Posted in Deep deepness, Life Musings, This is real life.

When words aren’t enough.

I’m a person who believes in words.

I used to believe in words a lot more than I do now. Then I went to journalism school and realized that the dream I had of making a difference through writing was a long shot – not because I’m not a good writer and not because newspapers are dying, but because I wanted to make an everyday, sustainable kind of difference, not a once-in-a-lifetime-story difference.

I believe in words, but they aren’t enough.

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CC attributed to Pierre Metivier

Words have power.

Words can build you up or bring you down.

Words can change a person’s mindset, they way they look at the world, the way they feel about an issue, or perhaps even the way they make decisions about the future.

Words can’t, however, change anything that the person listening to or reading them doesn’t want them to change.

Sometimes, and this breaks my writer’s heart, I have to admit that the words we say and write and read that are so desperately impactful aren’t accessed by those who need them the most. Or perhaps they’re heard, but they simply aren’t believed. Because to believe would be to completely rock the shaky foundation a person has built their life or their sense of self upon.

This year we’ve seen this more than any other year I can remember in the 30 I’ve been alive. From misquoted statements to completely wrong assertions, “fake news” to actually fake news, denials to lip service apologies, we’ve seen that words can’t always do what we want them to do.

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In 2017, we learned that words are not enough. No matter how many people are saying the same ones, we need more than just a chorus of voices and pens and keyboards.

Words are too easy to write off with a different set of quotable we’ve all heard before:

“It’s just a joke.”
“It’s just locker room talk.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Things will be different.”
“Trust me.”
“I promise.”
“Not everyone is like that.”
“We weren’t there, so how do we know what happened?”

Actions cannot be as easily ignored.

Actions are what will truly matter in 2018.

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CC from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Time-For-A-Change-New-Ways-Font-Words-Letters-2015164

Some may expect this to shake my foundation and view of the world – but words aren’t the only thing I have faith in. As I wrote five or so years ago, I also believe in imagination, in the future, and in my fellow human beings. Even when faced with an atrociously bigoted and selfish leader with more followers than I would like, or with people who refuse to acknowledge and surrender their privilege because of fear, I still believe in humanity.

I believe that there is more good in the world than bad.

I believe that we have the ability and the willingness to step up and take control of our future, to make it our own vision of America rather than someone else’s.

I believe that having the bad made so very clearly obvious to us for the past year gives us an opportunity to fight back in ways we could not when the evil in our society was being discussed at private dinner tables, chatted about in subthreads on Reddit, and mumbled under peoples’ breaths.

There are far more of us on the good side than there are on the bad, so let’s believe in ourselves and our ability to impact change.

Mahatma Ghandi made my point more eloquently than I ever could when he said:

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Let’s clean house. Just get a shitload of Dawn and start scrubbing the country down.

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CC from Mike Mozart on Flickr
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Posted in Deep deepness, Humor, Life Musings, Life's A Trip., New But Not Improved, This is real life.

27 lessons I learned at 27

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 28. Which means that there’s no longer any pretending, at all, that I’m not in my late 20s.

Without further ado, here’s the list of the 27 most important (debatable) things I learned this year:

27. Everything is better when it’s dyed purple.
10304638_10102355702669920_7018318408632320615_n 26. How to use a floor sander. No, really, I did.
25. Never use a toaster if you’re even a little bit distracted.
24. Any shirt I ever thought was awful and tacky can be easily surpassed by searching “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” on lookhuman.com, and I want to own them all anyway.
horrifyingness 23. How old Pharrell actually is.
22. When it comes to chicken biscuits, or lack thereof, people are quite unforgiving.
21. The best way to intrigue people is to let all your eccentricities show – wear them proudly!
Photo May 04, 5 12 36 PM (1) 20. I have the sense of humor of a high schooler – which, by the way, I didn’t have when I actually attended high school. (reference #24)
19. The best way to ruin a bar is to add a DJ.
18. I own CDs that are older than most of my current students.
old albums 17. Much like celebrity deaths, coworker pregnancies can also come in threes, making for an interesting last six weeks at your new job. #loveyouguys #butreallythough
16. I am not above ordering and then using a selfie stick, though I desperately want to be.
15. Remodeling your bathroom is really effing expensive but totally worth it, if you like daily indulgences. And I do.
Photo May 09, 4 59 34 PM 14. I can easily relate to 90% of male hispanics by casually dropping the phrase, “I mean, he’s no Messi, but…” into a conversation.
13. There are some things that even dads can’t fix…like when a tree falls on your house.
12. People who say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” are either lying or just plain wrong (probably both). If that were true, we wouldn’t need willpower.

Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.
Did I eat a piece of this made-from-scratch coffee cake at 12:15am today? Yep. Do I regret it? Not even a little.

11. The definition of “thot,” according to today’s youths.
10. There is, in fact, a limit to my generosity.
9. Even though they’re horrible people, the Underwoods are actually the ideal couple. #houseofcards
 8. Vodka is not now, nor has it ever been my friend. I need to accept that and move on.
7. Getting a third dog pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be vacuuming your house every other day. Accept it and get one anyway.
Photo Feb 27, 9 47 09 PM6. Some friendships deserve second chances.
5. Some don’t deserve the third, fourth, and fifth chances you gave them.
4. How to operate a real-life popcorn machine (highlight of my teaching career, ladies and gents).
hUw2gw 3. I’m the ultimate female sidekickGet in line, ladies.
2. Believing that you have value is a lot easier if there are others who believe it, too, but it’s not impossible if there aren’t.
and
1. The older I get, the younger I feel.
1969160_10102877040090550_2545704298991365085_nHappy Friday, y’all.

Posted in Deep deepness, This is real life.

Appreciation is a Cycle

This week, I’m co-piloting Teacher Appreciation for the school I work at and once attended. Which, by the way, makes me feel a little like a kid who snuck into the teacher’s lounge sometimes.

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What? You ask. Aren’t you a teacher? Why are you actually doing things for Teacher Appreciation Week? Shouldn’t you just be kicking back and enjoying?*

Oh, friends, no. Earlier this year, I offered my help with STUCO, which my new coworker, knowing she would be going out on maternity leave this spring, readily accepted. So now that she’s at home with her adorable baby boy, the second string is in the game, and we’re doing alright, I think.

But even before I worked at MHS, I always took time to have my students (yearbook, usually) do something for teachers on this week. Why? Because teaching is a team effort. It’s not something you can do completely alone. I know. I’ve tried.

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I may be a teacher, but I still appreciate amazing ones – whether they taught me, or they taught my kids. You see, it’s very tempting to act like a natural when I get things right, and I do like to make things look easy for myself, but that’s only because people outside the world of education don’t truly understand what it takes to be a teacher.

The thing is, we don’t just walk in the door, teach a lesson we slaved over the night before, stay for hours to do tutoring or recoup hours, attend games and performances, grade 180 research papers, and also have a life because we’re excellent at time management. Because we have life all figured out.*

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All of that is work and the reason why many of us are the very definition of “hot mess.” But that’s not really the hard part. The hard part is helping people understand that we want to do all that.

That we crave the crazy.

Because in the end, we’re not just there to teach kids how to write a persuasive essay, balance a chemical equation, find the x, or describe the various aspects of the subsaharan climate.

We’re not there to only teach anything, really.

We’re there to care.

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I can’t be that person for every student. It’s too much. I don’t have enough in me to do it when I teach almost 180 students. And honestly, I just can’t find a single ounce of love for a handful of them.

But that’s why I have a team, or as some people refer to it at my school, a family. They pick up where I leave off, they reach the kids that I can’t, and often, they’re even there when I need them. Together, we can do some pretty impressive things.

Soccer Team Header Basket

This is why it’s not a problem for me to recognize this for everything they do, even if I’m the same. I couldn’t do what I do without them.

My closure, for the one class I taught after standardized testing today, was this:

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. In your notebook, describe one trait that you have that others should appreciate you for.

The blank looks abounded, folks. They didn’t get it.

“Don’t you mean a reason why we appreciate a teacher, Miss?”
“No,” I told them. “True validation comes from within yourself, and I want you to take a minute and recognize what makes you a special, valuable, and important person. Because many of you have told me why you appreciate me, or even made me something. I just want to make sure that you also appreciate yourself.”

I’d love to tell you that the kids were awestruck and some of them cried and there were hugs and it was like a scene from Stand and Deliver or some other cliche but beloved educational staple.*

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But that’s not how things always work – sometimes teachable moments are a little more real.

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In this case, it was just awkward and uncomfortable because the kids don’t know how to handle what I told them. But they’re not alone – sometimes even adults are awkward and uncomfortable, but we know how to make it funny and sweet, thanks to life experience. For example, a very sweet coworker of mine, who may or may not have witnessed my displeasure at someone being a tad negative told me yesterday:

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for Teacher Appreciation Week.”

And she was being cute, but she meant it. So did I, when I said:

“I appreciate your appreciation of the appreciation.”

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Because really, folks, it’s so much easier to appreciate the good things and people in your life when you feel appreciated by others.

* These are not real things teachers know how to do anyway.
Posted in Deep deepness, Life Musings, This is real life.

…where adages come true…

The past month has not been a great one for me.

Actually, it’s been ridiculously tumultuous, to the point that I can’t even handle writing. As you may have noticed. Times like this are why I even created my blogging habits of Sunday Serenade and Saturday Snapshot – so that no matter how bad things got, I wouldn’t completely stop the blog. I would keep the habit and then, when I was feeling recovered, I would truly get back into it and continue writing.

I’m not there yet. I have no clue when I will be.

But I have something important to note.

During this ridiculous month, I spent 2.2 weeks teaching kids who were not actually mine, while my kids had a substitute in class. And let me tell you, it was the very opposite of a picnic.

I almost quit.

Twice.

However, now that I’m back in my own classroom – taking a mental health day on Monday, no less – I have to say that my trials have shown me two important things.

#1: Sometimes cliches are true. Like this one.

Photo May 15, 8 46 26 AM

It certainly did for both my students and me.

Which is oh-so case-in-point to #2: My students actually are worth it.

Yeah, I almost quit last week.

And yeah, I was miserable beyond words for two weeks.

But the silver lining to that mother of a cloud is that it reminded me how lucky I am to get the chance to build relationships with these students who really and truly need them. And that my students? My baby-children, as I affectionately refer to them? They’re good inside. Even if it’s way, waaaaaay buried underneath drama and tough shells.

But once in a while, they let it out. For me.

And that’s what makes my job special.

Posted in Deep deepness, Humor, Life Musings

How to Bond with Middle Schoolers

Every year, it seems, I have at least one or two teachers say to me, within the very first weeks of school, “I just don’t know how you relate to them so well!”

I hit the 3 mark for the year today, which is surprising not just because we’re only 6 days in, but also because I didn’t have a particularly kind-to-kids day. The thing is, however, that I’m totally baller at relating to my particular demographic of student (that’s the Hispanic, non-reader kind, in case you’re wondering) despite my lack of common ground with them.

I feel that as adults, sometimes we just make our jobs harder than they truly are. And so, in the interest of helping teachers, parents, and just generally fellow Earthikins of middle school students, I have the following tips to offer. Attempt at your own leisure (and risk).

  • Be honest and real with them.

    Don’t make shit up just to make shit up, okay? Even if it would be more comfortable and socially-acceptable to lie your butt off. I mean, I tell my students that I’m not a huge fan of the dress code, but that it’s a part of my job and I’m going to follow it because it’s the right thing to do, and the intentions are to focus on education, which I’m totally down with no matter what. Do they like that? Of course not. But it’s the truth and in a way, I think they begrudgingly appreciate it. They’re not tiny, soul-less demons, they’re tiny people. Treat them as such. The only caveat I’ll add to this is that if your lies serve a vital purpose, you’re allowed to put them out there. Just make them few and far between. And act like it’s no big deal. I mean, I still have students from years ago who honestly believe that the motion detector in the corner of the room is a camera. And that’s how it’ll stay.

  • Be open about yourself (with boundaries).

    I’m not saying that you should tell them about your messy love life or the fact that you might have a warrant out in Tijuana due to a misunderstanding on spring break 10 years ago. Keep those skeletons in the closet. Preferably at home. And I’m definitely not saying that you should show them your non-existent belly-button. That’s weird. And actually happened once. What I am saying is that you should be willing to show them photos of your family and friends. Tell them your middle name, your favorite color, and the year you graduated high school. Use your own real-life experiences to enhance your interactions. Take your loved ones to their football games. Answer their questions. If nothing else, this will show that you care and maybe even help you find some deeply-buried commonalities to bond over. “You watch Cash Cab? I met Ben Bailey once, it was awesome!” Instant cool points (if the kid’s a nerd, that is). Just make sure that they know you’re still an adult and they’re not – so there are certain lines not to be crossed. They’re kids. They’re comfortable with boundaries, so they should stick to them if you’re firm.

  • Listen to their music and watch their shows.

    This does not mean that you must like their music and shows, only that you must show an interest. Guys, I effing hate One Direction, and I hate that I don’t totally hate Justin Beiber as much as a 26 year-old should. I don’t pretend to love them, I just show that I have knowledge of them by saying things like, “Oh, but see, 1D isn’t actually a band, it’s just a group of guys all trying to sing a solo at the same time.” And they LOVE to defend their little heartthrobs. Even when it’s hopeless.

  • Invest in their lives.

    Remember their pets’ names. Ask about their sister’s new baby. Go to their games, even if they aren’t at the school. Make sure that you recognize their successes, even if it’s outside of your little classroom (or home). One of my favorite (though admittedly a little judgy) quotes is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is especially true for children of middle school age. Put in the time, and so will they.

  • Try to understand their world.

    Take things a little beyond the whole entertainment thing and remember what it was like to be awkward, halfway through puberty, and think you’re a grown person. Also add to that the fact that they live in a very personal yet depersonalized world. Everyone can know your business on fbook but you may not even remember what a sunset looks like without an Instagram filter. It’s different. Even for me, and I grew up with computers. Kid Pix was the BOMB, am I right, 90s children? But it’s not the same anymore…no one ever goes looking for Carmen Sandiego or dies of dysentery, at least not in the US. They’re too busy hooking up over WOW.

  • Have an ego.

    For real. This is not a joke, people. You need to think that you’re all that and a bag of potato chips. As you can tell from my multiple shout-outs to the 1990s in this post, I’m not exactly the epitome of cool. My students, however, don’t realize that I’m aware of this fact. I’m pretty vocal about how awesome I am, how they need to read more in order to be as awesome as me, and the fact that you honestly shouldn’t ever question my judgement – especially when I give you boy/girl advice. I’m the shit, in case you didn’t know. Which is why I can keep my cool when they’re flying off the handle.

  • Laugh.

    If you’ve done all the above tips, then your kids are probably at the “wanting to impress you” stage because you are – as my coworker says – thebomb.com. And how do preteens/new teens impress someone? By making jokes and entertaining you. Laugh. It builds their confidence, proves that you’re a human being, and generally lightens your other burdens, too. Besides, they’re usually pretty damn funny. Also, make sure to laugh at yourself. Is it easy to laugh when you fall flat on your ass in front of 20 6th graders at the end of a “I expect better from you” rant? No. I would know. But what can you do? Karma’s a bitch with perfect comedic timing.

  • Own your faults.

    This kind of goes along with laughing, because it involves a lot of laughing at yourself. I mean, I think the thing that blows other adults’ minds is that my students love me despite the fact that I’m a huge nerd. I tell them this. They know I like reading and Star Wars and Star Trek and grammar and school. They also know that I “don’t play well with others” and often prefer the company of my dogs to other human beings. Let’s not even talk about the time I got sent to the office for skipping lunch or the fact that I’m deathly afraid or water fowl. When kids realize that you have faults and can admit them, maybe even laugh at them like I mentioned, they see you as an ally and not an enemy.

  • Admit when you’re wrong.

    Especially about them. Do you know how many adults will realize that they were wrong and not correct themselves because – so what, it’s just a kid, and their ego is more important? Too many. And yeah, I have a chip on my shoulder about it, what gifted kid doesn’t? But I will say that four years ago, I made a poor judgement call, accused a student of misbehavior because it seemed right, and turned out to be totally wrong. I admitted it and apologized to him in front of the principal who was handling the discipline because I felt like it was right. And you know what? I’m pretty sure that turned him around at our school. Which makes me more sad than anything else, because how many times have adults laid blame on this kid if that’s what made a difference?

  • Show them respect.

    This, dear friends, is the cornerstone of my success with the kiddos. I respect them and their choices, even when they’re the wrong ones. I firmly believe that the single most damaging occurrence to a relationship with a kid is the introduction of condescension. No, they don’t have our life experience and they’re not yet old enough to vote, but they’re still valuable members of our society. They have ideas. Good ones. And at the age I work with, they’re starting to take those ideas and run with them, to assert their independence. Of course, not all ideas are good, but if you have the right relationship with them, you can have a good conversation about why they shouldn’t get a Miley Cyrus haircut. And they’ll listen, which is the important part. Plus, when they draw you pictures of what ‘respect’ looks like, their depictions of you are eerily accurate.

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So I hope that sheds some light on my ability to “get” preteens and teenagers. A light that isn’t a neon sign flashing “I never grew up.” Although I might have one of those somewhere, too. 😉

Posted in Deep deepness, This is real life.

Let’s Refocus.

I took a personal day yesterday to take care of my holiday prep. It’s quickly spiraled out of control this year, somehow, and I just needed a day. A day to prep for the four events I have during the week next week (and that includes two on one day, folks). A day to actually get out the Christmas decorations and put them up. A day to sleep.

And I got that. But, as we all know now, I didn’t get a break from thinking about school and my job. I was still lounging around the house, post-vet visit with the pups when the news broke about the shooting, goofing off on the internet and enjoying my free time.

Throughout the day, as the news got worse and worse, I did the same thing. Went through the same routine. I absorbed the bad news, gave myself a few minutes to think about it, and then I went on with my day. It was still there, but I wasn’t glued to my computer. It didn’t render me a complete emotional mess.

Obviously, that’s not because I don’t care. I’m a teacher, a former reporter, and a deeply empathetic person. I cry when I see dead animals on the side of the road. So 20 small children dying in a senseless crime? Of course I’m upset.

But.

As easy as it would be to allow myself to get sucked in to watching the news and waiting for the next press conference, I decided to keep moving. I realized, while reading an article about how to help children through tragedy, that taking shelter in routine applies not just to children, but adults as well. We all need to be mindful of what will really help – like keeping up the routine, letting ourselves ‘feel our feelings,’ and finding a way to feel like we’re doing something to help if necessary.

Because right now, we are a nation of hurt and, frankly, broken people.

You can see that we’re a broken nation not just in the photos of weeping parents and candlelight vigils, the footage of our President wiping away tears and small children comforting each other, but also in the heated arguments breaking out on social media. There are people who advocate taking guns away completely. There are people who advocate training all school personnel to shoot and giving them a weapon to have in the classroom. And in both cases, these are strong emotional reactions. Even those of us who exist somewhere in between these two extremes, we are passionate about these beliefs because we associate them with this horrible tragedy now. And if that debate isn’t enough, there are people out there who are talking about how dangerous our schools have become and what we should do about it – not exactly what a shaken parent wants to hear before they send their kid back for one more week of learning until winter break arrives.

These people are  putting the focus on laws and politics when it belongs on supporting those affected by this tragedy and in need of comfort.

What we need to remember as we all continue to reel from this event is that arguing isn’t going to solve anything. It isn’t going to make us feel better at all. And right now? Right now is not a time for finger-pointing or politics.

Last night, I got a text from a friend that I opted not to answer. It read:

“So what’s your take on this thing as a teacher?”

Can of worms, I am not opening you. It’s a wax-sealed and hand-delivered invite to a throw down on politics that’s guaranteed to get messy. But I will say this: I truly believe that every teacher, upon hearing about this tragedy, immediately thought about their own private emergency plan.

Every teacher knows, in the back of their minds, and in the most secret part of their hearts, what they would do if they were in the same situation as the teachers at Sandy Hook were yesterday. Most of us don’t talk about it, because it’s morbid and disturbing. And, even though we receive training in what to do, that doesn’t mean that the training will protect us, especially not if the attack comes from inside our own classrooms.

But I’ll admit readily that if a gunman – adult or student – came into my portable, you can bet your ass that I would protect all of my students with everything I have. I know where I would put my kids to best protect them from the windows, how I would barricade the entry and access points, and what instructions I would give them in case they need to escape on their own eventually. Because to me, if you’re in a position to protect people, it’s because that’s what you’re meant to do – whether you’re a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, or even just a parent.

I’ve known that fact since I was a PA in the dorms, and after that horrible shooting that left an RA as the first known casualty at Virginia Tech my sophomore year. I knew that I could very easily be in that same position, and even though that was a huge shock, it didn’t make me want to quit anymore than this tragedy makes me scared to go back to work.

I love my students. I work my butt off to help them become amazing people and learn how to not only contribute to the world but also be happy while they do it. The kids don’t scare me. Going to work in a school doesn’t scare me.  What does scare me is that one day, something might come into my classroom that I may not be able to protect them from. I can imagine that this is how parents fear for their children…if you times what I feel for my students by a million, of course.

So I suggest that we all acknowledge that this event is not a call to action or an invitation for political debate. Not right now, anyway.

This morning I opened the door to two very sweet ladies, handing out pamphlets about what to do in the face of tragedy and depression. They also read some scripture from Revelations about what they think the children can look forward to, the silver lining they see to this horrible act. And they told me, in very straightforward terms, that they just wanted to provide support for those who may be affected in this community. To be there for people who needed a little ray of brightness.

Let’s take a page from their book, whether it’s their own personal rules for operating or the Bible that they read from this morning. Let’s refocus that misdirected anger on something we can actually do: give their families, and ourselves, time to grieve before we start making this whole mess uglier than it already is. Support our friends and neighbors. Don’t turn this into another fight.

Let’s give them time to heal.

Original photo by D Sharon Pruitt.
Original photo by D Sharon Pruitt.
Posted in Deep deepness, Life Musings, Life's A Trip.

Driving Through Life III: The Propulsion

Thanks to creativelenna and her cc-friendly flickr for this image.

It’s been a while since I wrote about this, hasn’t it. Whoops. Lucky you, though, I found a few moments to write the conclusion to my summer ‘road trip through life.’ Go ahead and review parts one and two since it’s been like three weeks. Again, so sorry.

And yeah, I know that propulsion makes it sound like I’m talking about the Starship Voyager (if your nerd alert didn’t go off just then, get it checked) but it’s the best term I could find to describe the last and final part of my road trip.

We’ve already been through what you need to prepare for a stellar journey, who you have with you, and now we’re looking the big reveal right in the eye: what makes the whole trip actually happen.

What drives your life?

How do you decide where to go and what to do?

I mean, there are a lot of choices to consider when you’re planning a trip. It’s a whole big world out there, and you can go anywhere you want – so how do you decide where to go? Or even what route to take to get there?

These questions remind me of an episode of Friends, wherein Joey is faced with a decision: Northern route or Southern route. Beard of bees or chicken that plays tic-tac-toe? An age-old question, to be sure.

Now, because Phoebe isn’t around all the time to help us decide with her no-thinking game, it’s up to us. We have to sift through not only ourselves, but also all of the outside input we get.

There are always outside influences on our life’s journey. Or, as Thank You for Smoking puts it,

“There will always be people trying to tell you what to do and how to think.”

True dat, Aaron Eckhart – or whoever wrote your lines.

When we come to a fork in the road, a split in our journey, we have to do one thing that I loathe more than anything else in the world. We have to be a grown up. We have to make….a decision.

Credit to the super-fab Brandon Carpenter’s flickr for this gem.

I really fucking hate making decisions.

Truly. It’s the worst. There are not words strong enough in the English language – or Spanish, for that matter – to express my profound loathing of decision-making.

I mean, there are usually so many choices and so many ways to be wrong, I get flustered. I wish that Lisa Kudrow was around to play that game with me.

But as I learn to actually make these important decisions, I do have one piece of wisdom to share with everyone. It’s the secret to being happy with your decision, no matter whether it’s right or wrong.

You need to make sure to listen to yourself.

Don’t pay ANY attention to those people Mr. Eckhart refers to – make up your own mind (for reals, though cigarettes are bad for you).

Yeah, maybe there was a better choice. But if you listen to that internal voice and do what jives with your life philosophy best, at least you can say that you made the right choice for you at the time. Of course, to do this, we have to know a little bit about our big picture.

The thing is, we occasionally forget that every car needs one thing to make it go. Usually when our budget is tight or we’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper, standstill traffic.

We forget how important it is to put a few gallons of gas in the car.

When we’re talking about life, gas is whatever lights a fire under you.

What are you passionate about?
What inspires you to action?
What creates flow in your life?

That’s your gas, your fuel.

Credit to Amanda Azzi’s flickr.

For a while, your parents are responsible for the supply, just like actual gas. They give you limits, they front the cash, and they’re the ones who teach you how to even pump it in the first place. And that’s great. It’s very formative.

But eventually, you’re driving on your own, in your own direction. And suddenly, you’re the one calling the shots.

Premium or regular?
Fill up at quarter-tank or when the light comes on?
Use a credit card or pay cash?

Mom and Dad aren’t there with you, only in the background as a safety net. So you’ve got to figure out for yourself what you really want. I know it’s tempting to listen to friends and let them make the decision for you, or even consult trustworthy publications. And that’s fine. Do your research. But when it comes down to it, whatever decision you make cannot be for someone else.

In my case, I’ve known for quite some time what kind of gas I’m putting in my tank.

My go-juice is helping people. For real. It’s that simple. My purpose in life is to help people in the most effective and far-reaching way that I can. Right now, that’s being a teacher. Eventually, that might be publishing a book or working to teach sexual education in third world countries. A girl can dream, eh?

For a long time, I searched for better wording, or a deeper meaning to this life calling…and then I realized how lucky I am. All I have to do to fulfill myself is to make someone else’s life better. And I can do that – we all can. So that’s what motivates me, what drives every single decision that I make about my life.

Of course, just because I’ve fueled up doesn’t mean that you can punch the gas and shoot off into the future. I’m not Michael J. Fox, and I hope to GOD I’ll never drive a Delorian. We still have outside factors to consider – there are other drivers on the road. And let’s not forget that no road trip is ever complete without a major mishap.

Sometimes you get stuck in traffic. Other times you may have inclement weather, like that one time I drove halfway from CoMo to Dallas in a blizzard. There are times when you’ll get a blow-out or overheat your engine. Or – God forbid – you may get picked up by a twista, spun around, and dropped off in not-Kansas.

That last one’s not so bad…at least you’re not in Kansas, anymore.

But no matter how it happens, it happens, and suddenly that purpose-filled trip is thrown off schedule, if not off course.

You think you’re going down one path, and somehow, through no fault of your own navigation – or a lot of fault in your navigation – you discover that your journey isn’t going as you planned. There’s been a hiccup.

Don’t panic. It’s okay. As I said, it happens.

What you need to remember is that what’s most important isn’t how long it took you to get there. It isn’t how expensive the trip was, or even the obstacles you faced along the road. In fact, it really isn’t even how you got there, how many times you had to turn around and go back to that fork in the road and try again.

What’s important is the trip itself, and how it has molded you into the person you are today.