue in that same vein. She helped me remember me I cannot force my students to learn. I cannot sit with them and force a pencil to their hand. And gently reminded me that I cannot do everything right, and that I will only become crazy(ier) should I continue with these ridiculous expectations.
Per the (not-so) usual, I played the part of obedient daughter and actually listened to my mother. I examined her insights, turning them every which way in my head and finally concluded that she was right. I tend to be disappointed in myself because I spend so much time thinking about what I should do rather than what I could do. In my life at this exact moment, the should would be 5 in-depth lesson plans plus additional options for outrageously differently paced students. Possible? Nope. But the coulds (taking a deep breath when I feel myself teetering on the edge, re-arranging my desk to have my many folders and books more accessible, giving cultural enrichment on Fridays as a reward for a long, hard week of grammar), have become clearer to me in recent weeks. And somehow this mountainous workload seems a teeny bit less like Everest and a teeny bit more, like, say, the Rockies.
Obviously I wanted to share this with my approximately 10 readers because turning shoulds into coulds can apply to anyone’s life, in whatever context speaks to you at the moment. Career. School. Relationship. Friendship. Family. Outfit choosing. (Sorry I had to put that one in. Sometimes it’s agonizing.)
The point is, at a certain point, you just have to close your eyes, hope for the best, and trust that, with some hard work and optimism, things will work out. It’s nice to not think so much about what the next step is or where next month will lead, and just give 100% to the day’s project … whether it’s direct objects, reading comprehension, si clauses … or deciding between Vans, Chucks or Paul Smith tennis shoes.