A new year has begun and it is one day before my 44th birthday, so it seems like a good time to take stock. This post is self-reflective and will be most informative and helpful to me unless it sparks self-reflection in others. Nevertheless, it is essential to step back every once in a while and look at myself from a wider lens. With that in mind, here is what I have learned up to this point (or think I have learned because, as we know, learning is fragile):
1) I still love my job, even though I would be hard-pressed to capture a description of said-job in a single paragraph. I help teachers help students. I help superintendents make plans real. I help locate and develop resources for learning. I…help. Like my father before me, I am a servant leader. But what really gets me fired up is the perfect combination of creativity and problem-solving mixed in with emotion and commitment. I like thinking. And I get to that every day. What a gift and how fortunate that I stumbled on this job when I was never even aware it could exist twenty years ago. Sometimes stress gets me down. Sometimes politics are overwhelming. But what keeps me here is the joy I get from thinking and the freedom to do it.
2) I think kids are the bees knees. Really and truly. I teach art classes every week even when I don’t think I have the energy because time with children fills my cup instead of emptying it. It has always been like this. It keeps me grounded and makes my heart soar at the same time. I don’t know why this is the case but the further I get in my career, the more it is so. Children are fun. Children are potential. Children are both strong and vulnerable. I am very aware of how lucky I am to have found a career that I enjoy so much. I serve children by making decisions each day to benefit them. This is my purpose and I am happy with that.
3) I continue to work on balance but I am getting better at recognizing when I am heading away from it. I, like many people, occasionally find my life controlling me instead of me controlling my life. Of course, decisions I make always impact these results but sometimes I feel like it is too late to regain control. I think this may be a reality of who I am. It is comes hand-in-hand with passion. Sometimes my love and commitment of something causes me to over-extend. Nevertheless, I can now pick up the clues that tell me I am headed for imbalance. I can speak it aloud and pull back in time…most of the time. I also recognize that my body will force me to notice if my brain doesn’t (illness, fatigue).
4) I am collaborative. I need to think with others. When I can’t, I am less effective, less productive and less creative. I also realize that some people do not share my vision and desire for collaboration, or they do, but I am not someone with whom they choose to collaborate. This is difficult for me.
5) I am sensitive. This means I am skilled at “reading a crowd” but I also over-analyze and take too much responsibility for the feelings of others. I let things get to me. I feel bad for longer than is healthy. I can get caught in a downward spiral and I have to work really hard at letting things go. Usually, I have to tell myself to let it go two or three times before I do. I continue to work on this one.
6) I am impatient. I want things to get better NOW. Luckily, I have others who remind me that the world cannot and should not move at the pace I want it to. Slowing down is a personal goal and tied to this is my continued goal of listening and letting others think. When I do, good things happen.
There we have it – my strengths and challenges in six easy points. Luckily, I have colleagues who share my vision but think differently from me and so push me, contain me and question me; a family who loves and supports me; and opportunities to change, reflect and grow. I know how fortunate I am and I resolve to take care of myself so I can continue to serve others. 2014 and year 45, bring it on. I am ready.