In Progress: Connection (8)

 

As things go up, confidence grows and happiness returns, for others, things decline, fill with uncertainty and anxiety about a future no longer paved in gold. Our emotions are easily changed, chained to those around us. We begin to juggle our thoughts and feelings and catch others, dropping, falling from the air. They land in the palms of our hands, ours to hold and feel too. Yesterday, I felt at a loss and sad. Sadness was pulsating around the room, as if alive. The very real, suffocating elephant in the room. Hours passed, in which reassuring smiles were exchanged, small gestures tentatively performed – a pat, a rub, a cup of tea. Yet, no words escaped our mouths, no syllables slipped from the downward curls of our lips. No words were formed which we hope will wrap their meaning around us, support and hold us up.

Until later, where we exchanged a few. ‘Are you okay?’ The simultaneous action spoke louder, comforted more. A cuddle. The cuddle where permission is given, unspoken. The air clears, the sadness less heavy, conspicuous and no longer able to bore so relentlessly into your heart. Connection is rooted in emotion, in interaction through words or movements. In the darkest hours, we preach words. Words open the door into our home, a home built with doubt, fleeting moments of victory and failure; allowing someone to settle into the squishy settee you call a heart, it is there where you find sadness and love. Allow the words to ring true and the touch to remind you of the love.

Connection in its purest form is magical. On the periphery connection frightens us, opens us up to harm. Relationships come and go, we pick and choose, discard easily; sometimes mutually. The offers of new connections ever present themselves. With a colleague, cashier and I couldn’t think of another ‘c’. I’ve realised connections hold power to build as well as threaten to shatter the windows of your soul, shake the foundations you’ve built from the first time you learnt something about the world. Forming new relationships is a time of laying down judgement, a time of discovery and saying yes. I’ve avoided a connection twice now – deflected it. I’m disappointed in this because in weeks to come I’ll moan I’m always left behind. The truth is I’m left behind because I’m stood at the cross roads debating with the angel and devil on my shoulder how many I can let into my heart. I’m stood at the cross roads breaking my own heart.

Next time, I’ll say yes.

Advertisements

In Progress: Baggage (7)

Tomorrow I will be posting a poem called ‘Baggage’, I mentioned in week four of journalling like this that I would be writing a poem in response to Hazel Haye’s comment on how we never keep a ‘bag of happy’. It is a cynical take on the metaphorical baggage we carry, thus I wanted to have a more positive outlook in this week’s journal post.

This week it has been half-term, and probably the best I’ve had ever since beginning my career as a teacher. In my first year of teaching it was full of essays, marking and what felt like never-ending, laborious planning. In my stint as an education blogger I wrote at length about working during this time, finding the balance between working from guilt and working from enjoyment. They say these things take time and I agree.

This week it has been half-term, and I’ve managed to strike a balance. A balance months ago I would have clinked a glass of gin over, cackling cynically in the face of anyone who told me somewhere, under some rock, I’d find it and have it for my own. However, keeping with my new found optimism thanks to support and understanding where I have needed it most, I wanted to share with you my cheerful, grateful baggage I would like to hold on to for a little longer going into next week.

First of all, the demon. The one nagging, convincing me when I’m staring at the kettle or running a bath that I’m not good enough, not trying hard enough in my work. I’ve known for a year now that my focus is assessment and how I use pupil assessment to enable them to make progress. I took this in hand this week, I will not bore you with the medium term plans I created or assessment opportunities I planned in. Instead, I’ll take you through my mindset. In my mind, I had finally been given the space, freedom and resources to tackle the demon reminding me where I was lacking. I planned my half-term (control freak alert!) the Friday before it started and I planned my work on my career right at the beginning. As a result, I achieved it this time. I’d been making mental notes for days. This is not helpful if you have not got the space to do it, however, this then makes it very clear that if you do feel stuck in a rut – you need space, freedom and resources; you need to work out who isn’t providing what, even if that includes you. I’ve been lucky recently, so I didn’t want to waste it but as I said last week, I went out and found the space, freedom and resources; I took a risk. Change isn’t comfortable.

Secondly, my mid-week was tightly packed with seeing my best friend, treating myself and walking. I got a haircut, or should I say, survived a haircut – long story short it took a year to grow my hair past my shoulders, the thought of anyone taking scissors to it gives me night tremors. Nevertheless, I lived to see another haircut. I went and spent a couple of hours, in wonderful company at a spa. After all, there is nothing like sweating in a seriously steamy room with strangers. I spent the day walking from Suffolk to Essex (sounds better than Flatford to Dedham…) with boyfriend, bestfriend and her dog (@wishuponastardust on Instagram). I surrounded myself with good things, people and places. I also did not plan any work in for these days, so I enjoyed them – more so knowing the main bulk of work I had hoped to do had already been done in the two days before.

I’ll admit, this week’s ‘bag of happy’ is not spontaneous. I did not travel far, I did not do anything out of the ordinary and I certainly did plan in great detail. However, sometimes you do not have venture too far and at least it reminds you happiness, the elusive emotion so hard to find and easy to miss, is never too far away. And being a complete control freak isn’t always anxiety inducing.

To end, the only tiny bit of spontaneity I can find from this week is creating my cat, yes, my cat, an Instagram account – you’re welcome. Follow him on @lifeofgingersimba, he is fame hungry and delirious with the 30+ followers he already has.

In Progress: Resilience (6)

As a teacher, who takes the biscuit with thirteen weeks holiday a year, I tend to wish away days and weeks. Whether it is because of our difficulty to live in the present, which I wrote about last week, or just my love for holidays and lie-ins, I have wished away another five and here we are – half-term! This half-term, in particular, is a milestone.

It is the first half-term of 2017 and my first half-term at my new school. In October 2016 I decided to make a change, enact an upheaval in my own life; altering everything I was used to and knew. It was a decision driven by hurt, stress and, honestly, the feeling of impending doom. At night, I saw my career nose-diving into an opaque black tunnel, I saw myself playing the blame game in months to come and saw any sane synapses flinching and threatening to snap.

There are many ways to interpret my decision to leave – I was being impatient, unable to wait and see, I was doing what was best for me, putting myself first for once, or I was quitting because I couldn’t handle it. I’d like to put forward my own interpretation, in the hope it helps a few others make difficult decisions; I was being resilient.

In the weeks leading up to leaving several people threw in their two cents, some supportive, others not so. One stood out. In sharing my fears, frustrations and fragility, I was told that “Well, it is about being resilient, isn’t it?” The not-so-subtle subtext was that I was giving up when I should have carried on and dealt with it.

I have a quitter’s past. I gave up gymnastics, I peaked at the low bar and couldn’t cartwheel. I gave up learning to play the keyboard because I struggled with incorporating my second hand. I was a serial part-time worker from age fifteen to twenty, over six jobs in those years, lasting just months; I got bored of monotony and graft, so I quit. I even left living at University in my final year to commute from home, over four hours a day. You could say, I’ve been a dedicated quitter.

Thing is, what all these instances have in common, apart from university, is I quit because I honestly felt I’d peaked; given my all. This time was different, I felt stifled, driven into the ground; into a direction I did not want to go. In the process of leaving I was out of my depth – I was an NQT contracted to a school and organisation, stepping out and away could incur issues I did not foresee. I interviewed for a teaching position for the first time, with no practise or guidance, I ended up teaching my interview lesson with no materials, thanks to a formatted USB, and I wrote my first, ‘proper’ resignation letter which I handed over trembling. Quitting was not the easy option.

Resilience, is about your ability to withstand something, your durability and your flexibility. Resilience does not have to mean staying put and abstractly dealing with the issue. I decided to make a change, a great one which took confidence, strength and determination to succeed. Staying put was making me unhappy, beginning to push me back over an edge I thought I’d seen the back of – it was not making me stronger. I was falling out of love with my profession, distancing myself from the people around me and giving up because fighting seemed pointless. Five weeks ago, I was far from durable or flexible. My decision to ‘quit’ changed this.

Change is uncomfortable, this is what makes those who make it, resilient. 

In Progress: Being Present (5)

“My pen is so often in the past, rarely the present.”

From the first page of my journal this week I have fixated on being present. These thoughts were prompted by seeing a friend, school and my significant other. I have stayed away from writing poetry this week, not because I want to, I just haven’t written and I struggle to write if my mind is not already flooded with ideas and words. At times I still found myself lingering on old memories and often it is this metaphorical hovering which prompts my pen. Yet, in my Sunday entry I expressed the wish to record new moments, the present.

My journal had not reached a day a page, a paragraph at most – the present did not offer much to write about it seemed. I captured moments where, I fell in love with teaching again on Tuesday and reflected on the amount of time spent with my significant other. I had been somewhat present.

However, it was Thursday which altered my view of the present. In teaching we have what is called CPD, Continuing Professional Development; many workplaces have it under various guises I’m sure. This week it was whole school and focused on mindfulness. Mindfulness, originating in Buddhism, is about being present whether that be through meditation, walking, yoga etc. It is a lot about focusing only on your breathing and holding your thoughts there, rather than allowing them to wander into the past or future. Sceptically, I would offer the reason we struggle being present and tend to worry about before and after is because ultimately our present is the past and future combined. The optimist in me wanted to give it go. I prefer my own breathing to bells and wind chimes, however, I’ve even discovered being mindful can be just a small change. 

Many know I recently resigned and joined a new school, in the weeks leading up to this, although I knew I was going, the stress remained, I decided to begin showering or bathing in the evening instead of in the morning. I always struggled in the morning anyway so this small change allowed me to reclaim some sleep. It also forced a cut off time every evening where for 30 to 90 minutes I sat alone in a bath or beneath a flow of hot water and did not dwell on anything, I was just there for 30 or so minutes, in the present. This habit led to a new work life balance where I work more at the weekend in order to keep my evenings completely free. 

I’ve realised being mindful or present is not too hard if it becomes routine. However, I have felt at peace this weekend; incredibly so. Yesterday, I wrote the following: 

“I wanted to record my ‘mindful’ moment today. I lied on the bed at 1pm with Jake and took an impromptu nap, not for long but in my waking moments I think I noticed more about him than I have in a while. I noticed the warmth of his skin, mottled pale pinks and olive undertones along his forearms and stray white hairs and flecks of ginger upon his chin. I noticed his undulating breathing, its depth dependant on my fidgeting. I noticed how one moment he is 6’3 and masculine, the next, curled inward and vulnerable. In one moment, he became the person I like to hold and be held by, to care for and be cared for. Love matures and it is the small moments which have the greatest impact.”

This week, I started by fixating on what it means to be present and by the end I am just being, present. 

 

In Progress: Darkness (4)

Out of darkness, there are people who give a damn. In what seems one of history’s darkest weeks, my journal was laden with inspiration from people all over the world, which reminded me how quickly the tide can change for better as well as worse.

The first was film-maker Hazel Hayes, known as ChewingSand on Youtube. I’ve watched her films and vlogs for a while now and her October video brought something home. Hayes recently created a short film ‘Happy‘, something I identified with fully, something which made me cry and something which made me realise I’m not doing too badly when it comes to being ‘happy’. However, in Hayes’ October video in an interview about this short film she discussed ‘baggage’; how we linger on the difficult moments of our past, insist on trudging forward with them still wrapped around our ankles and then ask why we are not happy. She said, we never seem to have a “bag of happy”. Her words have already begun to inspire a poem of my own on this subject. Although, still in the process of writing (strangely, baggage is not the easiest to write or rhyme about), I hope to share it with you all soon. Until then, I urge you to watch Hayes and heed her words. We continue to chase happiness and simultaneously refuse to acknowledge its existence. The need for happiness, love and affection is palpable across the world currently, I urge you to stop looking for happiness and be it if you can.

The second was from Stef Sanjati, another Youtuber, but also a blessing to the community as she educates such a young audience about transitioning and being transgender. She posted the following spoken word poem about surviving sexual assault on her channel this week called ‘I can’t feel clean‘. I am fortunate to have not been sexually assaulted, however, what chilled me to the core and made my heart bleed was what felt like a perpetual chain of young men and women relating to Stef’s story in the comments section of this video. The pain, love and support was incredibly powerful and it made me consider, especially after the Women’s March, the need for people to share their experience until love and listening ears are the only response to a sexual assault allegation. I understand, such allegations have been poisonous or misplaced but this does not warrant swift condemnation on all who make such an allegation. Those who falsify claims need love and listening ears just the same and I would rather listen to an allegation than stamp them all into the dust, forcing survivors to retreat into the bodies they no longer wish to call home. Inspired by Stef’s words I was fuelled to write something about my experience as a woman. Entitled ‘Femininity‘ it also became a spoken word – something far out of my comfort zone. As a teacher, I like to remain private so recording my voice was terrifying enough, yet in the spirit of speaking out, loud about something important, it felt necessary. I enjoyed it, I felt like words I often store inside had meaning for once and could maybe make a tiny difference in one person’s perspective. We need voices and I hope my small chime may figure in the chorus we are currently hearing.

Finally, the last person who inspired me this week was my own Granpa. He left a poem of his in my inbox. I hope I may be able to share it with you one day as it was a striking comment on current world events – as I read I was lulled into a false sense of security, to be mercilessly dragged out by the pace of his words towards the end. I was inspired because I have been writing since I was 12 or 13, some of the poems on this blog were written before my twenties. I often spend my time reading the work of others in a limbo of praise and envy. Granpa’s work showed maturity, conscious crafting and time. At the moment, I believe my writing often reflects the haste in which it was written, driven by passion and feeling more than thought and thesaurus. My Screaming Twenties is about what I create in this time where all I seem to do is fumble in and out of weeks feeling on top of the world one moment and flat the next. Perhaps, in eight years I’ll create My Thinking Thirties (shall I copyright this now?).

Out of darkness, come people who fight, survive and use their voices and words as weapons. I witnessed this far afield and close to home this week, and it gives me hope.

In Progress: Approval (3)

Instead of recounting different days from my journal I wanted to summarise the running theme through this week. Last week, I was the new girl. My entries focused on settling into a rhythm and routine; it was nerve-wracking, vomit inducing and exhausting. This week, I wrote a lot about success, self-doubt and seeking approval.

It is no surprise I recently began writing regularly again and to all but me, this is no big deal. I stopped writing aged sixteen. I rarely wrote again unless it was a blog post or message in a card. Poems and journal entries were scarce. I have some idea as to why this happened, which isn’t relevant here.

Coming back to writing now, at a time where the best way to share is online has certainly changed the way I feel about writing. Before, it was a very private affair, less so now which brings this week’s topic into play – approval. For weeks I have been toying with the idea of entering competitions; as it stands I have entered only two – one a poem, the second a short story. Admittedly, when I read past entries and even others on WordPress I am aware of being out of my depth. However, poetry is also up to interpretation so I must at least give it a go. This desire to give it a go brought in to perspective two things: where we seek our approval from and when self doubt appears.

I also fluctuated in my belief in my capabilities as a teacher this week, as in any profession I am sure we all do at some point. Someone complains, something doesn’t work or you just do not achieve the results you had planned for. In my reflective state on a lazy Saturday afternoon I have learnt two things.

First of all, I thought I had always been driven by winning. I have always sought approval be it from a parent, friend or teacher. Especially now, when popularity is sign posted with followers, likes and monetised content. I wrote recently about feeling stifled by writing for a purpose. Thus, I decided I would only attempt competitions if I felt like I had something to say and submit, much like why I even write in the first place. There is no set time I sit down and write. Before, I sought approval because I was not getting it from myself. I was not sure of myself and therefore needed others to tell me, however, when you do something out of enjoyment, it doesn’t matter. Of course, I love to hear people’s feedback and know if they enjoy what I’ve created. That said, over this week I realised recording words, thoughts and finally finding a place for the lone sentence you’ve been mulling over for hours, hands wrinkling in the washing up bowl, is underrated. I write for enjoyment, not for consumption or for approval. The lesson here is, if you truly enjoy something – winning and approval should become periphery. Otherwise, reassess why you are doing something and if you are happy.

Secondly, I tackled self-doubt head on this week. Validation of our to-do lists, choices and performance is almost ingrained in our very being. I do not believe society made us this way, I think we always have been this way – I mean, Caesar needed it. Results remind us we are moving forward; we’re not stagnant pools or at least cannot stand, standing still. So when we feel as if we are stationery or ‘failing’, doubt creeps up on us. Of course, it will always pass but in my experience it always takes some kind of success to shift it. What I think makes some people so good at tackling self-doubt is by changing what they see ‘success’ as. For example, my Year 9 class struggled this week and I had to overhaul the lessons I had planned for them over the next week or so and move their assessment. I was gutted I hadn’t noticed earlier they were struggling. Cue self doubt. Yet, the next day my Year 7’s had a brilliant lesson where they peer-taught each other and produced some excellent work. The success was not with the Year 9 class but it was enough to remind me we all have moments of returning to the drawing board. This success could have been even smaller, it could have been showering or greeting someone in the morning you usually ignore. Riding the wave of success is exhilarating, I just need to remember they’re not always tidal, sometimes they lap quietly at the shore and feel just as good all the same.

That’s me this week, I hope if you’ve felt a moment of desperation or doubt you find success somewhere soon, no matter how big or small.

In Progress: New Girl (2)

New Girl

This week was all about settling in; into a new job, new routine and new environment. It was difficult but enabled some sweet reflection by the end.

8/1/17:

My body is no doubt telling me I’m nervous. But, for the first time, my mind isn’t, which is a breath of fresh air. I took a nap, I lolled my head and I cleaned the bathroom. I am prepared, perhaps not to the minutest detail; enough to survive day one. I’ve spent time planning and with the freedom I’ve been given, I’m looking forward to delivering. I remember being a pupil and a smiling, calm and happy teacher was often enough to get me through the day. Often, I forget I am someone children see everyday – someone who could easily ruin or make their day. Above all else, I will try and bear this in mind this week.

 

9/1/17:

I’ll admit I didn’t write this over breakfast like I planned. I was too busy focusing on digesting breakfast, opening and closing my mouth, remembering to breathe. Praying for the bile to stay where it belongs, to forget creeping up my throat. On the day I needed confidence, I struggled to muster it. I was terrified. The quitter inside no longer waiting quietly to be summoned. This morning she was dancing, laughing, twisting defeatist thoughts around and round. I made it though.

Being the new girl was good fun, being brash and honest with the kids was also fun. It’s one thing I’ve learnt. Kids appreciate the teachers who unashamedly throw their hands up, ask for their help (at getting the bloody sound to work), rather than the immovable stern one who ploughs on through the wreckage of their inflexibility. After all, I know who I think is the better role model.

 

10/1/17:

“The Sun himself is weak when he first rises, and gathers strength and courage as the day gets on.” – Charles Dickens. This is how I am moving through this nerve-wracking week. Stomaching breakfast was a struggle again. However, I’ve met all most of my classes, so I hope the nerves remain at bay the next few days. I always knew it’d be a week for settling and at least I’m enjoying myself.

 

11/1/17:

Settling has led to sickness. I’ve allowed the nerves to envelop me. My appetite has deteriorated which I’m sure has run me down. For three days I’ve prioritised dinner only, complimenting it with nibbles. This has to end today. I’m doing myself a disservice and allowing confidence to bloom in one place and overrule everything else. I’m happy finding my feet and I’d prefer that to having the floor ripped from beneath me. I must be kind to myself and conquer Thursday and Friday.

 

12/1/17:

I’m attempting to be on top of my world today and yes I am writing this in the morning. Today I’ll meeting more classes. However, I haven’t encountered anything I cannot handle yet so I should be fine. I’m feeling better and that’s important.

 

13/1/17:

I conquered today too. One week beneath my belt, with few unfamiliarities left to experience. I’m pleased I made it, it could have been smoother, I could have made it smoother. Here’s to an even better week next week! In other news, I saw my best friend and have been reminded of the need, as usual, to reach out more often. I’m very good at hindsight, at saying ‘Oh you should have called.’ And yet, do I ever make the call myself? We’re so good at being lonely and unhappy. It astounds me one of the hardest jobs in life is being happy, or should I say, staying happy. On this I wrote the following – Lessons in Loneliness.

 

14/1/17:

quote-2

Appreciation of the weekend has returned, as well as the typical wishing away my life teacher outlook. I want to take the time to reflect. This week was my week as the new girl and I survived. Funnily enough, today’s quote is quite apt. I don’t think I realised how much pretence is involved in confidence until you experience settling in again somewhere new. Feigning confidence when nervous, holding shoulders back and teaching like you’ve been doing this for years whilst trying to suss out everybody. Laughing whilst your head is in the next lesson. Drawing up lists and plans when ultimately our free time and motivation is often up in the air. There is a lot of internal drama we maintain and entertain. We truly do, ‘fake it until we make it’.