For 23 days, presence was not just asked of me; it was demanded. Not demanded by the people around me, but demanded by the situation itself and its newness in my world. The option to “check out ” simply wasn’t one. And it was a gift. An exhausting and exhilarating gift.
For those familiar with Strengths Finder, two of my top five strengths are learner and WOO (winning others over). Those who know me well are not surprised by this. I want to know everything, and why it works, and even after that I’ll probably still have some questions, and I want others to like me. Summer school left them split. I had everything to learn, and with all the learning there was little left for WOOing. Having to leave WOO behind was liberating. All my energy had to be focused on listening and hearing and remembering and applying and problem-solving and negotiating and…
My physical presence, that typically displays a charismatic smile to warm others up to me, was overshadowed by the mental presence required of me to think through all the situations and tasks from the lens of student, teacher, families, custodian, cafeteria manager, transportation, administrative assistants, etc. I left so many people off emails that should have been on them, I’m sure I drove them mad. Typically my work evolves around teacher, student, or building. Sometimes all three, but rarely. But this summer, my work encompassed so much more, and so many more. And as I was stretched to new levels of thinking and connecting, I realized how complacent I had become.
Complacency is a lurker. A silent, profound stalker with a constant presence. But we welcome it into lives everyday like it’s the opposite. Like it’s a long lost friend we’ve been waiting to see. Because complacency is also sly, sneaking in at our most unsuspecting moments.
“Mommy play with me.” // “Give me five minutes.” (which turns to 20 or never, and we let it be. Life’s busy.”)
“Honey, date night soon?” // (vaguely) “Sounds good,” while scrolling through FB, answering an email, or adding art to our latest snap. You fight later about never getting a date night.
I’m going to run 4 miles today. Yes, I can run 4. // After a mile, three sounds good. It’s just me out here. At least I’m doing something, right? Yeah, I’ll do three today. Four will be my goal next week.
And so the script continues. We become comfortable with our routines, and in turn, complacent.
As I prepare to enter my 6th year as an instructional coach, my job and the people that surround me will largely stay the same. I feel complacency lurking. I feel a level of knowing, of comfort, that could easily allow me to let this year pass as others have. And everything would be fine. But I’m not striving for fine. So, I’m forcefully shoving it away by asking myself,
“How can I keep my job fresh and new and real? What do I still want to know about those I work with? What about my job can I re-imagine?“
I want to feel as alive as I did this summer, where the newness and unknown required a level of presence I rarely give. I’m going to sit in those disturbing places that don’t have quick answers, and really navigate the terrain. I’m going to reach out to others to help me. To those I don’t know as well. I’m not going to say, “It is what it is” or “This too shall pass.”
I’m stepping in.
Let’s leave a mark.