On my first day, our Head of School spoke briefly to the new teachers about how relationships are at the heart of successful schools. He challenged us to develop the ties that would bind us tight over the year and encouraged us to see that time invested in those relationships would pay out in dividends.
Over the orientation and on into the first elementary staff meeting I kept bobbing my head in agreement at the things that our Principal said. I remember thinking, people other than me actually talk like this? And as he chatted about learning journeys and becoming and assessments protocols and trust and collaboration I started to feel a tightening in my chest.
It was a very strange feeling. Dualistic in nature and confusing at its core. But why?
Anyone who knows me, knows that for as far back as when I was a toddler and articulated as early as when I was homeless at 16, I have been on a journey to find 'home'. In fact, at 12 in one of my earliest diary entries I had written,
"I seek home, a safe place to be accepted for who and what I am."
It was strange, the more I traveled through the streets of Bangkok and re-fell in love with the city, the more I waxed lyrical about the smells, tastes and thrill of being back in Asia, the more time I spent in warm sand or out with friends, the more that people talked about education that I understood at my core- the more I felt I had come home.
But then, bubbling under this happy representation of home was an undercurrent of what can only be described as.. fear. This may seem incongruous with who I am; bubbly, positive, energetic. But those who read my blogs often, also know I have a penchant for introspection and reflection.
I feared, what if I failed? What if I missed having my own class? What if I didn't know everything? What if I couldn't support students with the expertise I had over the last 14 years? What if I let them down?
Let me be clear, the leadership at my school are only kind and supportive. They embody innovative leadership practice and amazing skill. These were self-created doubts that stopped me in my tracks and made it hard to breathe. I meandered to my apartment and that tightening in my chest got stronger until the night was spent with me sitting on my balcony watching the city lights, lost in my own thoughts.
At that same meeting, born out of a TED video he had shared with us in which Ramsey Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination, and get students excited about how the world works, our Principal charged us with reflecting on what our own 3 goals would be this year.
Quickly, I threw out 3 that I knew off the top of my head. So confident was I in my choices, I tweeted them out to the Twittersphere. They were quick fed and ingrained into my pedagogical psyche. It seemed like a no-brainer. But on that balcony with nothing but 12 stories of air and night sky, I had to dig deep, face my fear and reexamine those answers.
The harder I thought, the more I realized, that with each new challenge we take on we stand at the edge of a precipice, but what extends out before us is the story of our past. We stand on that edge filled with regret for what was or yearn for what could have been.
And we gulp for air.
Equally so to the event horizon is a vast unknown future, a what-if narrative constructed only by our imaginations.
But what if we looked at future fear and past regret in a new way? As profound and insightful. As a part of our reflective being?
I have many regrets. I have always said I refuse to keep secrets because my upbringing taught me that all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light. But even now, there are secrets and regrets, held like crushed flowers in my hand, and I can't put them down, because they are simply unplantable. Perhaps they act as talismans, gentle guides to help me make better choices and to be a better person. In her TED talk Kathryn Schulz states that regret doesn't remind us that we did badly- but that we could do better.
As I spent time watching the twinkling city lights, I mulled over the fact that perhaps it wasn't the school or city that felt like home but the connections of people I had made around me. Swiftly that thought was joined by the realization that perhaps home was extended to the global connections I had made over the last 14 years of living internationally. My network now transcends physical place and geographical time to the relationships I hold and the investments I have made in them. Perhaps it really was like our Head of School had said and the dividends were finally paying out. I started to feel an expansive warm fuzziness- no joke.
And as I thought and thought and thought, it suddenly dawned on me. Home, in fact, wasn't externally located in the places or the people that I had met. Home wasn't the ease of friendship or camaraderie I had felt. Home wasn't contained in the collegial conversations, or friendly drinks I had shared. Indeed, it was the sum total of my experiences, my relationships, my regrets, and even my fears, funneled into this one perfect moment and the wonderful embodiment of home.
Home had always been at the center of me.
On this epic journey, I had found something that was never really lost. All this time I had already been home.
Back to school is never just about going back to school. It is a journey into who we are, and what we will become. But the most important moment in that journey is the 'now'. It is the moment unlimited in it's potential. Unfettered by past or future. So I choose to change my goals this year. I am sticking with only one: to be mindfully present in the now.
Welcome home friends. It is so good to share this moment with you.