What I’ve Learned by Writing and Reading

 

“Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.” (William Zinsser)

Some days I struggle with words. But this isn’t a post about writer’s block.

Instead it’s a post about learning.

I’ve realized that I go through cycles; words flow then words fizzle but they will eventually flow again. Meanwhile, I fill the void with ideas and possibilities. I keep my mind open to images. I jot down thoughts. I read . . . I read . . . and I read some more.

Since I can’t seem to move forward in my own creative words, I’ve been focusing on the words of others. I’m participating in Sandra’s Writing Workshop on Facebook, despite my own self-doubts. I swallowed my fear, and submitted a chapter of my book for feedback. I haven’t gotten any yet. Does that mean it’s terrible or people simply don’t have the time?

I downloaded other people’s works with caution, fearful of what I would find. What if their work was so spectacular it made me feel ashamed of my own? What if I couldn’t think of anything to say, either positive or negative? What if participating in this group revealed the imposter in me? The person who has taught writing in the past (although granted mostly research writing) and has everyone fooled that I have any ability with words.

But, as I settled into reading, I had a realization. I’ve learned a lot through this writing  journey that I’m on.  Some of my learning has come from ideas, some is personal to my life, and some has made me a stronger writer and/or editor.  Here are a few things I’ve learned, in no particular order:

  • The Value of the Beginning: How many time have you read something that didn’t draw you in immediately? I admit to being a stubborn reader, and struggling through pages or even chapters of a book that has a fascinating premise in the hopes that eventually I will wade my way through the weak beginning and find something to keep me reading.  But I don’t do that as often anymore. Even though you can find gems this way, I would rather be pulled in by a strong and glorious beginning then labor through endless exposition in the hopes that something wonderful will come along. Of course, this means that I often struggle with my own beginnings, but I think the struggle is worthwhile in the end.
  • The Need to Read Out Loud: I’ve always made this suggestion to my students. “Read your work out loud, it will help you find the weaknesses.” Of course, my students often look at me like I’m insane. “If you don’t want to read it yourself, then have someone read it to you.” That doesn’t change the look. At times I’ve even forced them to read to each other in class.  I read my own work out loud all the time. You can sometimes catch me mumbling in public venues as I try to find the flow of a passage that is particularly challenging. This method helps me discover when I’m being too formal with my words, or too cryptic. It’s not perfect, and I still need to make changes, but it helps me find my own voice as well as the voices of my characters. Trust me, before I post this, I will have read it out loud several times.
  • The Power of the Right Word: I am always mesmerized by writers whose vocabulary challenges me, but I’ve come to realize that an extensive vocabulary isn’t always the best choice. Finding the right word can sometimes mean finding the simplest word, or perhaps it means using a word with a twist and finding a new metaphor. It’s not easy, but the way we use our words–the choices we make–defines our style and our voice as writers.  Words can soar and words can flop. Words can propel us forward or make us stop and think. I envy the people who always seem to find the right word, but I also value my own struggle as I search for the words that sing.
  • Questions Matter: In my classes, whether I’m teaching about theater or writing, I encourage my students to ask questions. I’m currently teaching a course called, Studies in Drama, where I’ve focused the course work on works that challenged society with either political or social change.  My students are required to submit a discussion question for each reading to an on-line discussion group and then respond to at least two questions. What does this have to do with writing? Well, I find that I enjoy questions. If someone asks me a question, then I can find the flaws in my own words. If someone challenges me with a question, then I can find my own answers. I’m not always right, but by exploring the questions, I find new ways into material. As I respond to other people’s materials, I try to respond with questions because questions lead to new thoughts and new answers. Do you enjoy questions or do they frustrate you because you say to yourself, “The answer is right there”? If someone has to ask the question, then perhaps the answer isn’t so clear.

What are some of the things that you have learned on your writing journey? Add to the comments below to make this list grow.

 

 

The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)

Seashells.

“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)

 

I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.

The Many Passions (and Confusions) of Lisa

I sat in the bookstore coffee shop, green tea latte at my side, and prepped for the course I am teaching at a nearby university in Theatre for Young Audiences.

A course in my actual field, what a luxury.

Suddenly, as I read the chapters from the book selected for this course (which I went along with as I wasn’t sure what text to use) I found my chest constricting, and a tense feeling in my shoulders. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and wanted to scream or cry despite being in a very public place.

A panic attack settling into my system. A moment for me step back and reflect on what I was feeling and why.

Deep breaths and listen to the silence.

I am a really good teacher. I challenge my students, I make learning fun, I set high expectations, and at the same time I work very hard to help all my students find a way to succeed.

But I’ve lost the joy of teaching. It was sucked out of me because of too much bureaucratic bull#$%* and because of a system that lets the priorities of a powerful few become more important than the needs of the students. I lost the desire from having too many students who plagiarized, or too many who expected–no demanded–to be handed grades rather than to earn grades. I lost the passion by having to fight too hard to even teach what I teach best, or create what I create best, against people who were so caught up in protecting their territory that they didn’t want new ideas, new talent, or anyone who might challenge the status quo.

Yet, I still love teaching when I have a classroom full of students who are open to exploring and seeing the power of learning, no matter what the subject. And I still love directing theatre when it is about a process of creation and exploration rather than trying to become a star and make lots of money. And I still love writing, even if I don’t know where it is heading.

This class (in the one meeting we had so far) seems to be full of students who really want to be there. Well, except for the one student who has already texted me with questions like “where do I find . . .?” “Do I type it into Google?” “How do I look it up?”  “Can I find it at Barnes & Noble?” Questions that I expect people of this generation, raised on technology, to know how to answer. They have more computer skills than I do, or at least they should.

So why did my throat constrict? Why did the panic set in?

I was reading about things I feel passionately about: like the importance of including arts education into the system; or the excellent tool that theatre  is to teach all kinds of skills and educational lessons and reach different types of people; or the need in any culture for theatre and performance and arts programming that reach all levels of society. I didn’t agree with every statement in the book, but still it is a book about my passions.

So why do I feel like crying?

The answer lies in my experience in Slovakia, particularly the time with the Roma. The answer lies in my current struggle with words and search for focus and simplicity. The answer lies in the multiple incarnations of Lisa, and in my inability to figure out how to market myself so that I am DOING rather than only teaching others how to do.

Not that teaching is a bad thing, but if I am not practicing what I preach I feel like an imposter. The answer lies in my imposter syndrome.

The answer lies in the fact that I have lots and lots of passions and projects, but without a deadline, without a “boss”, without a guarantee of a paycheck or some kind of acknowledgment from an outside source I can’t seem to accomplish them. The answer lies in the fact that I don’t have enough self-esteem to do things because I want to, I simply look too much for validation from outside when I know that I should be able to find satisfaction in myself and my projects, and in the joy of sharing what I love.

I am constantly saying that the process is as important (if not more important) than the product, that the journey is the reward. But when it comes to my own life, I can’t get past the block of feeling like I failed somewhere along the way.

This has got to stop!

I look in the mirror and I do not see what other people see.

I look at my list of accomplishments and I do not see what other people see!

I thought that I had finally gotten over this in Slovakia. As a matter of fact, I even wrote this:

 

Am I only able to find peace and purpose when I am away from my normal environment? Am I only able to see myself when someone else leads the way?

Somehow I must find a way to merge my passions with my abilities, and to become my own support “boss”–the person who gives herself deadlines and achieves every dream with or without validation from others.

My journey began in Slovakia, but now I have to face the painful stuff and move through it. The answers do not lie in an outside source.

The answers lie inside of me.

Lessons Learned in 2011

This has been a year of change for me, as well as a year of final absorbing some of the lessons that I’ve been trying to understand my whole life.  I have learned . . .

  • . . . to “Expect the unexpected”

  • “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

  • “The journey is the reward.”
  • “Be open to whatever happens.”
  • I am not my degrees or my title.
  • “Nature heals.”

  • Art heals.
  • You carry home inside of you.
  • “Creative is a verb!” It’s important to live life creatively.
  • Friendship comes in many sizes and shapes, but it is one of the most precious gifts on earth.

  • Live life so you will not look back with regrets.
  • Memories are precious.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Words have power.
  • Belief and passion are priceless.

My list could go on and on, as I have learned a lot this year, but I would rather hear from you. What lessons have you learned during 2011 and how did you learn them?

Dear Lisa the Younger (2001) Version

I wish I could tell you that the next 10 years would be the best ones of your life, but that would be a lie. Prepare yourself for the rocky road ahead.

Ah, I look so young.

I wish I could protect you from some of the hurt and ugliness that lies ahead.  But, while we don’t necessarily believe in destiny because we all make choices, I believe that the lessons you will learn over the next 10 years are necessary ones. If I protect you from them, then you may not discover the hidden strength inside yourself or recognize the error of your ways so you don’t repeat them.

You will run into some very unpleasant, wicked people over the next few years. Do not let them get you down. Do not let them destroy you. Learn from them and then forgive. That is the hardest part, the forgiveness. I hope that you can learn it quicker, because it still hurts now.

You will also have many great moments over the next 10 years. Your newly formed family will grow, but not without heartbreak first. DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF! Now that I am removed from that pain by time and distance, and have met many women who went through similar pain, I know that it was not my fault. Plus, it brings you a wonderful girl who makes every day an adventure. As a matter of fact, she will be born on this very day in two years. Don’t forget to turn on the radio when you head to the hospital, it will create a fond memory for the rest of your life.

You will face a lot of pain and loss over the next 10 years; from the near death of a family member to job loss, from Dad’s disintegrating memory to a feeling of not belonging anywhere. But remember, you are strong and loved. You will survive and grow because of each experience you have.

I don’t know where the next 10 years will bring us. I wish I could change many things over the past 10 years, and choose many different paths. But, through a television show called Being Erica that we discovered recently, you will recognize that changing life choices can sometimes create more problems. Sometimes the path we choose is the one we need to choose. So NO REGRETS!

The challenges you face bring you to many wonderful things:

  • You will write a book. So what that it hasn’t been published yet. YOU WRITE AN EXCELLENT BOOK!
  • You will find your voice through blogging.
  • You will create many wonderful productions.
  • You will recognize what makes you happy and begin to work towards that.
  • You will learn more about yourself.
  • You will face challenges and move forward.
  • You will meet many wonderful people, and connect with even more through the power of the internet.

I cannot change the challenges you will face. I cannot see where we will head. But I can promise you this;  you will do more than just survive, you will thrive and grow and start becoming the woman you want to be.

I wish you (and us) the best of luck in the crazy road ahead.

Love, Lisa

Feb. 15, 2011

Learning to Write, Writing to Learn

GDR "village teacher" (a teacher tea...

Image via Wikipedia

I feel that I have learned so much through writing of all types, from research projects to blogs. I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned about other people. I’ve thought about new ideas, and revised old one’s. Writing is crucial to who I am as a person.

But today I feel like I’ve learned  nothing at all.

What have I gotten myself into?

Next semester, in addition to directing a play and teaching theater classes to college students as well as children, I will be teaching two Comp I classes for the local Community College; one in person, one online.

No problem! I thought to myself when I agreed to do this. I’ve spent the last 4 years teaching Freshman Comp courses at a 4 year college. I can do it.

Bam! Bam! Bam! That’s the sound of me pounding my head on the wall.

Seriously, I know I can do it. I’m a good teacher. I’ve had intense semesters in the past. I’ve had success with students, as well as a few failures. I accomplish more the more I have to do.

Yet, as I work on the syllabi for the coming semester (I’m one of those people who likes to have them done before break so that I can relax more) I realize that the obstacles are new:

  • I’ve never taught an on-line course before, so I need to learn a whole new way of interacting with my students.
  • The text they use is different from the previous school, so I have a new approach to things and new readings. (Which is not a bad thing).
  • The student population here is a little more challenging. Not that it was easy in my former job, but I find it really difficult to teach students who either never come to class or never turn anything in.

So what is my solution to this insanity? Add more complexity to my courses. I’ve decided I want my students to blog. I plan on adding a blog site for my students (and possibly students from other sections). They will be able to contribute new posts. They will be able to respond to each other’s posts. The blog will also be accessible to the public.

Why? Why add this craziness to a group of students who may never like writing; some of whom have basic challenges in grammar.

I believe that the way to become a better writer is by writing. reading other writing, and writing some more.  Knowing that you have an audience helps.  since we teach about purpose and audience, what better way to help them learn than providing a purpose or an audience. If the students realize that their audience moves beyond myself and their classmates, maybe they will approach writing with a different attitude.

Or they will run screaming and I will lose students faster than a tornado.

Stay tuned for this grand experiment.

Oy vey!

Update: If anyone is interested, the new blog is http://icccompositionpage.wordpress.com/. The grand experiment has begun!

Satisfaction with Mediocrity

Math Cards Icon

Image by Sagolla via Flickr

I just turned in my grades for the past semester.

As usual, my emotions are a mixed bag: relief that I finished (early this semester); frustration at myself for what I didn’t accomplish; elation because of the few students that I actually reached and saw shine; anger at the students who were willing to scrape by in mediocrity.

This last feeling is the most frustrating for me. I have seen it in numerous situations lately; not just in the classroom but in people’s general attitude toward life . There seems to be a willingness to accept the mediocre. Why work for an A when a C will do? And, if you don’t get the A, then of course it is the fault of the instructor, never oneself. If you are getting less than a C, particularly an F, you can always beg for withdrawal as long as you can come up with a heart-wrenching explanation for why you never bothered to attend class or turn anything in. I am giving lots of “F”s this year.

I gave an assignment for students to create a portfolio of their work. “Lay it out nicely,” I said. “This will be useful for you in the future. Create something that you would turn in if you were applying for a job. Create a cover, label your images . . . etc.” I get a collection of images labeled with a blue pen. The cover is notebook paper, blue handwriting scribbled across.

I give the students the opportunity to create a final that is interesting to them, where they can latch onto whatever intrigued them throughout the semester and pursue that topic. I set guidelines, but I allowed. I get, an odd mixture of well thought out work merged with half-accomplished efforts.

This is not just a refection of the school I am at, but a general attitude of students today.  They want knowledge handed to them in the simplest way possible, and then they want some kind of guarantee that all of this work will lead to a lucrative job. I cannot give those guarantees, because I would never hire them. If I owned my own company, I would only want to hire people who are willing to put something more than mediocrity into everything they do. I want to work with people who can find inspiration in anything, so that they do it all with joy. I want to work with people who are not satisfied with a C.

I wonder if this is a reflection of American culture. Have we become so complacent that we are somehow “the best” that we no longer strive to become better. I hate to think that the best we can do is middle of the road.

What do you think?

The Great Debate: Humanities vs. Science

Albert Einstein

Image via Wikipedia

‎”… we should mandate dial-up internet connections for all rooms that house humanities departments and the re-appropriation of network power to the people who actually make contributions to humanity: the mathematicians, engineers,and scientists.”

This was a comment by some truly  “eloquent” person in response to an article called “The Pleasure of Seeing the Deserving Fail” found in The Chronicle for Higher Education (The Pleasure of Seeing the Deserving Fail – Do Your Job Better – The Chronicle of Higher Education). Once my eyes stopped bugging out of my head and I was able to close my dropped jaw, I began to think about a world where people only focused on science, math, and engineering. Or a world where people in the humanities were not contributors to society in any way. That world, my friends, would not be my choice of homes.

How dare someone argue that the humanities are not of value to society? I acknowledge the worthiness of science, math, and economics. I admire people who do those things well. But, I also know plenty of people in those fields who are not capable of communicating with anyone unless it is another member of their field. Perhaps the arts and humanities don’t contribute to finding cures for cancer (which, may I remind you, hasn’t happened) or getting us to the moon. But, without them, how would anyone be able to raise funds for support of these worthwhile projects?

I’m sure that most of the great scientific minds we know about today did not limit their knowledge to math, science, and engineering. Albert Einstein loved music and played the violin. The study of music itself helps with understanding math. I’ve seen that myself as my daughter began taking piano lessons and her math scores improved. Galileo loved art and considered becoming a painter. Looking at the world through the eyes of art allows anyone to think differently, and leads to the creation of engineering marvels. Let’s not forget the importance of language, and storytelling, and the ability to write and express oneself. For example, Dr. Paul Farmer, an anthropologist and physician (oh no, he dared combine humanities with science) writes prolifically and speaks eloquently.

Education suffers in our world because of these attempts at making one field more valued than another. We’ve seen that in primary and secondary schools, where the focus on testing has not led to great success stories. I see it at the college level, when students don’t have the desire to learn anything beyond what is in their major or what will get them the job. The recent stories in the news about Brockton High School (which I have written about elsewhere) show that learning can be enhanced by combining humanities and science or math. By requiring students to write in every class, their grades have improved all around. If that isn’t evidence that an interdisciplinary approach to learning works, I don’t know what is.

Shouldn’t educators encourage learning for the joy of learning? The more we learn about anything, the greater our capacity to learn. If we keep our brains alive then that makes us stronger. But if we limit our knowledge to only one field or type of fields, it only makes us weaker.

For your amusement, when arts, humanities and science meet

Make: Online : Kinect hacks keep rolling in.

More about BHS: When Passion Saves the Day

A short time ago I wrote about the amazing success that my high school had in turning around student grades by incorporating reading and writing into every classroom. (Making Connections with Words A Powerful Tool in Education). This success story has made national news, Large School Prompts Academic Turnaround – CBS News Video, and continues to be studied by Harvard University. The above video clearly shows the power of adding writing (as well as reading,  speaking, and reasoning) into every classroom to improve test scores as well as overall learning and helping students move on to college.

What interests me the most about this story, besides my close connection to it, is that so many people are surprised at the success rate of this program. What is so surprising about it? Human beings learn through communication, through language. Whether it is spoken, written, or signed our earliest learning is how to communicate our wants and needs. Young children absorb language and meaning at an incredible rate when you think about it. The move from simple sounds to express need, to full conversations seems to happen at lightning speed (even though, yes, it takes a couple of years). So why are we so astonished that incorporating language and communication, through reading, writing, speaking and reasoning, will help people learn. To me it seems like common sense.

Now I acknowledge, some people learn things more easily than others. I struggled through math, myself.  Last year, in my daughter’s first grade classroom, they approached math with more word problems. The students were able to place the problems into real-world situations, and the end results were always expressed in both a math equation and a sentence. “Sarah bought 8 balloons, but 3 flew away in the wind.  Sarah had 5 balloons left.” Now, I don’t know yet how that applies in higher mathematics, but it shows that, by incorporating writing things can make more sense.

The other thing this program has going for it, which is almost more powerful than language, is the passion of Dr. Szach and all the teachers to make it work. When you get people together working towards a common goal, amazing things can happen. I’ve known that feeling myself when putting on a show that seems doomed to fail, but in the end comes together better than expected. The teachers at BHS did not throw their hands in the air and say it is hopeless. Instead, they worked together to find a viable solution. Even those who were “doubters” eventually climbed on the bandwagon. I’m sure that every teacher does not necessarily agree with every decision, but they went along with it for the good of the students with astonishing results. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that could happen in other areas of society (ahem, government officials, this means you!)?

Go BHS! Go Dr. Szach! Now let’s use this example to really make change.

The Perennial Student, A Collector of Experiences

Join me at a table in a restaurant set for eight. One empty seat for the woman who does not show. The rest of the seats filled with people who seem to have one passion in common. Well, maybe two . . . the most obvious is their passion for theatre, but the one I am interested in is their passion for experiences and for learning. To this group, I believe, that is the meaning of life. Or perhaps I should say, from this group, I am learning the meanings of my life.

On the end, the youngest member of the party, seven years old with a personality all her own. Bright, energetic, and embracing everything as if it was new. Because it is new. Through her eyes, I re-learn the discoveries of childhood, and begin to learn the truths of parenthood.

Next to her, her father. My partner. A talented man with a job he likes, and a dream he’d love. Through him, I learn about relationships and struggle, as well as how to live embracing simple joys.

Next, after the empty seat, a man who lives his life passionately.  Whether it is raising the child that is his theater company, or helping his family, or fighting for justice and democracy, or saying goodbye to his father (who passed away last week) he throws himself in 110%. From him, I learn the power of passion, but also the necessity of balance.

Next, an actor who is recognized for his work. He has a thriving career, but more importantly he has the desire to share his experiences with others. I don’t know him very well, but listening to him talk I recognize a kindred spirit, one who believes that creating an atmosphere where everyone feels involved is crucial. Through him I learn the value of making choices and committing to them, and that teaching and sharing is part of the journey and the joy.

Across from him, a director who lived through the 60s and evaluates life and belief systems in everyday conversation. He is silent when he has no opinion, but that silence speaks volumes. Through him I learn the subtlety of questioning and experiencing in order to find meaning that rings true to your heart.

Next to him, a man in his 70s who lives and breathes Shakespeare, but is even more than that.  I have been watching him create character in  a way I cannot describe. He takes each word written and uncovers more meanings and variety in ways that I have yet to discover, both as a director and as a writer. Yet, his humble quietness is as powerful as his use of language. From him, I learn to trust the words, because the answers lie in them.

Next to him, a playwright, who writes whatever she is passionate about.  Love. Religion. Tango. She seems to look at the world as an opportunity for learning and questioning. What about this moment, this time, this place is interesting? What can I learn from this person’s story?  What story can I share with others? These are questions that I think she asks herself regularly, and then she tries to answer through words.  From her, I am learning my thoughts matter and that it is time to put them out there,  in my own way.

Finally, we come to me. A well-educated woman who is still searching for what I want to be when I grow up.  At this moment in time, I’m also experiencing an odd layering of life. There is the me who is knowledgeable and professional, who knows a lot about her field. Then there is the me who feels like a student next to these people, and recognizes that is okay. There is the me who feels like a novice, and is afraid of doing something wrong. Then there is the me who is a teacher and a mentor, for my students and my daughter; that is the me of responsibility. Finally, there is the me who simply is.

As I pursue this week of multiple layers, or this meal of multiple moments, I realize that the experiences I have, the learning that I do, is who I am. I am a perennial student.  When I try to be the expert, I feel uncomfortable in my skin. When I embrace the unknown, and admit that I do not know everything, then I feel joy.  Sometimes the unknown is scary and uncomfortable, but what I learn after that is filled with energy.

My work is learning. My work is sharing.

My classroom is life.

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