Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece that embodied the most important and salient points I had learned in college. I tried to distill that into some sort of worldview about the coming post-graduate years that I could share with those around me as we left the comfort of our university pond to navigate the world’s sea.
As I sail now that sea, the heart of the message still rings true:
In service of a meaningful end, uncertainty and struggle need to be embraced as inevitable.
Since July, I’ve been with Boston Teacher Residency. It’s a program that believes that every child deserves a free, public Education, and it prepares teachers from all backgrounds to make that happen in Boston. It’s a humbling experience stuffed with vulnerability and spotted with sunny days and cloudy ones, so I got that part right. But one big thing has changed since I wrote that speech: I think I’m on the right track.
Brene Brown found that wholehearted people describe vulnerability not as comfortable or uncomfortable, but as necessary. I made a 4-year commitment to a new city and its Winter, and a profession that I love but is less lucrative than the average STEM job. But it was a calculated decision: I know that BTR has an amazing retention rate and support structure, and that Boston and Massachusetts prioritize education and have tremendous human capital. [highlight]I had a lot to lose and a lot to gain, and there was no point in going anything less than all-in.
I also have tried to be more deliberate about telling people that I care about them. It’s hard to say “You’re important to me,” and not know what someone will say back. It’s been worth it, though. I’m fortunate to have incredibly supportive friends and a wonderful significant other who’ve helped me thrive this year.
Sunny and Cloudy Days
The idea here was that good days and bad days are really inseparable from each other. They will both come, and without the bad days, it’s hard to appreciate the good ones. I’ve started keeping track of my individual days with the idea that every day influences who I am in the figurative and literal tomorrow. I have a really nice graph to show for it. I use a 0-3 scale of 9 different metrics and add up my totals each day.
My lowest day was a 12 of 27, and my best a 22. With the highlight reel effect of Facebook, there seems to be a pressure to only talk about my best days, but it’s unrealistic and dishonest to myself to forget about my worst ones. They happen too, and they can be a very valuable opportunity for growth.
The Right Track
When I wrote the speech, I imagined that we were all propelling ourselves down fairly deterministic tracks, and that the uncertainty was in our inability to see our final destination. But now I think the nature of this is that our final ends are yet unknown, and therein lays the uncertainty and the agency.
There are constantly opportunities to switch to different tracks, to go in different directions to different destinations. So I say that I’m on the right track in that I’m happy with my lifey momentum. I still don’t know in what school I’ll be teaching a year from now, or even that I’ll pass my teaching evaluation in April, but I know that I’ll come to those moments if I keep fueling my train. And I can look backwards and see that along my journey I’ve learned a ton, produced some quality work, and forged meaningful relationships.
So here I am, a captain one year the wiser, mixing metaphors in this worldly sea and bracing my ship for the Spring storm. Cheers!