Ask anyone my age and we'll all tell you that things we miss most about our childhoods are the things that separate us from the generation that came after us. We all feel the pull of nostalgia wanting to transport us back to the lives we led before technology weaseled its way into every aspect of our lives. Life was simple then, and when life gets too overwhelming now, we want nothing more than to revert back to simpler days.
Don't get me wrong: I love technology. The possibility of this blog was something I hadn't fathomed while I sat in 1998 writing feverishly in my Lisa Frank notebook with my multitude of gel pens. Today, I receive world news instantaneously on my iPhone and I can talk to people all over the world within just a few seconds. But there are (many) days when I want to throw my technological devices into a canyon and return to days spent only admiring the life actually in front of me, and not the one on the screen in the palm of my hand.
I don't know much. I'm 90s kid, though no longer a kid; I'm grown; I've graduated from college years ago; I've been working and I'm saving away for a 401(k) plan that I might get to cash in one day; I've got a home of my own, but I live alone; I'm on the downward slope to my 30s. There's still a lot I don't know and a lot I'm still learning. I'm still an in-betweener. So maybe because I'm still in a phase of in-between, I feel the strong pull of nostalgia back to simpler days.
Focusing on the present can be a difficult task, but it becomes easier with every second of practice. I think too often we get caught up in our own heads and our own over-thinking, and that doesn't do anything, but distract us from the present. Instead of getting so caught up in every possible "what if," we need to train and refocus our minds to the "what now."
For the majority of us, we don't appreciate what we have right in front of us. We don't appreciate the sunrise because we're too caught up in the realization that 5 AM is just too early for most of us (even for me, the self-proclaimed morning person). We don't stop to admire the sunset because dinner has to be cooked, dishes need to be washed, and kids need to be chauffeured around. But if we begin to recognize that every moment we have is a gift, we will begin to notice the millions of small things our day is composed of. Find these moments. Appreciate them. They could be torn from our lives at any second. Recognize these moments as something you don't want to lose.
This philosophy is simple. Turn the "I have to" into "I get to."
I don't have to love anything in this world, but I get the opportunity to do so. Love is something that takes hard work and dedication. Love is choosing to say "yes" each and every time. Love is recognizing something you don't want to lose. Say yes to love more.
Allow me to compare this is our love of the sun: It's something we get to experience each and every day. But this isn't something we appreciate until it's gone. The clouds move in and only then after days of the sun's absence do we realize we miss it. We've forgotten to appreciate the things right in front of us. These are things we can't lose.
In July of 2012, I sat left with little options of where my future was headed. And so I took a chance. I applied at random to school districts all over the country figuring I had nothing to lose. I didn't have anything to lose. My family would support me. My friends would understand. I had no good reason to stay here, in Pennsylvania, in the only place I've ever known. So I applied myself without any second doubts.
And then the phone rang and in an instant, my whole life was shifting gears.
I interviewed and accepted a job in the middle of Arizona. I had never been west of the Mississippi. I had never lived more than an hour away from my family and friends. Yet here I was shipping myself out to Arizona for a job I didn't know I could even actually do. Was I crazy? Hell yeah.
Looking back on it, it seems like an asinine idea. Frankly, who the hell packs up all of their stuff into their Subaru, drives 2,400 miles across the country to a town she's never heard of, to start life all over again? I didn't know where I was going to live. I didn't know a single soul there. I went solely because I had a job. Who the hell does that? Apparently I do.
Arizona didn't work out in the end. It was beautiful and special while it lasted. It still is. But it wasn't meant to be, and in fact, I see now how I needed Arizona to get me to where I am in life. Arizona made me reevaluate everything. Arizona changed me. I'm still changing.
Most of you know, I'm not someone who takes risks. I'm someone who lives peacefully inside my comfort zone because it's safe here. Yet when I moved to Arizona people praised me and said how brave I was. I honestly didn't understand that until just recently. I moved to Arizona because I loved teaching and I'd do whatever it took to be able to teach. Arizona just happened to be the answer. I wasn't being brave when I went there, I was following my heart.
This is something I didn't understand until now.
The heart is a weird mess of feelings.
For me, moving to Arizona was an easy decision. I literally agreed to it without question. Because my heart knew it was what it wanted. And my brain was in agreement because I would be the one in control. You see, I stay inside my little comfort zone because I'm the one who makes it safe here. I have control.
But what kind of life is that?
I'm really good at having an open heart and accepting lots of new people and friends into my life. But there are few that I actually allow to get close enough to me. I'm the kind of person that'll be your best friend and back you up through thick and thicker, but when the time comes, I don't expect you to be able to do that for me. And recently, when I thought about just how far I keep most people away, I realized there's nothing comforting about this shitty comfort zone. In fact, it's lonely here. I know how the comfort zone works. I know the outcome of any new friendships or relationships that come my way because I'm not quick to let the walls I've built around my comfort zone down.
I don't want to be the kind of person who does that anymore.
And so, I decided to take a risk. I decided to free myself from the chains only I had created. I decided to let go of the past and the people that have hurt me before. I decided it was the goddamn time to be brave. Being brave meant I had to listen to my heart.
And frankly, that's terrifying.
Last Thursday in class, I assigned a journal prompt to my students. Typically when I assign journals, I write alongside of them. It's not only good practice to show them they're just as capable, but it's equally as therapeutic for me.
I wanted to share with you our most recent prompt. I encourage you to generate your own response. I'd also love for you to share with some (or all!) of your list.
Our journal prompt simply asked:
Create a list of 100 Things You Love.
"I have no special talent.