Dear Men: Court Me like This

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Once again, surprise surprise, my thoughts have turned towards relationships. ¬†One of these days I’ll be able to shake it off like Taylor Swift and mull over some other profound thoughts, but for now, my mind is stuck on love.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what I as a woman have the right to expect out of a courtship and eventual relationship. ¬†So many times we get used to being treated poorly and we think that this is normal, and then something happens that makes us go Oh! ¬†So THIS is what being treated like a lady feels like!

The standards for dating, in my eyes, have been playing a game of limbo for years: how low can you go?  How low can you go?  And yet when you try to stick to a higher principle, it can seem discouraging because that immediately shrinks the eligible bachelor pool down to 1.5 men in the nearest 100 mile radius.  Yet I have decided that when I am ready for another go-around on the roller-coaster of romance, I will not settle for less than I deserve.

So what, exactly, do I feel that I (and all women) are entitled to?

Women deserve to be courted.  And yes, I mean courted in the old-fashioned sense.  Women warrant feeling like the man wants to pursue them and is willing to put in extra effort to make that known.  This means paying for things, that extra text to make sure she gets home safe, making sure to compliment her on her outfit/makeup, and overall making her feel like she is wanted.

In most social settings, you can really tell who likes you and wants to potentially date you versus someone who just wants a piece of ass.  This was made abundantly clear to me yesterday when I had one guy at one bar approach me and start a nice conversation, then offer to buy both me AND my friend a drink.  At the next place, I had a guy talk and flirt with me for hours without offering anything.

In the current hook-up culture that we have going on, being courted is rare. ¬†Yet if a guy really wants to get a quality girl, he has to put in the time and effort that it takes to make that bid for her affection. ¬†Trust me guys, it’s worth it.

Women deserve to know where they stand. ¬†I have seen endless amounts of memes where the woman is freaking out because her man hasn’t texted her back in days and she has no idea if he still likes her or not. ¬†If a man truly wants to seriously date a woman, he needs to make his intentions crystal clear.

Speaking from experience, not knowing how someone feels about you for weeks or months on end is a shitty feeling. ¬†I am all about being busy chasing your own dreams, however, busyness is something that can be communicated. ¬†If a man likes a woman but simply is strapped for time, that needs to be something that is addressed. ¬†Quality women will have things going on on their own and will more than likely be just as busy. ¬†However, days without communication can be misinterpreted if they aren’t given the proper heads up.

Women deserve to keep their bodies to themselves.  I am all about an amorous sack session, but that should not be expected right away.  As a woman, sex is a powerful bonding experience, and it should not be viewed as normal to give that privilege away cheaply.  If a man is seriously interested in a woman, he might hate the thought of waiting, but he will do it without making her feel pressured because he respects her and wants more than just the cookie.

Sex is amazing.  Yet if you were to compare sex just for sex versus actual lovemaking with someone you care about and are connected to on a deeper level, lovemaking will win every time.  You get all the heated passion PLUS a deep level of trust and intimacy that cannot be found stumbling home with some random from the bar.

I am all about women having the freedom to enjoy whatever they want whenever they want with whomever they want. ¬†However, once you’re ready to pursue something real, it’s worth it to hold out; those who want ALL of you will wait, those who don’t, won’t.

Women deserve to feel beautiful. ¬†I don’t care if you are a solid 4 or a 10+; no matter where you fall in the stereotypical beauty scale, the man you are with should make every effort to make sure that you feel like a million bucks. ¬†No woman will ever get tired of hearing “WOW” when she steps out the door or a low whistle when you bend over to grab your purse from the floor.

Feeling beautiful is so much more than feeling like your guy loves your body or your face. ¬†Feeling beautiful is feeling completely seen by someone else, and knowing that they like the view. ¬†Feeling beautiful encompasses a woman’s whole being, and a man who truly wants to pursue the whole woman will gladly make that known.

Women deserve effort. ¬†This is my last point because I know that sometimes, the things that I mention above are hard for guys. ¬†Some guys don’t make a lot of money. ¬†Some guys would rather choke than say what they actually feel. ¬†Some guys are awkward and have no idea how to interact with a woman properly. ¬†No on is perfect. ¬†However, no matter how far away a guy is from a streamlined dating machine, if they want a woman bad enough, they will put in the effort.

This effort might come in the form of planning out an entire date of free things. ¬†Cost-effective, yet the time it takes to think everything through is work. ¬†Effort might come in the form of someone who hates words mustering up the courage to simply state “I like you”. ¬†Effort also always comes in the form of communication; no matter what your hangups, quality women are infinitely able to work with them if they are made clear and attempts are strongly made to work through them.

Overall, the goal of courtship is to see whether or not this is someone with whom you can build a quality, lasting bond.  If there is no effort put in to obtain this partnership, than there will more than likely be no effort to maintain the connection.  A relationship with a good person is a privilege for both men and women, and its benefits will correlate with the value placed upon it.

So men: if you aren’t ready for a real relationship, don’t try to add notches on your bedpost with women who are. ¬†And if you do want to try to win the love of a real woman, do it right. ¬†Court her like she is a lady of old and you are her knight in shining armor; when a woman feels desired, respected, and safe, there is nothing that she will not do for you. ¬†Put in the work to earn it, and the ROI will be more than you could have dreamed.

 

The Gifts my Ex’s Gave Me

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Breakups suck.  In the moment, it always seems like your world will never be quite right again, and there will always be a part of you missing.  Yet I have gone through enough separations to know that this is not the case; eventually, you will feel whole again, and you will even be able to look back on the relationship with fondness and not pain.

My most recent breakup has led me to contemplate all of my past relationships. ¬†When you’re in smack in the middle and full of new love, they seem amazing. ¬†When they’re removed from your life, you sob in wrenching pain; eventually, months later, you wonder what you ever saw in them and roll your eyes at your past self and her choices. ¬†But for me, years down the road, I am thankful for all of my failed relationships because they each have shaped a part of who I am.

None of my ex’s were rich; they didn’t buy me fancy clothes or whisk me off to Europe in their private jets. ¬†But in their own way, they each gave me gifts that are immeasurable in value, even if their presence in my life was not meant to be.

My first ex gave me the gift of heartbreak. ¬†I lived several states away from my high school boyfriend, and as brief as our relationship was, I was devastated when it ended. ¬†I was SURE that I was going to marry this boy, and I lamented as most stereotypical teenage girls do, writing very bad poetry and pouring my heart out in a song (that I years later found, shuddered at, and promptly deleted). ¬†And yet all of this innocent heartbreak soon healed, and I found that I was able to move on with my life just fine. ¬†It’s partly because of this early, necessary, over-dramatic heartbreak that I am able to move on from all of life’s storms that seem to keep coming my way because it taught me that pain is not forever.

There will be people in life who cause you immense amounts of agony.  And yet, this hurt is able to be overcome with time and personal growth.  It is those moments of overcoming this pain that we discover our true unshakable ability to keep marching on.  When we are in the trenches of more suffering, we can remember how we persevered before, and muster up the courage to burst through yet again.

My second ex gave me the gift of freedom. ¬†I grew up very conservatively and extremely religious. ¬†While I am thankful for the solid foundation that this upbringing gave me in terms of values, I am also very thankful to not possess such a narrow-minded view of the world anymore. ¬†My ex-husband was the opposite of conservative, and while most of his ideas are way too radical to be contemplated in the realm of reality, being around someone who opposed my views so violently caused me to question why I subscribed to certain world-views. ¬†It’s because of him that I have been able to rebuild what I believe and have been able to be so empathetic and compassionate to others in turmoil around me.

Anyone who causes you to question who you are and what you believe is a valuable person.  Sometimes, this self-questioning leads to a more solidified stance in what you think.  Other times, such as in my case, it causes a shaky foundation to crumble, leaving room for constructing one that is more solidly built.

My third ex gave me the gift of experience.  He was almost 18 years older than me, accomplished in so many things, and had a zest for life that drew me too him despite the age difference.  Growing up in the Midwest, I had never dreamed that there were so many simple and varied pleasures to enjoy.  Eating cucumber sandwiches on the beach, gambling in Vegas, drinking wine on the sand while the sun goes down, completely feeling the music at a rock concert one day and an acoustic performance the next.  Because of him, I have a thirst for experiencing ALL of life, and I eagerly grasp any opportunity to try something new.

Sometimes, meeting someone with more experience than you is intimidating.  It can make your life seem pitiful and pale in comparison.  However, if you jump at the chance to listen to their stories and allow yourself to get caught up in the whirlwind, you will inevitably end up with way more interesting stories than standing on the sidelines watching.

My most recent ex gave me the gift of inspiration. ¬†Before I dated him, I was established in my career and going with the flow of life. ¬†But when we met, I saw in him a drive and a passion for more than the status quo, which quite honestly seemed a bit much at first. ¬†Yet as we spent more time together, he influenced me by example. ¬†He’s the reason I started this blog, started exploring my options for other side careers, and started striving to exceed my own expectations. ¬†It’s because of him that I feel that I have a renewed purpose in life, and I can feel that energy trickling into all facets of my being.

There are those people who come into your lives at the exact right moment and with just the right tools to spur you on towards greatness in your own journey.  Sometimes those people get to stay with you, and you get to do that for each other for many amazing years together.  Other times, those people touch us briefly before spinning off into the universe, too caught in their own destiny to stay.  Either way, their inspiration is valuable, and no matter how brief or long the encounter, you have to be grateful for their impact on your life.

Some of us get lucky and find our missing puzzle piece right out of the gate.  Those people get to grow and learn together, help each other out along the way, and build an amazing lifetime of memories together.  Others of us have a more rocky path; we are the ones who reach our hands out again and again, only to have them slapped down by those we desire.  We can choose to ache with each dismissal or to take each experience as a lesson in what we truly want and deserve.  With each rejection comes a stronger assurance that eventually, our hand will be taken with gentle strength, and we will finish this journey together with someone who is worth every bit of pain and sorrow along the way.

 

Quilting Happiness

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Recently I had a conversation with someone where they helplessly said “I don’t know…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m just not happy with anything in my life.” ¬†Hearing that broke my heart; living unhappily is such a terrible existence. ¬†And yet, so many people live the majority of their lives in a permanent state of misery.

Sometimes, this misery becomes so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like misery. ¬†I had no idea that I was living such a wretched existence until I separated from my ex-husband and felt little inklings of happiness stretch like tentative rays of sunshine after a storm. ¬†While I certainly knew I wasn’t ecstatic, I had no idea how bad that life really was while I was in it.

In this moment, if you were to ask me if I was happy with my life, I would unequivocally answer “yes.” ¬†This may seem strange if you know my present circumstances: recently laid off, freshly single, one million minor crisis’ happening at work on a daily basis. ¬†And yet, overall, I am joyful.

This got me thinking: WHY am I so happy? ¬†What is it that I, or anyone with a constantly positive state of mind, do or don’t do that contributes to this feeling of joyful contentment? ¬†After some contemplation, I settled on several key factors:

Have a reliable, positive, and multi-leveled network.  This is such a big component because we as humans are wired to interact with others.  However, you cannot have all surface acquaintances or all deep bosom buddies; our connections need to be varied.  I have a couple of extremely close friends, several good friends, and lots and lots of positive shallower connections.  Going through my recent breakup, I lost one of the major keystone connections in my life, and had he been all that I had, I would have been completely at a loss.  However, with the help of my close and good friends as well as my continued positive interactions with everyone else, I have been able to stay afloat and keep my spirits up.

Putting in the time and effort to create and maintain these relationships may seem like a burden, but I firmly believe that if you do not have quality relationships in your life, it is impossible to be truly happy.  However, these relationships must be reciprocal; you cannot simply mooch off of someone else, and you should never allow someone to mooch off of you.  When both parties put in the same level of effort, that is when this piece of happiness falls into place.

Exercise. ¬†As much as we like to deny the hard science of how our minds work, putting in some sweat equity on a daily basis is a serious piece of the happiness puzzle. ¬†Although starting a workout is pretty much the worst thing ever, finishing it is one of the best feelings in the world. ¬†Your endorphin’s are kicking, and anything that negatively effected you throughout the day simply fades away into a haze of “ahhhhhh that was awesome”.

And lets face it, it’s hard to be happy when you don’t like what you see in the mirror. ¬†Presenting the best version of ourselves physically primes us to be the best version of ourselves mentally. ¬†It’s difficult to be miserable when you reach for something and notice a little baby bicep flexing as you bring it back. ¬†Hard work is hard freakin’ work, but it seriously boosts your mood to see results.

Work towards something specific.  Throughout my entire life, I have always had something to work towards.  First, it was my degree.  Then it was finding a job.  Then it was my Masters.  Now, I am working on getting my real estate license and have plans for an admin credential and possibly a life coach certification within the next ten years.  The point is, I am never resting on my laurels.

If you are working towards a specific goal, it is obvious if you have achieved it or not.  And working to get that accomplishment tucked under your belt gives you a sense of purpose, which contributes to happiness.  If you know you are on the road to achievement, you feel excited about getting up each day and have the gumption to persevere through the rocky patches.

Actively seek improvement.  I am constantly looking for ways to make myself a better person and teacher.  If I hear of an awesome teaching strategy, I try to implement it in my classroom.  Outside the confines of my work, I am constantly reading all different types of books and online articles as well as listening to podcasts on various topics.  I love getting into deep conversations about the world.  All in all, I am always trying to be better than I was before.

Truly desiring to make yourself better requires a humble acceptance of yourself as you are right now. ¬†However, acceptance does not mean stagnation. ¬†Just because you have accepted that you have slid into the ditch does not mean that you stay in the ditch. ¬†Seeing yourself grow and looking back to see how much you’ve changed for the better is a big piece of long-term happiness.

Love the majority of your day. ¬†There are very few parts of my day that I dislike. ¬†I love breakfast. ¬†I love jamming to my tunes as I drive to work. ¬†I love getting organized for the day. ¬†I love interacting with my students. ¬†I (usually) love the gym. ¬†I love writing blog posts. ¬† I’m ok with learning new real estate things (although I’m not going to lie, I’ll be pumped when it’s over). ¬†The only things that I truly hate about my day are when I have some students act like a-holes, or when something goes awry that I did not forsee (usually traffic-traffic puts me in a TERRIBLE mood).

If you genuinely LIKE/LOVE 80% or more of your day, it is highly unlikely that you will be unhappy. ¬†So many people tie themselves to jobs, people, or circumstances that they hate, and then wonder why they are miserable. ¬†If you find yourself unhappy with something, make moves to change it. ¬†Money, “security”, and comfort are NOT worth a constant state of misery.

Be ok with YOU. ¬†You have to be ok with who you are as a person before you can truly settle into a state of contentment with your life. ¬†I recently went through a period of time where I thought that my career goals and life aspirations were not good enough because I saw other people passionately pursuing other things that seemed ‘better’ or that might bring in more money. ¬†My happiness severely diminished during that time. ¬†When I mentally slapped myself and replanted my foot firmly on the soil of MY dreams, my joy returned.

You are a unique person.  It is impossible to accomplish the exact same thing that someone else has accomplished, so it is silly to even try.  You know what gives you joy, you know how you want to live your life, and you know what gives you a sense of purpose.  When you fully embrace what YOU want, not what the yoga masters, hardcore businessmen, or spiritual gurus tell you to want, THEN you can embrace your personal happiness.

Overall, your happiness is like an old, hand-pieced multicolored quilt that has been in your family for generations. ¬†It blankets everything. ¬†It is handmade. ¬†No one else has one just like it. ¬†Sometimes, a square or two might come loose, but if it’s a quality quilt, those squares aren’t completely lost and there are still enough squares to cover up with until the damage gets repaired.

If you find that you are unhappy with your life, take stock of all of the pieces. ¬†Magnify those squares that give you joy. ¬†Mend the squares that let in the draft. ¬†Sometimes, an entire square might have to be replaced, and that’s ok. ¬†Happiness IS something that you have complete control over, no matter how much we lie to ourselves and argue that we do not. ¬†Take charge now; in the end, our money will be spent or given away and our possessions will break or change hands. ¬†It is only the intangible-our relationships, our integrity, and our happiness-that we will get to keep for all time.

The Anatomy of a Broken Heart

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In the cartoons that we watched when we were younger, a broken heart is dramatized by a jagged line. ¬†The two halves split apart and sometimes fall to the ground, symbolizing two people going their separate ways. ¬†It’s simple. ¬†It’s clean. ¬†It’s nothing like reality.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of muffled sobs and hot tears pouring down your face. ¬†It’s made up of deep shuddering breaths and wiping the back of your hand across your nose, uncaringly smearing snot across your cheek. ¬†It’s made up of red, swollen eyes and deep breaths that end when another wave of hurt crashes over you like the slap of the ocean on a windy day.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of memories of the good times. ¬†It’s remembering that one time on that one Saturday that he made a stupid comment and you both laughed and laughed until your sides hurt and the best kind of tears streamed down your face. ¬†It’s feeling the sensation of his hand still intertwined with yours, feeling safe and cared for and warm as you strolled along the beach. ¬†It’s hearing his car pulling into your driveway, looking into the mirror one final time to make sure that you look perfect, and flinging open the door before he can knock.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of words. ¬†The “hi” that he spoke when he first walked up to you. ¬†The “miss you” that followed an extended period of time without seeing each other. ¬†The reluctant “goodnight” that came at the end of every phone conversation. ¬†The “like a glove” phrase that become an instant addition to every successful parallel parking job. ¬†The exaggerated “oh yeah” he drawled as you changed outfits, showing him a glimpse of skin.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of fights.  The serious discussions that ended with resolutions that made things better and relieved embraces on the couch.  The play fights that ended with you getting your ass kicked but refusing to accept defeat.  The battle of wits that took place every time he tried to prove that he was smarter and you told yourself you just let him win.

In reality, a broken heart is made of touch.  The slap on your ass when he was feeling frisky.  The tender kiss on your forehead when your head was on his chest.  The long, tightly gripping hugs that happened when you walked in the door.  The passionate kisses that fanned the flames of physical love.  The playful squeeze on his biceps to let him know that yes, you notice his workouts, and yes, you like the results.  The secret thrill when he reached for your hand and your fingers intertwine perfectly.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of what could have been. ¬†The joyful anticipation meeting of his mom where she, of course, would love you and tell him in private that “that’s the one”. ¬†¬†The vacation to Hawaii that would have been your first real adventure together. ¬†The nervous awareness of him meeting your parents in the future. ¬†The proposal and wedding that was crazy to have been thinking of already but you allowed yourself glimpses of because you knew in your heart that this was the guy you wanted.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of silence. ¬†The blank cell phone screen that won’t show his name, no matter how many times you look at it. ¬†The endless occasions you tuck a moment of the day away to share with him later, only to quietly push those moments to the side when reality strikes again. ¬†The stark absence of your best friend when a crisis happens or when you nail your goals.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of hurt. ¬†The desire to hate him for leaving, yet not being able to because you still love him too much to want to hurt him. ¬†The crumbling realization that you were not enough. ¬†The ache that comes with knowing that it’s truly the end, and no amount of convincing or begging will change his mind. ¬†The screaming pains that initially hit you, even when you know it’s coming.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of change. ¬†The weekend routine that suddenly ends. ¬†The awkward response when some asks “hey, you still dating that guy?” ¬†The unwelcome reality that no longer can use your status as a way to curve unwanted attention. ¬†The moment when you find a perfect book for him but slowly place it back on the self, your fingers lingering a bit longer than normal.

In reality, a broken heart is made up of the knowledge of healing.  The understanding that someday, your heart will not hurt for him anymore and panicking at the thought of not caring.  The awareness that someday, someone else will take his place and feeling physically sick at the thought of loving another.

In the end, a broken heart gets shattered because it is fully given.  No jagged line can encompass the pure pain of completely surrendering your most precious possession to another, only to have it tossed around for a few months and then given back.  The heart wants what the heart wants, but it cannot do anything but yearn when the other heart stays closed.

Eventually it will heal, and it may even forget the pain, allowing itself to be fully given again, in good faith and with the same wide-eyed innocence and trust as the first time around.

But that’s in the future. ¬†And in the now, it still lies there; bloody, raw, bruised. ¬†It still wants to be healed by the person who broke it in the first place. ¬†It craves the warmth it has gotten used to. ¬†It misses its companion heart, still beating, yet so far away.

And so, allow yourself to fully feel.  Sob at the memories.  Shudder in the waves of pain.  Scream in defiance.  Punch something in frustration.  Something broken must be acknowledged to ever be fully healed, and as much as it feels like you will never rise from your crumpled, pathetic spot in the dust, your heart is stronger then you think, braver than you feel, and even at its most broken, capable of so. much. love.

Things My Students Taught Me

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In the last couple of days, I’ve had to face the truth that I may have to find a job outside of teaching. ¬†There are limited positions available in along the coast, and I refuse to move somewhere that I don’t want to live. ¬†While the hunt for the perfect fit is not yet over, I am steeling myself to face the worst if the stars do not align.

The reality of doing something else for a living is heartbreaking. ¬†I absolutely love what I do. ¬†The ability to have a career where I am able to get a taste of pretty much every other job on the planet is a beautiful experience. ¬†The best thing is, while I’m teaching my students, they’re really teaching me.

My students taught me the power of laughter.  Humor is such an underutilized tool.  I have had far greater success with my students gently nudging them to do the right thing with a well-timed joke or an exaggerated sigh of exasperation that they know is fake.  My favorite times are when a students makes me bust out laughing in the middle of class because they did or said something completely off the wall, which inevitably causes the class to send out gales of laughter too.

Laughing at something together creates a powerful bond.  It actually takes quite a bit of vulnerability to truly let out a giant belly laugh over a joke or a certain circumstance.  Laughter is also the best way to ease hurt, and if you can make your students laugh or even bravely put on a smile through their tears, you are helping them more than you realize.

My students taught me the power of mutual respect. ¬†I go to great lengths to show my students that they are respected in my classroom. ¬†I ask them to do things instead of order them. ¬†I say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, even when the compliance is not enthusiastic. ¬†I make sure I listen to student’s concerns fully, even when my eyes are mentally rolling so far back in my head they are in danger of becoming lost in my gray matter. ¬†99.9% of the time, I know that I have my students’ respect. ¬†It those times when I indulge in my own bad mood or snap at a student in frustration that their respect for me becomes diminished.

Knowing that you’re respected in any given situation is an empowering feeling. ¬†No matter how many times a student shows disrespect, holding out any token of respect causes them to shift their mindset and usually ends up in changed behavior and a mumbled apology. ¬†No matter how tempting tit for tat may be, clinging to the higher standard of dignity as an adult in any situation is immensely gratifying and highly useful.

My students taught me the power of simple gestures. ¬†Many, many times when I’m feeling down, a student has given me a picture that they have drawn, or stopped to say a personal goodbye at the end of class, or randomly told me that they think I’m a great teacher. ¬†Small things. ¬†Simple things. ¬†Free things. ¬†But it truly is the little efforts that make a huge difference.

So many times we move along our paths without taking advantage of the opportunities offered along the way. ¬†Is someone visibly harried and stressed out? ¬†Compliment them. ¬†Is there someone who is usually a ‘background person’ in your life with whom you don’t interact much? ¬†Stop and say hello, maybe make some conversation. ¬†Did you buy two chocolate bars but really only want a bite? ¬†Split them with a friend. ¬†Don’t listen to the voices that tell you nobody will care or notice your efforts; trust me, they will.

My students taught me the power of listening.  Teachers like to talk.  That is our job.  Yet this becomes a problem when the words flowing out of our mouths cut off the words trying to get to our ears.  Whenever I take the time to bring an unruly student aside to chat with them, they inevitably articulate some problem or issue either outside or inside of class that is affecting their behavior.  Even if I cannot resolve the problem for them, my simple act of listening usually does the trick to change their demeanor.

Most of the time, our actions are simply bids for attention.  Some people may need the attention just to validate their existence.  Others need it to get through their struggles.  Whichever way you slice it, taking the time out to listen is always a deposit in the bank of that relationship.  Feeling listened to is a deep human need, and those who are able to provide that service freely and without expectation are rare and valued individuals.

My students taught me the power of love. ¬†As a teacher, I want nothing less than for my students to suddenly awaken to the fact that they actually love to read, they can’t wait to write the next essay, and they can hardly contain their exuberance for the next class discussion. ¬†As much as that would be my dream come true, the reality is that there are some students who will never ever reach that point while they are with you. ¬†Sometimes, they are not hungering for knowledge, but simply starving for love.

Giving your love to someone without stipulations is a powerful thing.  The more trouble a student causes, they more they desperately need that affirmation, that feeling of security, and that knowledge that your love is a constant.  Love does not have to manifest into like; many students/people are unlikable.  Yet there is not one who is completely devoid of anything to love.

Overall, my students have illuminated to me over and over the deep need that every individual has for human connection.  Those attachments range from deep, soul-connecting conversations to shallow mentions of the latest fashions, but at the core, all of our interactions are building small threads person-to-person in our network, which web out to create the unique fabric of our lives.

As much as possible, take the opportunity to make your connections full, deep, and rich.  Give of yourself so that you may receive of others.  Take a step back and allow everybody to teach you something, regardless of their role in your life.  Be the first one to show vulnerability.  Trust.

My students may leave my class knowing how to write an essay, but I will leave knowing just a little bit more of my purpose in the world.  And that, my friends, is more valuable than any Harvard education.

 

When It’s Out of Your Hands

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If you know me in person, you probably know that I am a bit of a control freak.  Not the kind that tries to control everyone’s thoughts and actions to the tiniest degree, but the kind that has to know what’s going on a month in advance, who is taking care of what, what are the exact time specifications, and so on and so forth.

Lately, the universe has been whacking me over the head with the knowledge that sometimes, it’s just not up to me.  Along with some personal things that are simply out of my hands at the moment, today I received the official notice that I am, indeed, being laid off.

Knowing that you MIGHT be laid off and knowing that you ARE laid off are two completely different feelings.  And control freak me does not like it one bit.

A song that has been playing over and over in my head has been Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”.  While I am not religious, the sentiment of the song seems quite applicable to my life right now.  I have done all that I can do to prepare for everything that is out of my control right now.  Personally, I have said my piece.  Professionally, I have applied for new positions.  Practically, I have made arrangements with my roommate.  And now all I can do is wait for opportunities to present themselves and snatch them up.

I was reflecting back on some of my earlier posts where I discussed needing to have a direction in life and actively steering where you want to go.  The recent turn of events made me think back on that sentiment: what if the steering wheel suddenly gets taken from you?  What if you are rowing merrily along and suddenly hit a rock hidden just beneath the surface?  What if the rushing stream you had been following suddenly dwindles to a mere trickle?

And then, I shook myself out of it.  Having a direction and the drive to do something in life does not guarantee smooth sailing.  In fact, it usually means the opposite.  Just because you know where you want to end up doesn’t mean that you’ll get there walking in a straight line.  If you don’t have direction, you’ll end up stopping, backtracking, or simply changing your end goal to fit the easiest route.  Sticking to your guns means climbing mountains, fording streams, and whacking through underbrush to make it through.  Having things taken out of your hands is not a stop sign for the determined, but merely a moment to pause and look at the compass before forging on ahead.

So how do you know if something is TRULY out of your hands or if you’re just telling yourself that as an excuse?

If something is out of your hands, you will have done everything that you can up to that point.  If you get laid off from a job simply due to numbers, there is nothing you could have done to prevent that from happening.  And if you were truly doing everything that you could, you will have killer recommendations to move to the next opportunity.  If you give your all to a relationship and they choose to leave, there is nothing more that you can say or do if you have honestly laid it all out on the table.  Your ability to be vulnerable will only be a positive in your subsequent relationships.

If something is out of your hands, it couldn’t have been prevented.  Having your house catch on fire and losing everything due to the stove being left on could have been prevented and thus isn’t really something that is out of your hands.  But losing everything in a record flood that was completely unexpected isn’t in your range of control.  You cannot prevent every disaster, unexpected life twist, or people’s reactions based on their personal issues; all you can do is deal with the aftermath.

If something is out of your hands, you can’t change it after it happens.  I cannot go back and reverse the decision of the school board.  There is no way for someone to persuade an ex to take them back after they have already mentally moved on.  No one can recreate a reaction to something that could potentially lead to negative consequences.

However, with all that being said, just because something in your life is out of your hands does not mean that your life itself somehow follows suit.  There are circumstances that suck, things that happen that you would give the world to change, and people that choose to leave of their own volition.  Yet even with those elements removed, there is still so much raw material to work with.

Our lives are an adventure.  And if every single thing was in our control, we probably wouldn’t find the awesomely unknown opportunities or get to experience the joy of figuring shit out for ourselves.  So in a way, I’m lucky: I’m being forced to discover things that I may not have taken the chance on if I would have kept my position.  Who knows what amazing things I may stumble upon?

Facing the unknown is a scary place to stand.  The path disappears into the night, and there are no friendly lanterns to guide your way.  But if you take a couple of strides forward, you’ll find that you have enough light from within to keep illuminating the next small advancements, and really, that’s all the light you need.

So strike out with courage, befriend the cold hands of fear, and never ever let uncertainty prevent you from taking those tentative yet oh-so-important first steps.  Usually, you’ll find that greatness lies just beyond the edge of the dark, and the velvet black that seemed so threatening from your comfort zone is able to be melted away by a simple brush of the hand.

(PC: This guy)

Things my Mother Taught Me

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My mother taught me how to read. ¬†Since before my memories begin, she was constantly reading to me; my favorite books were Ann of Green Gables and Little House on the Praire. ¬†I’m pretty sure I was reading on my own by age 5, but we continued reading together at night for long after that.

That lesson might have been be simple, but it shaped my whole life. ¬†An avid reader throughout high school and college, I eventually ended up becoming an English teacher. ¬†And now, it’s come full circle as I strike out into the wildly unknown world of writing.

Reading is one of the greatest gifts my mom ever gave me.  And as I look back on my 28 years, there were so many other subtleties that she gracefully emanated that shaped me as a person.

My mother taught me the value of a goodnight kiss. ¬†Every. Single. Night. my mother would tell me goodnight and give me a hug and a kiss. ¬†When I got to be a bitchy (oh, and I was BITCHY) teenage girl, the ritual didn’t change. ¬†The one night she stayed at my door and simply said goodnight is branded into my memory. ¬†Although I would never show it, the absence of her touch that night made me feel cold and alone and panicked at the thought that maybe, just maybe, I had finally pushed her too far.

My mother taught me the value of an open home. ¬†There were many nights where I was relegated to the couch or the basement in order for a guest to have a bed. ¬†It was so common that it wasn’t even viewed as an inconvenience. ¬†Many memories include the presence of other people in our home, which added a richness and depth to my life experience that I would not have gotten if my encounters with others only consisted of sterile greetings in restaurants or church. ¬†To this day, I offer my apartment willingly and spontaneously to anyone who needs or wants a place to stay for a couple of nights.

My mother taught me the value of inner strength. ¬†In her younger life, my mother has survived her parents’ rocky divorce and sexual assault. ¬†She has watched her five children struggle with friends and relationships and teenage angst. ¬†She has had to stand by as I got physically attacked, married to the wrong person, divorced, and moved hundreds of miles away from anyone else in the family. ¬†And yet even with all of that burden, if you were to talk to her about a problem you were having, she would listen and care and shed more than a few tears over your predicament. ¬†She never crumbles, but simply moves forward with determination.

My mother taught me the value of consistency.  She would have dinner made from scratch on the table every single night.  And every single night, barring work schedules or other scheduled events, we would eat dinner as a family.  I have no idea what we talked about during our meals, but I do remember that they happened.  This core remains unchanged now that all but one of us have left the house, and it is something I look forward to every time I go home.

My mother taught me the value of partnership. ¬†My mother is the quintessential housewife. ¬†She cooks. ¬†She cleans. ¬†She irons my dad’s shirts. ¬†She makes sure that he has meals ready when he comes home. ¬†My dad, on the other hand, is the ultimate man of the house. ¬†His business is the main source of income, and he spends his spare time fixing cars, mowing the grass, tinkering with tools, and taking out the garbage. ¬†In today’s day and age, their relationship can seem ‘unfeminist’ or ‘outdated’. ¬†But all I see is that it works. ¬†They both do what they do best, they pick up each other’s slack, and best of all, they are happy.

My mother taught me the value of unconditional love.  I have always been independent and stubborn.  While my edges have softened as I have gotten older, I am still far from what my mother would ideally have as a perfect daughter.  Yet throughout all of my childhood sass, teenage attitude, and young adult mistakes, I have never once felt unloved.  I have never once felt unsupported.  And I have never once felt like she wished I was anything other than me.

Overall, even though my mother has given me invaluable lessons, the biggest gift she has given me is simply being herself. ¬†I have never once seen her try to put on a facade, or act like she was different than who she was, or try to portray a facet of herself that wasn’t actually there. ¬†She is always¬†her, in all of her raw, messy, amazing, graceful, crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, stubborn, opinionated, laughing, caring, oblivious, loving glory. ¬†In a world full of smoke and mirrors, she gave me an example of true authenticity, which is more precious that all of the rubies and gold in the world. ¬†I can only hope to be half as rich as her one day.

I love you Mom.