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I was an effing badass nomad.
I’m impressed and in awe of my intrepid self!
I am on holidays. Wonderful, blessed, not-a-minute-too-soon holidays.
And I find myself too easily aimlessly wandering, or working flat-out, and not leaning into my own inspiration. I am working off the residual momentum of Term 1, rather than making choices on how I’d like to spend my time with purpose and clarity. With joy and measure.
And the very worst incentive of all, I am working off the “let’s do it ALL” mentality, so that I can just do absolutely nothing for 2 weeks.
Which is the most unhealthy that you can be in terms of creative thinking and self-inspiration.
The thing is, nothing is ever complete. Everything is in a state of change, and is delightfully, annoying impermanent. And if you get stuck on trying to FINISH, you’ll never, ever really LIVE. If you’re able to walk each day step by step, without hurrying but without stopping, the day is so absolutely full of delight and learning. And I forget that when I am wrung-out-exhausted at the end of the term.
What helps right now is finding inspiration from those amazing people who have suffered hardship, or have had to struggle hard to find their place in life. At present, what is capturing my imagination is how pure passion and fire for work is the difference between an actual trajectory or aimless wanderings. It both amazes and inspires me that when there is passion and excellence, a certain heat and light comes off it, or the person in question. I have the stomach-flipping moment of wondering, poignantly, “Well, what do I stand for?!”
And I realise that my LIFE has been my trajectory. In the playful, stupidly colourful way that I have lived it. The passion in my words when I am invested in my teaching is unmistakable, and if I do nothing else but instil love and confidence into every one of my students, then I have done enough.
I need to remember that.
There is nothing that drives me more than a student who has not only achieved their full ability, but has done so realising their full worth. They have achieved excellence not AT the cost of their well-being, but BECAUSE of their well-being. They have done it wholly, playfully, with brimming REALNESS of the very essence of who they are. They haven’t CONFORMED. They have BEEN.
That’s the way I want to live.
And I take some time these holidays to rediscover that love of life, that dedication to teaching, and that pure authenticity of being.
My first teaching mentor gave me this. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!
She was larger than life, beloved, and a force to be reckoned with. I wanted to imbue some of her spirit. And now, 15 years late, I hope I have done her proud.
I have absolutely let her down in the “watch this space” category in the LITERAL BIOLOGICAL sense, but I hope that she’s watched my ACTUAL teaching trajectory and been a little bit proud.
I tackled the study today and was dreading the 3 large tubs full of cards, notes, and letters as they’d been untouched since…I moved into my home!
It turned into the most extraordinary, nostalgic, and humbling walk down memory lane. There were note of thanks + encouragement from my mentors from when I was 18 years old, so utterly GREEN, and just starting out at Festival of Music. Played my first concert at 19, more programs + notes. The 10 years I was at Brighton, WOW. That was traversing a whole decade of teaching + all the years which have formed me as a teacher. Young Adelaide Voices, Gondie Voices, and the Con High. The very top layer of the final box, my first 3 years at Pulteney Grammar.
The layer that took my breath away was 2013, when I left Brighton to work in Sydney for a year. The notes of gratitude + thanks were numerous, overwhelmingly beautiful, funny, touching, and largely unprocessed by me. I had to pack up to move cities, so those notes + cards got packed up almost immediately.
Re-reading them now is just EXTRAORDINARY. And look at some of the detail and artwork.
I am so lucky.
These guys are F A B U L O U S!
But what I love best?! The pure, goofy, joy of singing. They’re great, they’re rehearsed, but they’re also just guys who are having fun singing.
Leunig so poignantly captures the spaces in-between, the humanity, the unspoken beauty, the essence of awkward, joyful, and lovely “being”.
I found this on my desk yesterday after lunch rehearsals.
Remember Sir Year 11 who called my jokes cheesy, then proceeded to dig a hole for himself by saying that they were “high quality cheese”?!
This is from him, goaded on by the Year 11 Music kiddies. Things have escalated. The CHEESE WAR is ON.
Metaphorically, linguistically, and literally.
He actually comes from a family who specialise in seriously AMAZING cheeses + other small goods, which makes this so damn hilarious.
So my next move is going to involve some generic, plastic Kraft Cheese Sticks. Let’s see how he copes with those!
It’s been one of those weeks where I have been kicked around. Arse-kicked. And not in the normal “teaching kicks my arse” kind of way. In a deeply personal way.
And it made me think about my own relationship with students, and how I endeavour to have the hard conversations with them.
This week, I had my worthiness as a musician put on the line. I was bumped off the accompanying roster, without word or explanation, and replaced by another accompanist. I am not driven by ego or pride, only excellence, so if it happens that there is someone else more suited to the job with a more correct skills set, then it is absolutely fine with me. And it turned out in the end that the swap made perfect sense.
But here’s what cut:
I was not spoken to. I was not told. I found out in the most uncomfortable way possible. This was a place where I was supposed to be playing for the Year 12s I have spent the year thus far nurturing and growing up into confident and expressive performers. Would I want to play for them? Of-fucking-COURSE I would. My heart’s connected! I love these students, I’ve watched 10 weeks of failure and rising, struggle and success. WHY WOULD I NOT WANT TO PLAY FOR THEM?
And I realised, having watched them perform, and having played for only two out of the original seven students I was supposed to play for, that it was NOT the fact that I didn’t play for them that cut my moral compass.
It was the fact that I was not approached with the courageous, hard conversation in the first place. I was not told, in terms that reflected my value and work, that I would not be doing this gig, but that I was seen for the excellence of teaching, support, and care I was giving to these students. I didn’t even have the logistics explained to me.
Here’s the thing; we all of us can live with things we don’t like if we are allowed to experience them from a place of worthiness. It might take time and struggle, grieving, swearing, and whatever brand of chocolate is your drug of choice to alleviate the annoyance + disappointment of the situation. The point is, everyone DESERVES to feel valued. Has a RIGHT to worthiness.
That’s not to say we deserve to get everything we want. We certainly should NOT. We need to accept our skills, our failings, our successes, and have an accurate barometer of our profile as people and professionals. But at NO POINT should our worthiness be on the line.
It took a day of feeling bent out of shape and a great deal more struggle to get myself back to equilibrium. And I am FLUENT in the language of self-care. I am not afraid of internal struggle. Even with my healthy sense of self as a teacher, musician, and professional, it cut deep and took way more time that it should to recover from.
What this whole experience highlighted to me was the courage required to initiate these challenging conversations. It also demystified to me my rapport with my most challenging students. I DON’T have a perfect track record with all my students. But for some reason, I have street-cred. And I am the most non street-wise, non-sassy of them all.
Yet I am loved and respected by my students. This I know to be true.
I work off kindness, compassion, and courage. I want excellence, but not at the cost of worthiness and well-being. I approach each student and put INTO WORDS why I’ve made certain decisions, why certain outcomes have gone pear-shaped, what realities they’ve placed themselves in. I approach a kid in person about a failed grade. I acknowledge them. My words resonate with value. I agonise how I should language things, or how a conversation should go, because I care about their worthiness. Every kid has VALUE to me.
It’s so incredibly present to me when I’ve been put through the emotional wringer how very important that process is, and how MUCH courage it takes.
It’s a courage I willingly engage with. It’s called integrity.
A little dose of whimsy + wisdom for today.
A tremendous + significant step in care for my Grandmamma; after several years of home care, she has agreed to make the move to assisted care. The last 5 years have been a measure of courage and creativity for my whole family, Mum, Dad, rellies far + wide, Robs, Em, and myself, where we have leaned on each other to figure out each challenge.
I had just over 2 weeks looking after my Grandmamma in January this year to allow Mum + Dad to travel and have a break. And whilst it was a blessed two weeks where every good luck angel was looking over me and absolutely everything went right, I felt like I was walking a tightrope every day and mentally on-call for every one of those 17 days.
And that’s what my Mum + Dad have been doing for close to 5 years.
This “yes” has been the work of struggle, compassion, grace, and love. My Grandmamma will be the first in our entire family to enter into assisted care, and she HAD to be the one to say “yes”. In doing so, she has totally blazed a trail for future generations, but will also be grieving the cultural aspect and love of family members looking after her for her final years.
For me, I’m crying tears of compassion for her “yes”, but also tears of joy for my Mum and Dad. I cannot even BEGIN to describe how light I feel, and the incredible flood of possibilities that keep popping up in my mind. That Mum and Dad can now grab a coffee anytime they want. They can go walking together over the weekend. They can wake up whenever they want. They’ll still wake up at the crack of dawn and have done 3 loads of washing before 6:30am, but whatever, the point is, they still CAN. I can watch my beautiful Mum actually – POSSIBLY – learn to spend some time on herself, and my skinny, quiet, generous-hearted Dad take a cup of tea and read without being interrupted, or wondering challenge he’ll have to solve next. I can spend time with my parents without them being mentally elsewhere from fatigue + worry.
They have booked their first impulsive interstate trip to Melbourne in…forever.
They’ll be able to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Canada.
I am so HAPPY and LIGHT right now.
The other total crack-up is that Calvary have NO-EFFING-IDEA what they have signed up for with my tough + feisty Grandmamma. Oh, she will have them ON THEIR FEET. She will demand chopsticks and tell them off for under-seasoning the food. She can still give me a sound yelling-at when I am not coming up to scratch and being “too Western for my own good, with my teaching job, and car, and…!”
She yells good. I want to grow up to be like her.