Something amazing happens when your life is flipped upside down. You cry about it and you mourn, then one morning you wake up and you realize nothing is going to make it change but you alone can make it better. If you’ve read in blog posts from way back you will remember this. I’m a dweller. I literally suck the life out of issues and beat it over my brain a thousand times until I’m completely exhausted and burnt out from it. Some call it, “beating a dead horse?” As I’ve gotten older so many people have told me that I can’t do that; I can’t dwell. Unfortunately, the only way I learn is to do it so many times that I finally stop. You finally stop dwelling because quite frankly, you’re tired. This is the story of my tired. This is the story of the last three months when maybe I finally did a little growing and now, I’ll do what’s best for me.
I used to help lead a workshop for girls to help them develop leadership skills. Real leadership skills, not the “pump them full of feel-good mantras and tell them they’re beautiful” skills. I mean the ones where they can look in the mirror and attack the world by its balls and be who they were destined to be in it. A lot of what I learned from them was that they know that they can be who they are, they just do not feel they had the permission. Elementary school was about cultivating the learner and then middle school was about getting the work done and handing it in. Somewhere in that process they developed who they wanted to be but now there was no place to practice it and if there was, it was shunned because it was different. They were “uptight”, “high-strung”, “teachers pet”, “perfectionist”. That is where we as mentors came in. We were the ones who said, “You’re right. It sucks. People suck. It’s going to suck. Things are going to hurt. They are going to hurt because one day who you are now will MATTER. You will not be the people who will get lost, you might get lonely (it’s lonely at the top) but you will not be lost. You know why? Because you matter to this. You matter to this group. This group will one day matter to the world.” This idea of being useful and this idea that eventually who we choose to be will add up is something I carried through in almost everything I did. Who my athletes are matters. Who they intend to be matters, but most importantly, who they intend to be when they’re challenged matters. Anyone can steer a ship when the water is smooth. Who can do it when it’s wavy?
That all sounds great, right? Well, it turns out I needed my advice more than any of those kids. Ever since I was a kid I had this idea of what success looked like. Money and a ceiling-less career. When I was in elementary I had good teachers but I also had teachers that brought out my worst fear: That I wasn’t good enough and I didn’t deserve to be. I swam in it and I let it drown me. The things I wasn’t good at I settled with. When I was in middle school I did better, but I was still drowning or I guess, barely keeping my head above water. Then I hit high school and I plummeted. If you don’t know me, I am a perfectionist. It doesn’t mean I get perfect grades or that I walk into school wearing a business suit and an apple for the teacher. It means that I am hard on myself when I am critiqued and that I refuse to do less than my best and I expect the same from those around me. So the years that I plummeted I didn’t understand myself, I did not understand how I could plummet because, up until then, things were perfect. Last October I became an Educational Assistant and very recently I have started teaching at an external learning centre. As you know, I want to be a middle school teacher. To me, the best education is experience and this is perfect. Although a substitute educational assistant, I get my fair dose of reality within classes. Now I am dealing with kids completely outside of the way I think. However, being a perfectionist, I try my best to float their boat. In the short time that I have been doing this I will say, at first I got into this because I thought I could do something for the kids. I realize now that they are doing far more for me. Every now and then I get a snippet of myself in some of them. There’s a perfectionist, a goof, a stoic-hearted, a compassionate, a stubborn, a relentless, an observer, a cautious one. In the moment I can’t stand it because they’re playing my game but then I shake my head and think “I should probably write an apology letter to some of my teachers. I get it now. I was a little intense.” Being a teacher isn’t about teaching a kid stuff. It’s about raising a future doctor, lawyer, teacher, visionary. It’s showing the possibilities within the most complex and impossible of situations. It’s about taking the perfectionist and embracing her diligence and cultivating her creativity. It’s about taking the observer and encouraging some risk or taking the observer and making them a leader. Most important, it’s taking the defeated and saying, “No matter who you are, where you come from or what happened, you are worthy of this (an education) and you are the only one who can make that happen.” When I see it like that everything changes. The very idea of how I approach teaching or coaching changes. When you walk into work everyday the way you act, the things you feel, they become part of what THEY see. What an honour it is to be in someone’s mind like that. What a privilege it is to have them remember you when they grow up. At the learning centre we did training and we watched the way the fisherman at Pike Place Market in Seattle work. They show up, they play, they make your day and they choose their attitude. The approach doesn’t eliminate hard days but it lets you sleep at night.
Growing up, sometimes being the way I was didn’t feel good. Sometimes it didn’t feel right because people made it seem like it was bad or unusual or you stood out. Of course, being an adolescent person you did whatever it took to be like everyone else. The friend I worked with in the girls leadership group always said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” We preached that statement to the girls. Only now do I really realize the enormity of those words. With that alone it separates three types of people: The people who ignore you because they don’t value you, the people who notice you and find you too much, and the people who notice you and want to work with you. When you separate it like that isn’t it easy to see where you want to belong?
The movie scenes where the teacher is all inspiring and the class all of the sudden has this big life revelation that homework is cool and school is life…it’s not realistic. However the more I immerse myself in the culture of the fish market philosophy the more I think you always remember your teachers. You remember them because they mattered. So, elementary and middle school Ornmadee…now that you know what it’s like to be on the other end, you matter too. You always did.
Once when I was 11-years old, someone told me I wasn’t as smart as I looked. Now I’m 21 years old, and that statement makes me want to be a teacher. That person mattered because I couldn’t envision a better way to be useful in this world.
I’m ending my life revelation with what I always tried to push in any kid I coached. “I will keep telling you that you are strong, brave, courageous, worthy and important…until one day you finally realize it yourself.”