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One of the greatest moments of humility and grace is realising when you are not the perfect fit for a student.
As I continue grow into myself and my teaching, I see more examples of this within the classes I teach. The students that are angular and pokey around me, that value and respect my teaching, and me as a person, but I will never be their best champion, or their perfect mentor.
The younger version of me would have worked with pig-headed determination to flex and contort myself into the perfect fit. What did I need to be? Harder, warmer, softer? More dictatorial? Colder? I tried to bend in ways that I never should have. And in doing so, was being dishonest to myself and doing my students a disservice.
Now, in simple grace and confidence, I can identify students for whom I’m not a perfect fit, and I can joyfully and wholeheartedly direct them to other staff members and mentors who might inspire them more fully than I am able. I encourage them to listen and look closely around them for kindred spirits, people who are older and wiser than them who have the unique combination of experiences and talents which resonate with them.
I ask them to be open and engaged with me, and that I will always love and teach them with my greatest self, and to the best of my ability. But in my heart of hearts, I say silently to them:
I am not so vain as to think I can be everything to everyone. I am not the perfect fit for you. I will teach you, care for you, encourage you, guide you, and support you, but you need to find that adult or mentor who IS someone you completely aspire to be like, even in part, and connect with them. You need to have a champion, and a North Star, and it’s not me.
So, look hard, and look well. Find someone who resonates with you, who makes your spirit catch alight, and learn.
This is such a gift of courage, humility, grace, and love.
To know that I have the courage and grace to set certain students free, so that I can love them more.
Isn’t it extraordinary that when we look back to our most influential teachers and mentors, they are the same age as when they taught us? That they have somehow remained suspended in mid-air and time, exactly as they were when we were 11 years old, or high school, or university?
What force granted us the means to stamp them into a moment of time? Shouldn’t we apply the same grace as they gave us, and allow them to grow as well?
I think of my most treasured mentors, who filled me with such confidence, love, and joy for my learning, and seemed so limitless and wise. I am 10, 15, 20 years older and in the middle of my own teaching career, and I have learned + fallen, failed and grown. I’ve changed; why should I think they haven’t?
Why shouldn’t I allow them greater wisdom, tenderness, and the passing of time?
It’s so easy to think of them as timeless, and limitless, but they are people on the same continuum, growing, changing, and being affected by life. It’s the same story I preach to all my students, and yet I catch myself forgetting to apply that insight and grace to my own teachers, parents, mentors.
No-one is limitless.
And when you allow that humanity, they become more scarily fragile and vulnerable, but all the more beautiful and touchable.
And I guess that’s the lesson I am teaching to my students as well; that as bright and as energised as I am, I, too, am not limitless. I am beautifully, touchably human.
I have been LOOOVVVVING Kristina Kuzmic. Her sass drew me to her, but it was the underlying foundation of grit and authenticity that endeared her to me. And here latest few videos and posts have gotten under my skin in the best way possible. I, who has the most polar opposite life in terms of raising a family, find resonance in her words.
Cheers to you, feisty and amazing Kristina!
I feel like I’ve travelled the world twice over in terms of my moral compass lately. It always happens at the end of a long year, the moment I get off the treadmill and the spinning stops, and my heart recalibrates and I find equilibrium, it happens. That stomach-flipping wondering the borders on aimless wandering, except that I’m stupidly busy with family + Christmas + holidays. I always think I’m MORE fine than I am, so utterly happy to be on holidays, and then it HITS. It’s like going off sugar + caffeine, those first few days SUCK. I’m antsy and unsettled. Even though I have plenty keeping me busy, there is nothing keeping me from ME, and for the first time in 10 weeks, or even a full year, I really have to face myself.
Mostly, I like myself very much. I work hard to live joyfully, authentically, work hard, and to be grateful and humble in my footsteps. Colourful, but humble. But for some reason when I’m not intensively planning, conducting, and teaching, and I have to sit still with the reflections of the year, the first few days are always intensely challenging. I feel like I’m in a total tailspin as to how I anchor myself, how I spend my time, what is important, what I need. Then day by day, I rediscover what is required.
All the things connecting with good physical health I have no problems with; good diet, sleep and rest are all easy for me, and I am lucky in this capacity. But I find myself emotionally a little stiff and sore, a little awkward and strange, even though outwardly I am so joyfully happy and there are celebrations all around me.
The most ridiculous things get under my skin; things that NEVER bother me all of a sudden do. What did that comment mean? That’s a ridiculous post. And the most ridiculous of all; why didn’t that get more likes?! This NEVER, EVER bothers me and I am so utterly and completely happy to stay in my own lane for the other 51-and-a-half weeks of the year that to even feel like this seems so ridiculously petty to me. And yet I dive, and I find myself stuck, and in the process of having to unstick myself.
And I find, unequivocally, that “fast-emotion”, like fast-food, doesn’t cut it anymore. I need to the slow rise of hard-won love and grace to feed me deeply. I need to lean into every single one of those emotional cuts and sores that have long since scabbed-over, but I haven’t really taken the time to examine. I need to lean into wonderfully healing conversation. And I need to to COURAGE [verb]. I need to practise “couraging” every single day, in ways that I haven’t needed to when the work-hum is buzzing loud in my ears.
The thing is, it’s easy to feel validated when you’re working hard. It’s easy to hide behind work when you are seemingly working hard. It’s much harder to hide when there is no work to hide behind.
So you sit, with all the scars and disappointments, and you look at them. You sit and hate them for a bit, and engage in time-wasting and soul-sucking staring matches. “Why isn’t anyone calling?” to, “Why do I have to be the first one to organise everything”, to the classic, “That was awesome, where’s the acknowledgement and thank you?!”
You remember, so abruptly and haltingly, that you are indeed NOT perfect, and that elevated sense of self you had while you were in The Hum of Work needs to be shelved for the time being. You learn that slothing it for the whole day makes you equally as unhappy as counting all your faults.
The compass regains, the equilibrium slowly rises. And you find little whispers a creativity in mind, heart, and self slowly creep forward, and the need for approval melts away, the jabs against pride and ego become mellowed, and you face things that you had no idea how to face a few weeks back. You ask the hard questions in the safety of love and time. You may not have all the answers, that’s okay. But you dared to ask anyhow. Your ability to sit with pain and discomfort, like an unwanted guest, rises.
The lane that you were walking on seem so much more like home. Your home. You’re at ease with yourself and the smell of your own weirdness. Without being glib, you are sure and real again, and that old light from inside you starts resonating.
Suddenly you are more YOU than what the world thinks of you, and grace, in all its wondrous ways, has worked its healing magic.
Thank you for the struggle of living, and the exquisite joy of life and grace.
I am an unashamed plane fanatic.
I know nothing about cars, and have zero interest in anything else technological, except that it will function the way I need. I have the most basic understanding of how to fix things. I am average in all things IT. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, I love planes.
I live near an airport. With my music teacher’s ears, I can tell from anywhere in the house what sort of plane is flying overhead; regional, domestic, or international. And if it’s an international flight, there is just enough time for me to drop whatever I am doing, fly out the door, and catch the magnificent underbelly of the plane soaring over my home, arms-outstretched, almost able to be sucked up the the force of it.
So when a plane was safely landed in the Hudson River on January 15th 2009, I knew that this was extraordinary. As has been said so many times over, and as I had learned through my incidental “plane-reading”, people don’t survive water landings. But when the extraordinary-ness of the event had settled, there was something far more extraordinary that captured my attention, and that was the very person of Captain Chesley Sullenberger.
What an amazing man of discipline, courage, and purpose. His life has not been perfect; he’s faced as much adversity and hardship as anybody else, yet he carries himself with quiet grace and dignity. His words are governed by humility and authority, both, and when he speaks, you want to listen. Nothing he does is extravagant, and the way he has handled the tidal wave of attention from the rest of the world whilst quietly threading together the lives of his wife and children has been gracious, and tiring, and adaptive.
What is most extraordinary to me is that he didn’t ask for any of this, and yet he has said to the media that this is something he adapted to, and has learned to do so for the greater good. I don’t know that I would have had that courage! I would have been battening down the doors and hiding in full introvert mode, and unable to meet the needs and requests of so many families, who needed to express their gratitude. He assumed this role, one that takes its toll on himself and his family, for the good of the public, for the education of others in the aviation world, and the wider community.
He takes time to examine both sides of a story, even if he has strong opinions on his part. He is constantly curious about, humbled, and invigorated by his craft – flying – and has been so since age 5. How many people know that sense of dedication and service? How many people can claim that sort of discipline, purpose, and complete love of learning in life? His love for his wife and daughters is quiet and absolute, there is no fanfare. He is not a doormat, his opinions are formed from a basis of knowledge gleaned from constant learning and refinement of his understanding of events, situations, and technologies. His words have so much quiet essence and power.
And while this event happen 9 years ago, and I have no connection whatsoever except in my love of planes, I am absolutely and completely inspired. The quiet dedication and purpose that goes against everything that is so flamboyant and loud in our world. That simple words and intelligence can cut through as powerfully as anything raucous. That this life in the spotlight is one that thousands of people covet, and Sully would give anything NOT to be living. And yet he has taken responsibility for his new-chosen role.
And I think to myself, would I have the courage?
Am I living every corner of my life, with courage and grit, using every talent and opportunity presented to me, even if I am afraid and do not like the hand I have been dealt?
It’s easy to live your life when it’s to your own parameters. Anyone can do that. But to walk with grace when you have a situation that you don’t want, and to live it with courage and give what you have been called to give, even if it is hard and takes it out of you?
Oh, I hope that I have the courage to do that.
Thank you for your example of grace and courage, Sully.