Every year on my birthday I take some time to reflect on my life and where I am compared to where I want to be. More importantly who I am and is this who I wanted to be. This dates back to junior high. Five hours or more at the park or the beach with a root beer and a lemon lollipop and my knife so I can whittle little shapes out of wood and I am happy. Six categories were used to measure my progress in life. In 8th grade it read like this: health, wealth, school, friends, family, boys. In high school I changed “boys” to “guys” and then when I was questioning my sexuality it became “romance” or “love.” Some of these categories overlap. School is still school but from a work perspective. I’ve become more of a producer rather than a consumer. At least I want to believe that.
Where I usually get hung up is on the health. And that actually can be divided into mental, physical and spiritual health. But what I have realized this year is that the lines are not so clearly drawn. I am always, always, unhappy with how much I weigh. That’s one constant in my reflection. I look at my physical health and my appearance and celebrate or become despondent on things like my hair, skin, nails, unshaved legs, etc… I have no apology for feeling better when I take care of myself. Eating right makes me feel good. Working out makes me feel empowered. I have been improving in these areas that contribute to my overall health and well being. Fruits, veggies and water have all been increased. 10 vitamin pills per day plus flossing, anti-flouride mouthwash and moisturizer (albeit not religiously) are all part of my healthier habits.
But here’s the real epiphany. My progress as a human being has nothing to do with this temporal condition of a body. I finally feel like I am becoming who I really am, who I was meant to be all this time. I don’t know if it’s an improved state of spirituality, absence of hormones (read menopause) or a more level state of existence (read anti-depressants), but I feel like I have an inner peace. I am becoming more patient and understanding, not as judgmental, more calm. On some levels I have achieved an inner stillness. I feel like I am a better teacher than before. My approach this year is completely different – more project-based learning, more student-centered lessons, more choice, authenticity of purpose, collaboration and incorporating technology. It seems the learning I am witnessing is real as opposed to the empty “dancing to the song of the puppet master” with me being the puppet master. Many of the kids own their learning.
I have learned you can’t control anyone but yourself and even with that you have your hands full. (See comment about weight loss above.)
It may sound hinky but everything happens for a reason and you can’t control what happens but you can control your reaction to what happens.
I am not my weight or my bank account or the veins in my legs or my not-so-white teeth. Or my bad skin or my feet that I used to be so proud of but now I am getting a bunion and the second toe on each foot is curling into a hammer position. That’s okay, it’s not me.
Here’s who I am: I am my choices. Possibly I am the relationships in my life at least the part for which I am responsible. I am how much I give in terms of money and time and volunteerism and sacrifice and raising awareness. I measure how much I encourage others (especially students) to fully become who they are and to realize their full potential. I can measure my love and forgiveness and acceptance of people. I can measure myself by patience and determination.
I have gone from wanting to save the world at 17, to thinking I could just save a region, or a school, or a community but have realized I can’t even save my immediate circle in the center of which is me who I definitely have been unable to save.
What I may have learned is that true growth is something I will continue to work towards and that in realizing my limits I better realize my potential. I love when people say they are thinking or acting “outside the box.” The fact that you believe a box even exists means you are a prisoner of it.
(And no, Mom, this doesn’t mean I am going to stop going to the gym.)
Need a better wrap up for this.