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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.
Have you ever felt vaguely off and sidelined? That somehow, just by walking through your day and trying to do the right things, there are people reacting to you in a slightly “off” manner? That they are not seeing you for who you are, that there is the vaguest whisper of misunderstanding, and you want to explain yourself, but you don’t know how to?
That’s how I feel right now. I know that I’ve walked through today with love, compassion and integrity. But I just feel uncomfortably not right. Like I’m being seen through a filter that I didn’t ask for. Actually, that’s exactly it. I’m being seen through a filter of preconceptions – or misconceptions – that I haven’t asked for, that just slightly put my integrity off kilter. It’s not enough for me to want to explain myself, but it is enough for me to feel a little tired. I know that I have to work a little harder for my true character to shine through, to correct the misconceptions, to step in, to let my actions speak clearly and firmly, to restate my boundaries. All the things that keep you a little on edge.
I wish so much that I didn’t have to.
So I took my slightly-off-key self home tonight and wondered what I would like to do.
First, I’m proud of how I walked through today. I just kept re-drawing the boundaries, over and over, until misconceptions were softened and I was seen. By the end of 3 hours of rehearsal, I could feel the change. I knew I had done the right thing. But the opening credits of today were hard. Walls were up, eyes downcast, and I was uncomfortable without asking to be. I just kept working with the task at hand, all pride and ego aside, quietly holding tight to my compass through the dark.
Should I explain myself? Should I jump right in and bulldoze my way into understanding? Actually, this is my instinct. ME, ME, ME, listen to ME right now, because WHAT YOU’RE THINKING IS WRONG! But I need practise at leaning into discomfort. So I figure this:
My character is as true as they come. If there is a hard line there, it’s meant to be there. The boundaries are hard-won, and my compassion is alive always. What I ask for myself is that I work SO hard to look after MY HEART ONLY. I will NOT look over at the lowered eyes, the misunderstandings, or the slights. I will ONLY walk my steps, live my life, and follow my compass. I will be swayed, oh yes! I’m utterly human! But I will bend in the wind, and then pull myself back on course. I will walk on my path, in my own lane, doing all the things that are what I would choose to do in integrity, compassion, and love. I will match my character over and over.
Because my life and how I live is proof enough of who I am. My LIFE is my EXAMPLE and MESSAGE, and even if that means walking through ache and discomfort for a while, I cannot help but been COMPLETELY SEEN if I do things that I know to be right. I cannot be what I am not, I cannot undo hurts and misunderstandings, I cannot soften hard lines that should be there because they are decisions I have made. But I have a HEART THAT WORKS, and I know that I am constantly learning to be the best version of me that I can. Therefore, let me fill myself up so that I am FULL TO OVERFLOWING, so that there is NO MISTAKE of my intent, my character, and my integrity.
Let the world, and all the doubters, see me for all that I am simply through me living my life without apology or sacrifice.