My brother-in-law is a very ambitious and successful guy. I asked him once, “how do you juggle everything?” And he told me, “Sometimes, when I’m hurrying from one thing to another, I pull over, turn off the car engine for two minutes, and breathe.”
His comment didn’t make much of an impression on me at the time. It wasn’t delivered in a “here’s what you must do to be amazing like me” manner. It was just honest and straightforward. And effective. Dubious? Try it yourself.
Today I would like to take a moment to mull over a few other comments that seemed very small at the time, and grew to be important tenets along the way.
“Don’t discount this young man just because he’s nice to you.” I was indeed surprised to hear a comment like that from my mother. Smart lady, though. I married the guy.
“Be more Beret.” This sounds like a no-brainer. People say things like “be yourself” and “be true to yourself” all the time. But somehow, throwing my name in there made all the difference to me. I thought, “I am Beret, how can I be more Beret?” I started small, of course. I started reading books that I like, instead of the ones I should read. I started saying no to things. I started saying yes to things. I started making time for things that make me happy. I started singing along with catchy songs even though they might be insipid. Who cares?
“You don’t have to love being a mother, you just have to love your children.” This was news to me. If I ever write a book about parenting, this is the quote I will use on the dedications page.
Lastly, when I started teaching, I didn’t go through the traditional credentialing route. I hadn’t taken any education courses in college, so I had a boatload of theory crammed into six or eight weeks one summer, and then I was thrown to the wolves. Terrified nearly to paralysis, I asked a seasoned teacher for a few wise words before my first day. “Always have an extra piece of chalk in your pocket,” he said.
When I tell that story to people they roll their eyes. “Nobody has chalkboards anymore,” they say. But while I am grateful for discussions of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, that teacher’s advice still rings in my ears. For me, it meant that no matter how great a challenge I was facing, how insurmountable and overwhelming it might seem, I could break it down into tiny, doable tasks. Likewise, despite the fact that the knowledge and skills we need as teachers/parents/humans are hopelessly infinite, we can start by learning one thing and building upon it.
Onward and upward.