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Wild and Precious

Wild and Precious

September came and went much too quickly, as most inaugural months of a new season tend to do. While this September mirrored most (advertisements for all things back-to-school and the tug between those trying to hang on to summer and those eager to push pumpkin spice lattes), it held a drastically new and different tone for me. I started preschool in September of 1990, and I have been in a classroom every September since, until this year: the year I resigned from teaching. The past ten years of my life have been dedicated to all things education. I have much to process, fold, and unfold regarding the first leg of my career, and while often overwhelmed, I know that I am exactly where I need to be.

My life in education involved working tirelessly to help youth connect with their needs and advocate for themselves. I pushed my students to turn within to know themselves so that they could become their strongest advocate: their own teacher. I worked at work, I worked at home, I studied, I advanced, I thought about youth, I thought about how I could think more about youth, and I looked for ways to be more intentional in thinking about youth.

Until I couldn’t anymore. Until I didn’t. Until now, when I broke up with my career and decided to start this blog.

Some call it burn-out; some call it a breaking point. Regardless of its title, I reached a point where I had lost myself in my work. I had long ago blurred the lines between a career and an identity, and the weight of it had finally become too heavy to hold. I stumbled across Mary Oliver’s poem "The Summer Day" while in the young moments of feeling the drive to change course: “Tell me,” she writes “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Her question hit me hard. I always thought I knew exactly what it is I planned to do: become the best possible teacher I could be and change lives. Duh. What else was there? This work was where I poured my time, energy, money, heart, and soul. I was bound to it. I was hung up, however, on Mary Oliver’s inclusion of the adjectives “wild” and “precious” in her poem. They caused me to pause in a way I had never paused before.

I had been raised to believe that the world, in all its uncertainty, was somewhat against me, and the best way to ensure survival was to have a plan. The plan needed to be tight, purposeful, and clear. Deviations from the plan were fine, as long as they were rooted in a new plan that was equally tight, purposeful, and clear. I took that conception of the world and ran with it, and I ran hard. Ambiguity and uncertainty and lack of clarity came to represent a vast body of water: deep and unruly. I could survive in that water, as long as I had stepping stones to stand on. I could move through that water, as long as I had stones within reach to move to. Somewhere along the line, I figured out that if I created a tight trajectory of stones, I could move through the world without ever having to touch ambiguity. I could, in essence, win planning and preparedness, and thus, have complete control over my success.  

But that wasn’t working. Winning planning was sucking the life out of me (more on that later). Mary’s adjectives asked me to consider what it might be like to touch the waters of uncertainty: to graze them, maybe even considering diving into them. This new seed idea was encouraged by a panoply of resources (books, articles, podcast episodes, human encounters) that seemed to pour into my existence the instant I was ready to see them (stay tuned).

Once I took even the slightest of steps off my safety stones, I couldn’t stop. Engaging with the idea of celebrating ambiguity, of swimming in its dark waters and finding ways to float, pushed me to start confronting all of my darkest fears. I can’t unsee those fears now, and they are starting to lose power.

There are so many reasons to not do this, to not share my writing, including fear and shame and confirmation that I’m actually doing something I always wanted to do: something that is far from the trajectory of planning and preparedness. There is also the notion of exposure to consider: people being able to see me, and me being able to see me. Seeing my own insides. Processing my own experiences. Taking leaps that inevitably lead to failures of all natures.  All the right worries and doubts are present and accounted for: What if I let down my advocates who are cheering me on so thoughtfully from the sidelines? What if nobody cares to read what I have to say? What if my writing just sucks? What if I fail?

I have yet to meet a human who is not admittedly or un-admittedly petrified on many levels. The more I dig into this observation, the stronger my courage grows. Fear is part of the human experience that binds us together (more to come). In my classroom, I always told my kiddos that true, remarkable growth happens when they engage with learning that is both hard and terrifying; it causes the brain to stretch in all the best ways. I reminded them daily that if they just kept doing what they knew how to do, they would stay right where they are. There are times when it is so nice to stop and enjoy being right where you are, but to stay in that place is to limit yourself, and you have, after all, but one wild and precious life.

And so with all the reasons not to start this blog exposed and aired out, they start to lose their luster and power. In their place comes a strong drive to move and move ferociously, gaining momentum. That movement, that drive, feels almost too much to bear at times, that intuitive inkling, has saved my life, grounding me in ways I’ve never been grounded before.

This space, then, is a place to push the boundaries of bravery, to run fear into the ground, and to practice what I used to teach day-in and day-out. In my classroom, I was constantly creating a learning environment to foster bravery and self-knowing. Encouragement for brain-stretching was in the heart of every lesson and every conversation. I went hard for my students, but I neglected to do the same for myself.

This space is a place to educate myself on living the fullest and wildest life I can imagine. I have spent an abundance of hours allowing others’ and their experiences to inform how I move through the world (more on that later). This is a place to be raw and honest and real and unedited because that is the type of existence that moves me in all the best ways. And at the end of the day, while this blog is public in nature, it has deep roots in me and my care and wellness, and that is the motivation that is pushing me, especially while operating in a very liminal space (so much more coming soon). 

 Intuitive Inklings represents turning inward and listening to myself so that I can be a more curious and passionate individual. This is a place to learn, to digest, to connect, to communicate, and to express: a place for me to practice flexing bravery muscles and house passion projects. This is a place for me to be. I have big dreams of creating and writing and writing and creating, and this blog is a step.

Intuitive Inklings is a place to stretch and grow my brain by doing all the things that feel the hardest. Welcome. 

On My Mind: The Badass Woman

On My Mind: The Badass Woman