Education, In Essence

Every year that I spend working at The SOLD Project brings me new lessons and deeper understanding about what education means and the purpose it serves. For those of you who aren’t aware, my life role as an educator began at UC Santa Barbara, teaching undergraduates while I completed my doctorate. It was rewarding, and challenging – with the deepest challenge being how to engage kids in material that would make them better American citizens, while half of them were only in college because their parents had insisted upon it and they had no clue what other life purpose they should have.

Perhaps paradoxically, my favorite class to teach was also one of the most difficult (and the one almost everyone else tries to avoid getting assigned to) – Research Methods – but I loved it because nowhere else was there as stark a connection between effort and reward, both for me and for my students. The class brought humility to the students for whom the whole school schtick was far too easy, and then there were moments when I felt I was physically pushing my timid ones to overcome their fears. Life lessons served with a side of statistical analysis. My hours spent teaching that class (and consoling the lost) were longer than any other – but then so were the letters of gratitude slipped in my end-of-quarter evaluations.

At university, educators commonly bemoan students’ inability to craft complete sentences despite 12 years of primary and secondary schooling, and the major value we consistently work towards is cultivating children’s critical thinking and skills in analysis. Supposedly, primary and secondary schools attempt to teach this as well. If so, we on the college end feel we see little fruit of those efforts. Students trained on endless state and national testing continue to come to college wanting to be told what to think. By college age, you should be curious and seek information on your own steam. So our job as educators becomes teaching kids how to think – which means kids must relearn the capacity to ask questions, natural to them at the age of 4, a chore at 19. And we do the best we can, and if we can’t change the lives of our undergrads, we hope at least we might do better with our own children.

This is the background I had before starting my work with at-risk, disadvantaged children in rural Thailand. I had plenty of high-minded ideas about how I could come in and challenge these children to think critically, to analyze, and to help bring them up to speed to compete on a global stage.

It’s kind of laughable, really, the gap between my highfalutin’ ideas and the reality. The first year was a lesson in humility for me, a constant stepping back and back and back to realize that the “basics” with these kids was even more basic than what I had ever known in my middle class, born to highly educated parents, upbringing. I couldn’t teach them to write or analyze poetry if they didn’t even dare to put words to a page, or utter a question (because in some classrooms here, asking a teacher a question implies the teacher isn’t teaching properly – a major loss of face). I had kids who were too afraid to color for fear of coloring incorrectly. They copied each other incessantly, too afraid to do anything on their own. If they did anything wrong, then at least their friends were wrong with them and there was safety in numbers.

The realization blew my mind. So the second year of my teaching focused on building the kids’ self-esteem and confidence, to teach them not to fear trying and to teach them that they could produce something of worth and value.

When a volunteer came and started them on entirely new projects and they jumped right in, I began to hope that our efforts were working. When I saw a previously shy 13-year-old jump up on stage in front of 200 people and lead a dance troupe front and center stage, and a quiet 15-year-old belt out two solos in English in front of said crowd, I began to believe the foundation had been set.

But I don’t have forever with these kids. I’m not starting at scratch with 5-year-olds. I have some 5 and 6-year-olds, some preteens, some teenagers. We dream big for them, but realistically speaking, not all of them will go to college. Probably only a small handful will obtain higher than a high school diploma, though we hope to continue to keep our kids in school through the end of high school. Likely, very few will hold desk jobs, and even fewer will obtain upper-management positions. What can I impart to them that will be useful in their world?

If you spend enough time in rural or distressed areas, you begin to hear stories about people: how so-and-so got into this scrape or that, how that person’s neighbor went to jail for this crazy thing that was only sort-of his fault, and how the other person’s sister got taken advantage of by that guy everyone knows is a crook, etc., etc., etc. You probably know somebody like this too: someone who, no matter what they try to do, always ends up in some crazy situation or another and needs to be bailed out and everyone’s afraid of that one time things go too far and you can’t help them anymore. It’s not really about rural or urban, poor or wealthy, schooled or not…there are people like this in all walks of life, though you see them more often in less-advantaged areas.

And you wonder: how does this stuff always manage to happen to them? Why do they trust people no one else would go near with a 10-foot pole? How do they find these scrapes to get into?

The reason, I believe, is and isn’t education. Education, done well, leaves people not only more knowledgable, but also more capable of assessing situations and other people. It’s never taught directly, but these skills are a by-product of careful study and experience. Also, the more highly educated you are, I believe, the more you begin to appreciate your self-worth and value, and are thus less likely to trust where your instincts tell you something is off. Education isn’t totally the answer though because, when you’re facing a class of 30 or more students, it’s a blunt instrument. Children are individuals, not sponges. They come with their own histories and proclivities and the same information is not going to affect them all equally.

But, in essence, this is what I believe education is all about. Sure, you learn what year the WWII began, the makeup of mitochondria, algebraic functions, and how to communicate more effectively through proper spelling and grammar. But what I think education’s key underlying goal is – or what I think it should be – is to help kids learn how to function independently in the real world, in whatever capacity they find themselves, whether as sales clerks or high court judges. Knowledge and information is critical, of course, but so is critical thinking, exercising good judgment, and learning how to ask the important questions.

Which brings me right back to needing to teach these kids how to think critically – but I need a shortcut because I don’t have years with them, I have only moments. So this year, my challenge is to take the foundation of self-confidence that we’ve begun with these kids and turn that into a sense of self-worth and value. My belief (and hope) is that if the kids begin to believe in their own worth, they will be more self-protective and less likely to follow trouble. If we can cultivate their sense of value as individuals and human beings and that protective instinct, then maybe we can talk more cogently to them about how to determine who’s worthy of trust, how and why to avoid situations that feel wrong to you even when your friends or family are telling you it’s right, and what healthy, loving relationships look like and how to cultivate them, so you don’t end up in the arms of abuse.

Maybe I’m back to my highfalutin’ ideas again. This may or may not work (and next year, I’ll most likely be right back at the drawing board again), but I’ll keeping trying because their lives are valuable. Each life is a miracle and has value. If they believe that, then maybe they’ll do an okay job of protecting their own.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Melissa’s!
WE’VE ALSO OPENED UP REGISTRATION FOR TWO NEW
WRITING CIRCLE EVENTS!
Tuesday, February 5, 8:00 p.m. CST: Fiction {Host: Jade}
Wednesday, February 13, 8:00 p.m. CST: Memoir {Host: Hyacynth}

 

In A Word

My brand spanking new journal for the year.

It’s a popular trend these days to try to sum up all our goals and intentions for the year in one word. Considering my list of resolutions and hopes for the year filled up two journal pages, finding that one word is probably going to be a challenge for me. There is one word that immediately popped into my head – ROUTINE – but I think I should abandon that one as a hopeless longing rather than a resolution since I’m about to break it in just a week when I will move to Chiang Rai for two weeks, go to the Golden Triangle (the meeting point between Thailand, Burma, and Laos) and participate in a filming project for SOLD, stay extra long and teach there, and join in some belated New Year’s festivities that will keep me occupied while my husband goes on a long motorbike trip through Laos and my parents decamp for the States.

Things are never dull around here, and it just goes to show what an ass I am that I actually do say that with a bit of chagrin.

So ROUTINE will not be my word because the craziness of my schedule is something I’m not in control of, and thus any resolution attempting to control such forces is doomed to quick, pitiless, miserable failure.

What I can control, however, is what I do with my time, and as I look over my list of heart-wishes for the year, a different word emerges:

INSPIRATION

To seek it, to give it – because the best gifts are the ones you share (unless it involves marzipan, in which case, hoard that shit). My focus this year is on finding and spreading inspiration wherever I can.

Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worth of your heart and your soul.

- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

What’s your journey?

What’s your word?

::

This week at Bigger Picture Blogs, we’re living life with intention by committing to ONE WORD to guide our year ahead. Do you have a word? If so, share it with us! We’re linking up at Alita’s!

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.

BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

 

Soldiering On

I am reposting something I wrote earlier this week because it was my Bigger Picture Moment…but I don’t want to just leave it at that as we head into Christmas, so if you’ve already read this, please stick around for what I have to add just at the end.

If we were really meeting for coffee today, you’d find me curled up in a hammock, wearing yoga pants and a comfy sweater, cupping my coffee to me. If we did speak, it would be quietly.

When I heard the news, I was at The SOLD Project helping set up and prepare for our Christmas party. It was an event full of delight, as friends, students, and community came to put on a really awesome show. We had about 200 guests and everything came together without a hitch, and with plenty of laughter and festive cheer. But for me, it was like I was walking through the whole thing with cotton buds in my ears. It was muted as I began to process shock. Grief. Disbelief. Sadness.

I found myself looking into the eyes of our 5- and 6-year-olds and finding it impossible to imagine how a person could do that and pull a trigger. There’s just a wall in my head where that cannot go.

Every morning, I wake up and find my Facebook stream absolutely ablaze with everyone processing this tragedy in their own way. I know that anger is just another form of grief and fear, but it saddens me to see people attacking other people, instead of discussing the content of their ideas. It just goes to show how fresh and raw the wound is, I suppose, that we are so quick and ready to see the worst in each other and to find distaste rather than commonality.

Yesterday, I posted a tribute to the victims, a black armband of shared mourning. But as I typed those names onto that black square, I was acutely aware of all the names that I wasn’t typing. The names of the 20 school children in China who were stabbed by some crazy head that very same day. The names of the children in the Congo subjected to violence and horrors almost daily. The children in Central American countries. The children in Chiang Mai. I wondered whether our nation would have responded this strongly if Sandy Hook was a school on the south side of the Bronx and all the little children were brown, instead of blond little angels named Grace?

I don’t feel this is an appropriate time to drag race issues into the mix, and I’m really not trying to poke at people where they’re already sore. Empathy is never a bad thing and it’s impossible to feel the full scope of sadness for all the sad things in this world – a person would absolutely break. But for me, that question is there. It lurks because part of what defines tragedy is the extent to which we identify with the victims, and simply being fellow humans is rarely enough.

Last week, I confessed about all my existential questions about the point and meaning of life, and the sense of absurdity I felt in it. This week, I sense that we can pose all those kinds of questions we like, but none of them do a damn bit of good in helping us confront the fact that life must be lived, every day, one day at a time. There’s tragedy. Some days that tragedy is as huge as the murder of innocents. Some days the tragedies are as minor a freshly baked tart dropped on the floor. Most days, it’s something in between: unaffordable medical bills, a crappy or even lost job, a bitter argument with someone you love, a flu you just can’t seem to shake.

And it’s okay because there’s other stuff too. There’s the handwritten cookbook full of family secrets passed down. Presents under the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. A shy 14-year-old belting tunes all by herself, in a foreign language, out in front of a crowd of 200. Husband and wife secretly copping a feel and sharing a laugh in between job and chores. A puppy climbing in your lap, seeking warmth and comfort, when you’re trying to go to the loo. Family giving you a space at the dinner table, despite what you said to them earlier that day. A stranger anonymously fulfilling an unspoken need.

This is how we live life, day in and day out. We cry at the tart so lovingly made and so carelessly splattered to the floor. Then we scoop it up, scrape off the abused parts, and eat the rest of it anyway.

Here’s what I’d like to add as we turn now towards Christmas. It’s easy…comforting, even…to respond to such tragedy with fear, anger, and hate. It’s much harder to respond with love. But if we cling to that security blanket that we can weave so delicately with yarns of sadness, despair, and fright, and pattern with disgust, vitriol, and spite…if we hold that dear and treasure it, those who seek to incite terror and to make people pay for the hurt they feel inside will be the ones who win. If we let the Dylan Klebolds and Adam Lanzas of the world cause us to suffer, they win. Their mission will be accomplished.

But it is love, not hatred, that helps us heal. Choosing forgiveness over sorrow is what makes us stronger as people. Mercy, not punishment, is what makes us humane.

You might be thinking, “Oh, she’s all the way in Thailand, far removed from all this. She’s not a parent of the children lost. What could she know?” Well, I’m human too, and I speak from the experience of my heart from working with kids just as innocent as the ones we lost last week, but who are subjected to all manner of abuses, the kind most of us cannot even fathom. I speak not from my strength, but from theirs. They have all the reason in the world to hate the world, yet continually, they respond to love.

This Christmas, as you hold your dear ones close to you, send love.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Hyacynth’s!
BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

A Coffee Chat

If we were really meeting for coffee today, you’d find me curled up in a hammock, wearing yoga pants and a comfy sweater, cupping my coffee to me. If we did speak, it would be quietly.

When I heard the news, I was at SOLD helping set up and prepare for our Christmas party. It was an event full of delight, as friends, students, and community came together to put on a really awesome show. We had about 200 guests and everything came together without a hitch, and with plenty of laughter and festive cheer. But for me, it was like I was walking through the whole thing with cotton buds in my ears. It was muted as I began to process shock. Grief. Disbelief. Sadness.

I found myself looking into the eyes of our 5- and 6-year-olds and finding it impossible to imagine how a person could do that and pull a trigger. There’s just a wall in my head where that cannot go.

Every morning, I wake up and find my Facebook stream absolutely ablaze with everyone processing this tragedy in their own way. I know that anger is just another form of grief and fear, but it saddens me to see people attacking other people, instead of discussing the content of their ideas. It just goes to show how fresh and raw the wound is, I suppose, that we are so quick and ready to see the worst in each other and to find distaste rather than commonality.

Yesterday, I posted a tribute to the victims, a black armband of shared mourning. But as I typed those names onto that black square, I was acutely aware of all the names that I wasn’t typing. The names of the 20 school children in China who were stabbed by some crazy head that very same day. The names of the children in the Congo subjected to violence and horrors almost daily. The children in Central American countries. The children in Chiang Mai. I wondered whether our nation would have responded this strongly if Sandy Hook was a school on the south side of the Bronx and all the little children were brown, instead of blond little angels named Grace?

I don’t feel this is an appropriate time to drag race issues into the mix, and I’m really not trying to poke at people where they’re already sore. Empathy is never a bad thing and it’s impossible to feel the full scope of sadness for all the sad things in this world – a person would absolutely break. But for me, that question is there. It lurks because part of what defines tragedy is the extent to which we identify with the victims, and simply being fellow humans is rarely enough.

Last week, I confessed about all my existential questions about the point and meaning of life, and the sense of absurdity I felt in it. This week, I sense that we can pose all those kinds of questions we like, but none of them do a damn bit of good in helping us confront the fact that life must be lived, every day, one day at a time. There’s tragedy. Some days that tragedy is as huge as the murder of innocents. Some days the tragedies are as minor a freshly baked tart dropped on the floor. Most days, it’s something in between: unaffordable medical bills, a crappy or even lost job, a bitter argument with someone you love, a flu you just can’t seem to shake.

And it’s okay because there’s other stuff too. There’s the handwritten cookbook full of family secrets passed down. Presents under the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. A shy 14-year-old belting tunes all by herself, in a foreign language, out in front of a crowd of 200. Husband and wife secretly copping a feel and sharing a laugh in between job and chores. A puppy climbing in your lap, seeking warmth and comfort. Family giving you a space at the dinner table, despite what you said to them earlier that day. A stranger anonymously fulfilling an unspoken need.

This is how we live life, day in and day out. We cry at the tart so lovingly made and so carelessly splattered to the floor. Then we scoop it up, scrape off the abused parts, and eat the rest of it anyway.

Gratitude for Happenstance

I often don’t shut off my camera before I shove it into my bag, and it’s later, as I scan through the slide show of recent photos that I sometimes come across an unexpected…and even surprisingly stunning shot like the one above.

I had plans today. Not specifically planned plans, but a list of things to do…

…until I got a phone call.

My cousins were randomly in town – and not in the town I live in, but the one I work in, three hours away. There was in invite to breakfast, and sure, I have time for breakfast.

And breakfast led to a meeting with a prominent artist, and soon we were traveling to his house and the houses of other artists, galleries, and temples….

…amazing places…

 

…fantastic spaces…

…and kind, sweet souls….

 

 

To me, there’s nothing more beautiful or inspiring than seeing people do what they love, with joy. With peace in the heart comes a generosity. Sometimes, I feel – I know – I lead a charmed life. But I’m also surrounded by charming people doing good in the world, by starting with themselves. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started out today. It was only towards the end, as I began to look back, that I truly saw it.

I’m grateful that I said yes to breakfast.

P.S. I’m trying out Intense Debate as my new commenting system. For those of you who might not have used Intense Debate before, please know it is not necessary to create an account to comment.* Just be sure to include your name and email – and if you wish to receive email notifications of any replies to your comments (from me or other readers) so you don’t have to keep checking back, hit the button “Subscribe to:  Replies” at the bottom left.

Please let me know how it’s working for you! Yay or nay?

*If you’re a regular reader & commenter, it may be worthwhile to create an account for greater ease of use (and that’s how you can get a nifty little picture by your name too).

A Globetrotter’s Life

When I was little, I used to dream of having a life where I could travel and see the world. When I tried to imagine myself as an adult at the ripe old age of, say, twenty-five, I imagined myself in an airy New York apartment with wood floors and concrete walls, stalking about in power heels and a sharp suit in between jaunts to London, Chicago, Paris, and Moscow. I was a lot taller too.

It wasn’t clear what all exactly I’d be doing, but that’s what it should look like.

As I got a little older, the probability of this fantasy coming true began to wane. I maxed out at 5’1″ in high school. I pursued studies in art, clearly having no realistic sense of how few artists make enough money to buy tailored suits and plane tickets. I thought I’d become a graphic designer, working with models and photographers for fantastic magazine ads like the kind you see in Vogue, clearly having no sense of how to get there.

I thought I might do a semester abroad in college, but I had the kind of love going on that kept me bound rather than setting me free, and I was okay with that. I made my choices. I might have been a little afraid to leave too.

Then, after college, I got a “real” job working in advertising for a real magazine company. The dream, right? Except I was chained to my desk. I learned that ads involved more computers than cameras and stock photos of Tahiti rather than trips to Tahiti. I finally made enough money to travel, but with only two weeks’ worth of vacation time primarily eaten up by Christmas and New Year’s, I never had time to go anywhere.

I made a rule for myself then: to see one new place every year. It didn’t have to be exotic; it just had to be someplace I hadn’t been before. I stopped envisioning trips to Rome and Machu Picchu, and focused instead on the splendors of Yosemite, Nevada, and South Carolina. That rule for myself was my lifeline; my declaration that I had not given up on my dream, no matter how little money or time allowed for it.

When that job at the magazine publishing company lost its luster, I decided to go back to school, and again traded time for money. I had vacation time aplenty, but no money.

My twenty-fifth birthday did not see me in a svelte flat in New York.

But it did find me on a plane to Germany. I begged and bartered my way there, staying with people I was lucky enough to know living there, thus saving on hotels. (One of whom was a man I’d never met before in real life and on the train down to meet him I began hyperventilating over the fact that he could be all manner of dangerous freak — it turns out he was one of the most gentlemanly men I’ve been fortunate to know and he set me up with a place to stay at a female friend’s house and they showed me all around Munich, despite barely knowing me, and we’re still very good friends to this day.)

I made that trip as a gift to myself because I wanted to prove to myself I could travel on my own. I remember arriving at that German airport and being terrified for not being able to speak the language and being all alone. It ended up being one of the best gifts I ever gave myself. I learned the kindness of strangers, and I learned I was less fragile than I thought.

Flash forward a few years, I was coming to the end of my doctoral program, still unsure what my future would hold. I might have had a few day dreams of standing in a long flowing skirt on a dirt road, with dusty children playing around me, as I fought for their rights. But those dreams were born of visions of movies like The Constant Gardener and had all the reality of centaurs and Patronuses.

And yet, this time, I was a little older, a little braver, and married to a man who had spent a year traveling around the world. Rather than chaining me to all I knew, he spurred me to know more, see more, and do more. We spurred each other on.

I could have played it “safe” and followed a career path so set and immutable it was literally called a “track.” But we were ready for a transition. We were comfortable – and we figured we were far too young to be so comfortable.

So we shed everything: our apartment, our furniture, prescriptions for a “safe” job (which, by the way, was not at all safe given the state of the economy), my trusted old car, and my husband’s beloved motorbike. We traded it all in for one-way tickets to a foreign country and a potential position with an NGO.

This year alone, I’ve been up and down Thailand innumerable times. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Berlin, Krakow, Prague, Dresden, and Los Angeles. I’ve stood in a long flowing skirt on a dirt road, with children playing by my feet as I discussed the best ways to keep them from becoming enslaved. And I have plans to go to Charleston, Santa Barbara, and the tropical islands in the south of Thailand. I have far more experiences and much less stuff. I take shorter showers, but communicate in more languages and eat a much broader repertoire of food.

Looking back, I’m still not sure how I got here, other than much like my first trip to Germany: I booked the tickets and then freaked out about it later, when it was too late to do anything but put one foot in front of the other.

But I’m still just shy of 5’1″. (If anything, I mighta’ shrunk a bit.)

A traveler’s life can be lonely and isolating, being so far from all you know and having to navigate all manner of things without speaking a lick of the language. But the truth is, I never really did any of it alone. I did it with the emotional (and often financial) support of family. I made friends with people who made transitions easier. I have a husband to hold my hand and mirror my look of awe and surprise as I go. I flew, always knowing I had a soft spot to land with friends and family whenever I wanted or needed.

When I was little and dreaming of a globetrotter’s life, I couldn’t really imagine much beyond that svelte flat in New York. Now I’m living it, I know it has nothing to do with any flats in any particular place and everything to do with the attitude you bring to it. The things that matter in life – loving family, good food, strong connections, freedom, and security – are the same whether you’re sitting in fisherman pants on a bamboo mat in Mae Tha or around the dinner table in Elgin or at a beer garden in Berlin. Whether you’re riding in an SUV or a rickshaw, you still make the choice to impact the people around you in a manner that’s positive or not. Children respond to gentle encouragement whether they’re learning to color in a community center in a rice field or learning to skate in a rink in Fountain Valley. You can have the same conversations with concerned people, whether you speak in a northern Thai dialect or with a Southern twang.

And whether here or there, you can be 5’1″ and still walk a long stride.

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up HERE!
BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

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I’m linking this up again as my Best of Bigger Picture Moments from 2012.
Join us next week with your One Word Resolution for 2013!

Once upon a time…

Note: New Writing Circles dates have been announced! Two new Fiction Writing (including one in which you can Bring Your Own Work!) dates hosted by yours truly in October! Check my sidebar or click here for details.

…I had a crush on a boy who was also a friend. We were in high school, and bonded over politics, sarcasm, epic long letters passed between classes, and a shared sense of ironic humor. I crushed on him hard and silently, but it must not have been too silent because one day, another friend of mine, Cole*, came up to me and told me the crippling news.

“He said he wishes you would get the hint that he doesn’t like you.”

Devastated and ashamed, I was. I never confronted my friend; I just licked my wounds in private. I took the hint and began to distance myself. If he wondered why I stopped writing, why we stopped talking so much, and why I wandered away, he never asked. If he was hurt by the fact that I put my wounded ego above our friendship, he never let on. I started dating someone else, and so did he. We graduated and went our separate ways.

Other than sending a few newsy catch-up emails, we probably haven’t given each other much thought in the years since. We each got happily married, and probably neither of us would change a thing in our lives. We are both good and we are fine.

Then one day recently, I had a dream and he was in it. I woke up, went to check Facebook, and found he (a man who rarely even uses Facebook) posted a major announcement on it. I congratulated him, as the situation warranted, and chuckled at the funny coincidence.

In passing, I mentioned the coincidence to my mother, and she said, “I still think he liked you,” as she is wont to do from time to time. I shook it off and said I doubted it, as I always do when she says this. Except this time, I finally told her the evidence I had to suggest he didn’t.

“Cole said that he had told him he wished I’d get the hint that he didn’t like me.”

She laughed. “Of course Cole said that.” And I nodded, because now that I think about it, it was pretty clear around then that Cole had liked me. (God, high school drama is dumb.)

Not for the first time, I wondered if I had an entirely wrong read on the situation.

Whether my friend liked me or not will probably remain a mystery, and that’s okay, because I’m happy and he’s happy, and none of that has one iota of bearing on my life now. The only reason I tell this story today is because sometimes it takes sixteen years to learn something.

And what I learned is this: I wish I hadn’t been so ready to believe I couldn’t be loved that I so quickly let a good friend go.

If I ever have a daughter, or if I could ever talk to yours, I would shout this from rooftops: Believe you can be loved.

Sometimes people hurt us. But sometimes, that’s okay because maybe there is a bigger picture. Sometimes, there’s something more meaningful than a passing hurt.

::

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
~ Brené Brown

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Sarah’s!
BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

 

Ten Things…

Note: New Writing Circles dates have been announced! Two new dates hosted by yours truly in October! Check my sidebar on my home page or click here for details.

This photo has nothing to do with this post. I was just in the mood to take it.

Ten Things I Know to Be True: (in no particular order)

1. Forever friends are rare in life, and it can be a surprise who turns out to be one.

2. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I miss good cheese.

3. Everything we do in life is a choice, even if we are not actively deciding.

4. The older I get, the harder it is to pinpoint things I know.

5. I’m tempted to log out of Facebook until the election season is over.

6. The universe is very, very big and I am very, very small…

7. …but even fragile leaves and wee sea shells can leave an imprint behind.

8. I like me better when I wonder more and worry less.

9. Getting good at anything takes practice, practice, practice…and even maestros never stop practicing.

10. Love is magical. Instead of diminishing when shared, it grows. The more deeply and widely you love, the greater expands your capacity to love. The more you give, the more you have.

Ten Things I Should Have Learned By Now: (Must I stick to only 10?)

1. The discipline to stick long term with healthy diet and exercise.

2. That most people don’t consider it “helpful” when you correct them.

3. Basic car maintenance, like changing the oil or a flat tire.

4. Anything related to finance. Once I get any deeper than “this is what I have in the bank” and “this is how much those shoes cost,” I’m generally in over my head.

5. How to shoot in full manual – and to not be too lazy to use a tripod.

6. That there’s a difference between being busy and being productive.

7. Patience.

8. I will never be taller.

9. Things are much simpler if you just tell people what you want. You may not get it, but you do get to skip the annoying mind games.

10. It’s silly to be shy about complimenting someone for fear of looking stupid. When I think something positive about someone, I should just tell them.

This post was inspired by spoken word poet, Sarah Kay,
who bowled me over when she said:

“Getting the wind knocked out of you
is the only way to remind your lungs
that they like the taste of air.”

What caught your breath this week?

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Melissa’s!
BE SURE TO CATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK
And head there for your daily dose of creativity:
prompts for photos, for words, for inspiration,
and for a life lived mindfully!

Impervious {A Bigger Picture Moment}

A bird hopped just beyond my doorstep
I looked at him, he looked at me
And I smiled to watch his little feathered body puff up
Sweetly
Puff, puff, a ball of outraged cotton
he shat right on the wooden seat I had just cleaned
scrubbed and oiled
and smile fell into grimace as he hopped away.

I did not go out and clean it.
There was a cool breeze and a refreshing sprinkle of rain.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown 
 

 What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Sarah’s!

Thirty-two

…is what I’m turning today. In honor of my birthday, I thought it would be fun to write a letter to myself. Well, actually, two letters. One to myself at age 12 and one to myself at age 52.

So here goes.

To my twelve-year-old self:

You don’t know this, but you’re about to enter a period of adolescence where the girls turn mean and manipulative, and the boys turn awkward and dumb. Even the smart ones. Enjoy your childhood and cherish this year. Don’t try so hard to grow up so fast. Believe in yourself. Ask for what you want. You are worth more than you think and you don’t have to try so hard to be liked. Learn to play the flute or the violin. Don’t give up on something you love because you fear what others think. The people that you will really look up to, that offer something worth striving for or learning from, you will find when the time is right. You will find friends worth holding on to, and you will find a man who inspires you.

I tell you all this, but I’m really not worried. You will find your way in your own time. You will find who you are and you will stand up for that when you’re ready. Um, but those bangs you’re trying really hard to get? They’re a losing battle. And that first time you shave your legs, PLEASE use shaving cream. Thanks.

Your loving, thirty-two-year-old self.

To my fifty-two-year-old self:

Remember me? I’m the one who is simultaneously fulfilled and still dreaming. I hope you are the same, only better. I’m coming up on two years lived abroad and I feel like I’ve been able to do so much, and yet there’s still so much more. I have dreams of growing my family, of having more of my ideas turned into print, of seeing more of the world and other people, and of leaving this place better for having had me. Those are my ambitions. Not houses or cars or things. Just me leaving an imprint more positive than not.

How’s all that coming?

And just in case you need reminding, here are some things I hope in twenty years not to forget:
1) Respect in marriage is sacred. Extend it, even when you least want to. (This includes paying attention to your husband when he’s telling you something, even if you’re in the middle of something else.)
2) Love your body. It’s the only one you got, so don’t hate on it.
3) Don’t worry so much. It will all work out, often better than you expect.
4) Breathe. You have a tendency to forget to do this sometimes.
and
5) 
Above all, have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. 

With love,
Me.

*     *     *

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown

 What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Sarah’s!

 

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