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One of those days where I was totally up against it in terms of navigating, negotiating, and behaviour-managing, with my poor Year 12s walking into class after lunch with me in full-behavour-management-flight with a student.
Very quietly and respectfully did they all sneak in, dotted themselves around the classroom and quickly got to work.
After 2 minutes, a cup of tea appeared on my desk in a mug inscribed with “BADASS.”
Then, when my back was turned, a muesli bar + a handful of Minties appeared alongside it.
All of a sudden, I realised my camera was fully set-up and ready to roll for performance masterclass.
While I was looking over some Composing + Arranging issues, a message appeared on the whiteboard, “Kwokkie: Tiny Awesome Teacher! 😊”
And walking to Year 8 Music, I found the downstairs classroom door covered in post-it notes with various encouraging messages of, “GO KWOKKIE!” + “SMASH IT!” + “HANG IN THERE!” + “YOU CAN DO IT!”
My Year 12 kiddies. NINJAS of little acts of kindness today. You guys totally got me over the line!
Accurate representation of how Year 12s navigate Year 12.
I’m using this to open my Year 12 presentation lecture this year. 🤣
The first time I watched this, I was in total agony. The music! The drama + suspense! The tragic music at the end! 😳 But it DOES have a happy ending. 😅
And the parallels are just too good:
“The perfect drop. And a controlled launch!”
“This is as good a descent as is possible to make.”
“It’s parents are there to meet it. A little dazed, perhaps, but all in one piece.” 😂
Plus that fact that is David Attenborough commentating just MAKES it.
Comfortable with Discomfort
How do people get comfortable with discomfort?
How do people engage mindfully with challenging discourse, differences of opinions, aggressive interactions, and high emotions whilst maintaining a joyful, resilient and open heart, but a strong backbone?
It’s something I have been consciously practising this year, partly to develop my ability to stay in discomfort with a level head, but partly because I have had no choice. It’s been spirit-ruffling, enlightening, uncomfortable, and stretching. I always think I am doing crap and very often FEEL crap, when I also instinctively know that I am doing the best job possible.
The need to work with integrity drives this desire to engage with the challenging, but it doesn’t come easy. I am often caught at a crossroads when I find myself the only one standing with one side of the opinion, and the rest of the people around me swept up by the momentum of the argument, or a personality which bulldozes. I am not a bulldozer. Words have meaning and merit to me. What simply is “shooting the breeze” or “meaningless rubbish” and falls by the wayside for others affects me until I make peace with it and decide I am done. I am not a needless “hanger-on” person; words and feelings simply have purpose, merit and meaning to me. In fact, I am working hard to let go when conversations are done and expired. And the relief is immense. It’s healthy and wholehearted. But again, never done carelessly without necessary attention and thought.
How do I then learn to walk in integrity, connect with the challenge knowing that it will affect me deeply, and repair myself that I may walk into difference + disagreement with a calm and clear head?
Many of my friends, colleagues and family members think I can do this instinctively. But it doesn’t come naturally for me. If anything, it comes particularly unnaturally, with me having to sit in excruciating discomfort as I work through the framework of each problem and decide what action I need to take. Not what I WANT to take, not what would feel nice and comfortable for me. But what I NEED to do.
It’s times like this I HATE having a moral compass, because when you have stuck with this north-facing pin of integrity, you do not feel RIGHT until you’ve arrived at the course of action which you know is right. And often, the right decision affords personal peace, but it comes with an emotional mountain to climb first; a conversation which requires rehearsing, losing 3 hours sleep, spending the day before dipping in and out of worry, going back over ideas and ground until you are satisfied. There is no easy way to coexist with a moral compass and be a vulnerable, joyful person of integrity.
It WRINGS THE FUCKING LIFE out of you.
But there is no other way.
You need to do it.
So here’s the question: How does everyone else get comfortable with discomfort?
I’m not talking about deodorising a workplace or situation where everything is hunky-dory and annoyingly, superficially “fine”. I don’t buy in for that. I welcome safe discussion and discourse. I WANT accuracy for where I stand and what I do. But too often, pride and ego get in the way, and safe discussion without incidental power-over is impossible. And it breaks my heart, because I am no weakling. I just don’t want to be unnecessarily hurt by thoughtless, pride-driven conversation.
What I am talking about is when integrity does NOT win the day, and you watch as mud-slinging, bulldozer personalities and power-over get top spot? HOW do other people practise being resilient and courageous in this environment? How do you make peace with having to walk into battle, when you didn’t ask to walk into battle? How do you become more capable warriors in navigating shit-storms, without losing yourself? How do you keep your energy levels up? How do you learn to let things go after they are done? When do you know that they are done?
I don’t want total agreement. I want a safe place to put ideas on the table, the be deeply seen and valued, to not have my intrinsic work questioned when I am discussing difficult topics. It’s how we all want to feel.
Seen, valued, and heard, with worthiness which affords us the courage and audacity to have different opinions and creative ideas.
I know that I have instinctively walked this more challenging path all my life, because that’s how I was raised, that is what I am made of to the very core. I am so LUCKY to be lifted in heart and spirit by family and friends, who know me, and know what I do. They know my humility, they know my faults. They know where a should be fighting harder, and they also know where I am gentle in my strength.
For me, I know the cost of this walk of integrity. And I am tired from the heaviness of responsibility. As you know, this comes as UNNATURALLY to me as possible, yet I must do it. How do the great leaders of the world do it? How did Barack + Michelle Obama walk through their presidential term and maintain warmth and humanity, whilst making the hard decisions to guide and shape a nation? How did Nelson Mandela make wisdom and peace from hardship, over and over? Not just for a mere day; but when he least felt like it?
I am asking for some momentum and wind beneath my wings, some advice + wisdom, on how to continue to sustainably walk into challenging situations and understand how to chart a course of action without apology, but without sacrifice.
Day 28: Auckland to Melbourne to Adelaide, my home.
And I am HOME, and my heart overflows!
There is NOTHING like the heart-flip of flying home. 😊
Thank you for every experience, feeling, discovery, connection, moment, joy and opportunity on this trip.
Thank you for the love + connection back home lifting me onwards and doubling every experience, and the love + connection of family + friends renewed during my travels, which I come home brimming over from. 🌟
Day 26: Vancouver to Auckland
Karma is a BIATCH who is IMMENSELY fun to watch in action when she’s working for you!
Waiting to collect my noodles + somehow got my order before the (surly, prematurely-aged, overly made-up) lady who ordered in front of me, who was visibly AND audibly pissed that I dare get my food before her.
By way of softening the blow (and to show her I ABSOLUTELY noticed) I said encouragingly, “Your order is getting cooked, looks great! Sorry yours didn’t come out in order.”
“It’s F I N E,” she seethed, in a voice that said it was anything BUT fine.
I gave a sympathetic look to the serving lady + went to get my chopsticks. As I was walking off, I heard an almighty, “OH, FOR CHRISSAKES!”
Turned around to find that Impatient Surly Madam had stuck her knife + fork in her noodles so violently that she’d stabbed through the bottom fastenings of her “Wok-in-a-Box” style takeaway box, and her shirt front, right leg + foot were covered in hot, sloppy, oyster-saucy noodles.
HIGH FIVE, Karma!
I’m enjoying my noodles. And can I just say, LADY, you DESERVED that if you choose to eat noodles with a knife + fork!
Day 26: Vancouver to Auckland
I did it! This is incredible to me, that I have had the opportunity to see + experience all these places. 🌟
Day 25: Vancouver, with San Francisco reflections.
And it feels like I have E X H A L E D.
I have loved every moment of this trip, and been inspired and had my senses heightened by all that I’ve felt, seen, experienced, smelled, lived.
But I have to confess, coming from the grittiness + contrast of San Francisco, from the wide expanse of sea along The Embarcadero, the buzz and rush of the city, and the stark reminders of human suffering and homelessness, I found myself on edge a little more. Just a little more alert.
My compassion rises up and I know that I must do the best I can to meet in the middle. Sometimes, I go quietly about my explorations, I do not stare or judge; other days I found the courage to buy a small contribution of food for someone in need. The most courageous? Looking these people of hardship in the eye and truly SEEING them. If I had fallen upon hard times, would someone have the courage to do this for me?
I am lucky beyond belief. Again, the tears well up fast and unbidden.
When I landed in Vancouver yesterday, it was like coming home. Half-way home, literally, and figuratively. I felt the weight lift off my shoulders, and the edge come away from me. I realised how much of a forward-motion, street-wise stare I had accumulated whilst exploring some parts of San Francisco and Washington.
With no disrespect to any of the places I have explored, I feel more at ease.
And I’m ready to go home.
Day 23: San Francisco
“I hold my heart by the hand, together we’ll wander, endlessly.”
I love you, Mum + Dad.
My Dad gave me the sea. The salt and sting of Henley Square, the freshness, the soothing, the unrelenting storms all flecked with sand, the heavy dullness of dawn in summer. My Dad gave me this. He gave me the very edge of the sea that I may travel. He has a nomadic daughter with strong wings, but with a heart that overflows, overwhelmingly so, for home.
My Mum gave me the earth. The place that is my home. All that is wok-smelling, incense-filled, real, small details, family life at its most poignant and rushingly beautiful. All the tiny moments matter to my Mum, magnified over in joy, ache, sadness, worry, anxiety, and happiness. The small moments are her world. The big picture is wondrous to her, but she cannot live there. Her spirit is most happy with an anchor point; her family.
My beautiful parents, who are so fragile and strong, I love you so much.
Here, on the other side of the world, I think of you, and I love you with all my heart.
I am so sorry that I couldn’t give you a grandchild, or grandchildren. I have cried so much over this and every day, my heart cries. I wanted to give you grandchildren more than I wanted to have children of my own, and I dearly, dearly want children. A family. A husband. An anchor point.
But it is not written in the stars for me.
And I cry, raw tears.
But I cannot live a life in apology.
So I travel. I take flight. Glorious, uninhibited flight.
Not because I am running away, but because I am embracing. I will LIVE my life, all of it, and show you the all that I see. I will show you Montreal and San Francisco, Toronto where your son + daughter-in-law are, and the beauty of Prince Edward Island. I will show you Vancouver and Washington, and the uncut gritty beauty of New York. I will show you everything that I see, and share with you my world.
Hear me please, I will LIVE my life.
I love you both so much.
“Miss? Miss? Pardon me, are you from New York?”
Me: “No, just visiting. I’m from Australia.”
“Really?! ‘Cos DAMN, you walk like a New Yorker!”
Erratically + on a mission?!
A chance catch-up with a very special Brighton old scholar who is making waves of the best sort here in New York. Hilarious that Australians can never get their act together to catch up when they live in the same city, but can do it on the other side of the world.
Such a joy to hear of all your successes + adventures, Anthony Zatorski!