Thoughts on change.

As I drove to church this morning, I thought about humans’ capacity for change. I’ve often heard that people can’t change. You know, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” I googled that adage and check out the third autofill:

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What? The Bible? And lo and behold it’s right there in Jeremiah. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention the last time I read the Old Testament. Anyway,  I suppose I can’t fault those who believe people can’t change–it’s biblical.

Except that verb “can’t” is a sticking point for me. It would mean something entirely different if the phrase was that a leopard doesn’t change his spots. I think that’s what believers of that adage really mean: whatever experiences they’ve had in their lives has led them to the belief that people do not change.

And for some people, I suppose, that adage is true.

But this morning as I thought about change, I remembered that I’m coming up on the 20 year anniversary of the end of my church mission in Montreal, and it’s so obvious to me that people can and do change.

I came home from my mission mostly fluent in French, fully on fire for my church, and laser-focused on getting married. Twenty years later, my French fluency is gone, my relationship with my church is “complicated,” and I’ve reached a peace of sorts that I will never be married.

I’m more active and vocal in my political beliefs, and even as a teacher I’ve changed. I remember my first years in the classroom when I ran low on patience and mercy. Now, I continue to surprise myself when I respond to students who test my patience with a heaping of mercy.

My friend AJ teaches and directs the choirs across the hallway from my classroom. We both have opportunities to work with and reconnect with alumni, and occasionally he’ll name drop a kid that elicits an unkind-ish non-verbal response from me.

And he reminds me, “Isn’t it great that we aren’t the same people we were in high school?”

People can and do change. And I know you can probably give me the names of five people who can’t and don’t change, without even creating a new wrinkle in your brain. I get it.

But I wonder what our lives and relationships would be like if we allowed for the possibility that people can change. I think I might like what that world would be.

Labels and Plans.

On a piece of scratch paper at my sister’s dining room table in Delaware, I wrote this list:

• Apple Distinguished Educator
• Google Certified Teacher
• Certified Journalism Educator
• Adobe Certified Associate
• Piano teacher
• Jazzercise instructor

“I can’t be all of this,” I told her. “I’m trying to, and it’s not good. But I’m not sure what I want to be, or what I should be. I don’t know what I want.”

This mini-meltdown was early in my 2017 summer road trip, and one of many things that occupied my mind as I drove for hours and hours. I eliminated Jazzercise instructor, for now, because while it would be fun, it definitely isn’t necessary. I currently only have two piano students, and I’m not quite ready to let them go. Two is manageable with my schedule, so that label stays, but I’ve also reached a point where when they decide they’ve had enough, so will I.

But the rest? I put my journalism skills to use as I considered each label. Why was it important to me? How would it affect my life, both long and short-term? When would I get all of the work done? Who would I be if I was able to amass each label? What would happen to me if I failed in each attempt to add letters at the end of my email signature?

This exercise proved helpful, as I realized my desire to be an Apple Distinguished Educator was driven by a desire to be part of a club I perceived as “cool.” That’s not a good enough reason to put in the work required for that particular moniker, so now I can cross that off the list.

Which leaves me with three pursuits—a much more manageable endeavor than six.

Luckily, working toward Google Certification and Adobe Certification are goals I can meet concurrently with my teaching load. I teach in a Google school. I teach a class that uses Adobe Creative Cloud exclusively. With the right planning, I can do both. It might take me longer than others, but I’m confident I will succeed.

Which leaves me with Certified (and eventually Master) Journalism Educator.

For 17 years now, all I’ve wanted to be is a newspaper adviser, and now I am. So it makes sense that I should want the backing of a larger organization to recognize not only my love for journalism, but also my capabilities. I’ve put off this particular label because it’s scary. I have to study, take a test—one that is only offered three times a year—and what happens if I fail? I feel like I’ve failed so much lately that taking another chance almost seems foolish.

But then I remember the most important label on that initial list of six: teacher. Educator. What message am I sending to my students if I put something off—something I want—because I’m afraid I’ll fail? And what’s the worst that could happen if I fail, anyway? How on earth can I expect my students to take any risks if I’m standing in front of them unwilling to take risks myself?

So I’ll make a plan and I’ll work hard, and eventually get those certifications and hope my students learn two valuable lessons: first, you don’t have to be everything. And second, fear of failing should never be an excuse not to do something.

Writing Through an Existential Crisis.

I had every intention of blogging every day in 2016, every intention of tracking all my media consumption, every intention of writing my second book. Like decent baseball players, I batted .333 last year for those goals (yay, NaNoWriMo!), but now it’s a new year and time to reassess.

I haven’t had much of a focus on my blog ever. It started as a place to review movies on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, then morphed into a place to vent during grad school, then shifted into a bit of a diary with some educational pieces thrown in from time to time.

I’m not sure how to rebrand at this point, or if I even want to. As a memoirist, this has been a space to force me to craft snapshots of my life in a way that might engage readers, perhaps even make them think. It’s been a place to rant about everything from religion to politics to feminism to mental health to education. But recently, I’ve been wondering if those snapshots reveal too much. When someone googles me and this is the first hit, what can someone learn about me in mere minutes? I always assume the only people reading are my mom and Stueve, but what if they aren’t the only ones reading? Then again, with the sheer volume of content available online, isn’t my little corner of the sky just mostly static?

I’m not sure what the answer is, if there’s an answer at all. I know I love writing. I know my writing is not a hobby. I know I need to write for the same reasons I need to breathe–it gives me life. I know I’m working on a sustainable schedule for blogging this year, something that might strike more of a balance of sharing those snapshots of my life with a dash of restraint. I know I hope to have that schedule ready to go this weekend.

So as the trite writing advice goes, I’ll just write what I know, and hope from there I can figure out what needs to happen next.

If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

 

Bad Feminist.

I have a friend who teaches Sociology and Psychology, and in an interview for The Thunderbeat, I remember her talking about -isms and -ists and how they tend to be divisive, not cohesive. So I’m keeping that in mind as I write this and judge my own feminist failings.

For me, the core of being a feminist means my voice matters just as much as anyone’s, regardless of gender identity. Other elements exist within my feminism, but voice is the core of it all. And every day I get better at this. At church, I am better at allowing my voice to be heard. At work, I am better at not apologizing for my ideas and opinions, and I just share them openly. In my personal relationships, I am better at vocalizing my expectations, fears, and needs. But there is one place I allow my voice to exist in a vacuum.

Sports.

I’ve been a sports fan forever. I was raised by sports fans. I still remember having a crush on Steve Garvey (I was 7), watching David Robinson play at Navy (I was 13),  and camping out for season football tickets at BYU (I was 18). One of my favorite memories of my sophomore year of college was the epic trash talking between me and Jeff from the neighboring mens’ dorm during the NLCS, in which the Braves (my team) faced off against the Pirates (his team). Incidentally, I’m still not convinced Sid Bream was safe, even though it worked to my favor and Jeff had to make me dinner.

I know the jargon, I know the rules, I know the players. And I have opinions about all of it–opinions that are safely sent to my sisters while watching games, and hardly ever posted to Twitter.

It hit me last weekend, while watching a zillion hours of basketball, as I composed and deleted over 20 tweets, that I am mostly silent about sports on Twitter. Part of this is watching what happens to most commentators who happen to be women. Last year when ESPN had an all-female crew calling BYU games, I saw how men reacted on Twitter. Anytime Michelle Beadle tweets opinions about the Spurs, I see how men react on Twitter.

Occasionally, I will pop off on Twitter and the deafening silence of no acknowledgment is almost as awful as being attacked for my 140 characters (thankfully, I haven’t been attacked. Yet.). But the lack of acknowledgment reinforces to me the idea that I am trespassing the patriarchy, that I do not belong, that my ideas and opinions–even if shared by men–are not valid.

And so when games are not going as I hope, I rage text my sister or my friend Peggy, and occasionally I will spend several minutes carefully composing a tweet that might add to the conversation, an idea that might validate me as a member of the general sports fandom. Sometimes that validation happens, most of the time it does not.

What makes me a bad feminist? Thinking I need male validation to have an opinion about sports in the first place. Something for me to work on.

Be Still.

This week has been rough.

No real reason why, to be honest–I haven’t suffered any massive trauma or loss, I’ve finally (mostly) kicked this cold that’s been trying to make my life miserable for two weeks, and generally speaking, life is pretty good.

But every day this week I’ve felt dread, partly due to self-imposed expectations that in truth, might be a tad unrealistic.

After staying up way past my bedtime last night to try and catch up a little, today felt better, and when I sat down to my RSS feed for the first time all week, this was the highlighted article in my feed.

I had mentioned to a friend earlier this week that I couldn’t fathom how others handled life. I don’t have a family to take care of, no real responsibilities outside of my work. But since I started teaching 15 years ago, I’ve learned that if I don’t consciously force myself to settle down, work becomes my life, and I get so myopic that I can’t see beyond the walls of my classroom.

That’s what was happening this week.

So even though I have so much to do this weekend, I need to remember this:

I don’t believe God is impressed with an exhaustion. He isn’t glorified when you take on so many responsibilities that your soul floods with unrest and discontentment. Feeling burnt out isn’t a badge of faithfulness.

And I need to spend some time this weekend just being still.