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Your most powerful changes come from your daily habits. If you want to make significant changes to your lifestyle, your mental capacity, your skills, your connections, then start by looking at the tiny daily changes you can make. Too often, we are caught up trying to make big “all-or-nothing” changes, and then get discouraged when we can’t keep jumping the hoops we’ve set for ourselves.
We need to have this conversation with ourselves in long-form, and know that we’re in it for the long game.
Here are 3 daily habits that I am working on, which have made me happier and have begun the process of change this month:
Waking up at 5:00am: Now, I’m not about to harp on about the benefits of how life-changing this is in the way that many lifestyle gurus do. This was definitely, unequivocally, a personal choice for me. I wanted time to myself, to energise and centre myself before getting into the day. The decision to get up at 5:00am was to nourish me.
It’s been an interesting process, but it has definitely made a difference in how I feel going into the day. Waking up and 5:00am and getting up immediately to go for a walk or run, despite how groggy I am feeling, is absolutely brutal, and I consider myself a morning person. But about 5 minutes into the activity, I am more awake than if I had woken up at 6:15am and done my usual morning routine. The energy, space, and time I gain is absolutely worth the challenge of getting myself up. With the time remaining in the morning, I am able to journal, get clarity on difficult decisions and conversations, and get to the tender spot of reflection which doesn’t happen easily on a day-to-day basis.
In waking up early and giving myself time, I give myself clarity. My rehearsals and lessons have been more focused, I have been more authentic, my conversations have greater direction and purpose, and I feel centred and happy for more of the time. Yesterday morning, my one day a week without an early morning choir rehearsal, I had from 5:00am to 6:45am to myself. I did 10000 steps, made a pot of coffee, journalled, reflected upon the week, came up with 3 creative ideas, and had space to get into my day. I don’t pretend I’m going to nail it every time, I am SURE that I will trip up. But my day had more clarity, joy, direction, and purpose than I can remember prior to this routine.
Getting out of the “Can’t”: This relates directly to the above habit of waking up at 5:00am. The very realistic and cynical side of me says, “Yes, but it’s the first week of Term 3, of course you’re feeling positive and well-rested, of course you’re working with greater clarity!”, and that ultimately I am going to trip up and not be able to carry this through as a habit. This mindset is what has stopped me from really going after the scary things. I have experienced great success on everything small-to-mid-range. But I’d like to go for something where I have no guarantee, and I know that this is what is stopping me. Will I trip up on this habit? ABSOLUTELY.
There’s no way I’m going to nail it every time. But I’m going to sit in the middle ground. If I keep a solid routine, if I’m sure about my “why” for doing this, and if I problem-solve like a MF and go up against the “can’t talk” that buzzes loud in my head, I am going to nail this most of the time and be able to get back on track faster. Already, I can see the difference in my teaching + interactions with others.
Things that would normally derail me have become “just things that I need to solve.” I have leaned into interactions with challenging people and those who annoy me as a practise ground for how much I can turn a conversation around. I’ve tried to keep the mindset of, “Nobody ain’t gonna rain on MY parade!” And it’s not because I’m well-rested, it’s because I’m making the choice, and seeing how much room I have to move in a situation. It’s creativity and play at it’s finest, really!
Connection: I close up the most around the people I love the most, or are the most important to me. My Mum and Dad, my closest friends, and my most important relationships. I have been consciously practising interacting with these people in tiny steps, rather than just doing the introvert thing that I do of shutting down and going back into myself where it is safe and waiting until I am presentable to come out. I am trying to put into words exactly where I am at, share a small joke or light-hearted moment, or connect through something a little more vulnerable, especially if it’s a “sliding door” moment, and I have the choice to go there or not. I think of myself as a joyful, compassionate and authentic person, but this daily and sometimes hourly practise has made a significant change to how I feel walking into a classroom, a conversation, and my energy levels at the end of the day. I feel happier walking into situations where I am more vulnerable and tender, or less comfortable, than I have for a while. And while the change is imperceptible to most people, I can feel the release and lightness within myself. It costs me less energy to connect, because I am practising it every day.
This week has been a wonderful first week of school.
Mostly, I live + let live but there are times, I confess, where this is my sole modus operandi. 😂
Day 20: New York to Washington.
The Day of Unexpected Okay-ness! 😃
Today I’m flying from New York to Washington. Not gonna lie, was expecting many moments of today to suck. So when things sucked less than I thought, or actually reached a level of okayness, I was super-excited.
1. The trip on the LIRR line from Penn Street Station to JFK. Hey, it all worked! They post the departure platforms like the post baseball scores, then everyone goes ABSOLUTELY BUNTER to get on the train, and then it’s literally half empty! I got a whole row to myself. 😆
2. The TSA + security line at JFK Terminal 2, which has a reputation for sucking THE MOST out of all the terminals at JFK. Wow. What an honour. And yet, I flew through in 15 minutes. AND got a smile from on of the security ladies who said, “You’re a long way from home and those damn-fine Tim Tams you got goin’ on there, Missy!” 😂
3. The ACTUAL terminal, which has the same reputation as above. On reading the reviews, I thought I was going to be walking into chaos + squalor. It just reminds me of Adelaide Airport, it’s not a comprehensive shopping mall and I didn’t need it to be, but it has everything you could possibly want before a flight just like in Adelaide, and it was TOTALLY FINE.
4. The toilets. Wow, the reviews were HARSH. But being well-hydrated comes with the need to go, so I took a breath that I intended to hold the whole way though the bathroom stop + ventured in. THEY WERE OKAY! DEAR GOD, THEY WERE OKAY! They’re not the Taj Mahal, and I wouldn’t stay there any longer than I needed, but they were clean, they worked, they had toilet paper, and soap. Free woman, oh what a feeling! 🤣
5. The coffee. Yes, I KNOW. What was I thinking?! But when I was tossing up between a kombucha + a flat white, the flat white won. AND IT DIDN’T SUCK! It was, in fact, low-key successful Cibos level. Mind. Blown. 😜
6. Places to chill. Reviewers cautioned over-optimistic travellers that they would struggle to find a seat, that they would be screamed at for loitering, and don’t even think about finding a place to do some work. I’m sitting in my quiet little nook, with my coffee that doesn’t suck, completely chill + ready to start my new novel.
Today, at “OKAY”, ended up being a “GREAT SUCCESS”.
When I started at Pulteney, we accidentally began a tradition of wrapping Year 12s on their birthdays. It all began when the very FIRST Year 12 to have a birthday in my class received a terrible mark in his Musicianship test, and I unwittingly returned it on his birthday. In order that he didn’t remember the day for that moment, I emptied out my top drawer and as a class, we decorated him with all all the celebration paraphernalia we could lay our hands on…streamer, stickers, glitter, feathers, Post-its, and a sparkly hat.
The tradition stuck. Each time we had a birthday, my 12s would ask, “Can we go get the streamers, Ms Kwok?!” So I’m always totally stocked up.
This year, I realised that my little celebratory proteges had grown into themselves more than I could have predicted, and I got a dose of my own creating!
On the day of my birthday, my 12s snuck in early, filled the music room with balloons, wrapped everything (including me) in streamers, sang “Happy B’day” in 2-and-a-half part harmony, and baked brownies for me. 🤗
But my favourite bit? How totally UN-surreptitious they were about the whole operation. Stealth they have not. 🤣
I could literally hear them from a mile away, “SHUT UP! SHE’S COMING!” 😆
One of my Year 8s asked me if I really liked colour THAT much. Now granted, I wear a lot of colour. Patterns that clash. Stockings and scarves in every shade and hue. I am drawn to spots and stripes like a moth to a beacon of light. But do I like colour THAT much?!
I like colour very much. But the daring and light-hearted ensembles I wear to school are as much for my students as for me. In the outfits that I love wearing to school, I’m just as self-conscious walking around in the supermarket after school for that errant cartoon of milk and 3 carrots that I need!
I think the love of pattern and colour is 70% that I actually LIKE colour, and 30% me taking the mickey out of the dress code in the most creative + playful way possible. All the hemlines are the right length, all the bits are covered, nothing’s hanging out, and I suck at heels. Is 1.5cms a heel? It’s an accidental bit of extra leverage!
But I wear these gorgeous, crazy outfits because I love my students and it’s one of the ways I tell them that they matter. Any teacher who comes in neatly dressed, organised, and on time, ready to interact with an open mind says to the students in no uncertain terms that they matter.
I want them to know that they matter before I even start the lesson. Then in the flow of my words, the humour, and the organisation and preparation, they will see the example that I give them to hopefully inspire them to become good people living good lives.
I love the hilariousness of my Year 6s commenting on my earrings, or giving my scarf + stocking combos a mark out of 10. I feel bright eventually even if I don’t at the start of the day, and believe me, I don’t always roll out of bed feeling ready to tackle the day! My inner introvert screams blue murder some days, sated only by a nice spotted, fit + flare dress and cute blue booties!
But to answer your question, curious Little Miss Year 8, I DO love colour. But I love you lot most of all. And I celebrate the opportunity to affect your lives positively.