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this is when i am happiest

January 4, 2018 , , , , , , , , , ,

“When are you happiest? When are you the MOST alive?”

In teaching…

I am happiest when I’m in the middle of one of those intensive moments of back-and-forth, when I’m about three quarters of the way through the year with my Year 12s, or my Grammarphones Choir, or any other class or ensemble, and I’m right up to my armpits in rapid-fire teaching. Eyes are open, ears are alert, and it is all a continuous thread of learning, communication, ideas, spark…repeating, repeating, repeating…all rapid-fire, built on intense trust and love. Super-focused. The playful, and the fun, and the foundation-building are all there in the background, but it’s solid, honest, satisfying work of the soul and mind, all at once. Those vibrant and intense moments of discussion and discourse, seeing understanding and skills multiply exponentially, seeing things thread themselves together in magical succession…this is when I’m most alive.

In my family…

Around the circular dinner table when we are all yelling at each other over a meal, and we are yelling because that’s how we talk to each other when we’re happy. The crazy mass gatherings of so many faces, all on their individual timeline of life, cross-culture, cross-generation, crossing ideas and dreams. And I am at the magical and weighty crossroad between old and new, at the First Generation pitstop. It is HARD, so hard, to cross this bridge sometimes and to continually reach back and forth. But it is MAGICAL, and an honour to be here…this, here, is where I am most alive.

In the quiet moments…

The very end of Henley Jetty, swaying slightly in the breeze. The very ordinary 6:30am coffees with my Dad in Sydney when the whole family was over to celebrate my brother + sister-in-law getting married. Re-reading familiar books so that I could almost repeat entire sentences and they smell + feel like familiar sweaters, ragged, warm and wonderful. The stillness after a performance, coupled with the the electric buzz all through me. The sweet moments of conversation between myself and my closest friends, when there are moments where we are suffocated by flying words, punctuated by moments of silence. Random, silly silence. And it’s just comfortable. Looking up in a darkened living room after composing or writing, and realising the sun has left me to my cacophony of creative thoughts. That there is time. This, is where I am most alive.

In me…

When I am caught with a sudden awareness, learning, or moment of understanding, and I STRUGGLE against it for a while; a moment, a few hours, a few days, weeks, months…and then I decide to face it. Armed with tea, friends, words, journal, beach, stillness, and time, I make the journey. I cry and laugh, often at the same time. But when I arrive, it is unmistakable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some ya-ya sisterhood reborn experience, it is crazy-arse, hard struggle. And I cling to the safety barriers like a terrified cat, claws in, yowling. I often don’t like where I’ve arrived. But then, some sort of grace happens, and I realise I’ve hit truth. Everything relaxes. The rubble rebuilds. I’m on solid ground again, and it’s new ground. Truth that’s humbling and amazing. The aliveness that I feel after one of these periods of struggle is extraordinary.

In kindness…

More often than I would like, I doubt if the way that I teach is the right way. I know, oh, I KNOW, that I am one of those “kind” teachers. Said like the word “nerd”, I rock it 99% of the time, and fully believe in it…but sometimes, when I am exhausted, I am left wondering about the validity of the final 1%. But I know that this is me to the core; this is how I teach. My values are strong and my commitment to excellence, unwavering and unmistakable. Sure, there will moments where great citizens of the world are crafted from being bulldozed and shamed into submission. And good on the martyrs who beat the life and joy out of these fine upstanding citizens of the world to create them. But let me ask you this; these amazing people, when they thank their “teachers” for making them who they are, will they thank them for how they made them feel in the process? How much they loved them? How much they respected them? Or how much it cost them? This will never be me. I don’t have it in my DNA, it’s never worked for me, or my students while I’m in the driving seat. It just HAS to be possible to reach excellence through loving kindness. When I have revealed some part of a student or person to themselves that they did not know existed, but I see it, I cannot begin to describe the slow burn of life and joy that glows within me.

This is when I am happiest.

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