I have been paralyzed by indecision for the past few months about which teacher certification programs and experiences to pursue. I woke up new year’s day brooding over the decisions and brooding over the fact that I was brooding. Why has this decision been so difficult to make, and why does my mind dwell in it even after I have decided on a course of action? What am I so afraid of?
Instead of staying in bed and working myself into a real funk, I got up and resisted the urge to get onto the computer to look up more details for my pros and cons lists. Instead, I did yoga, I ate oatmeal, I stayed off the computer. And I felt better.
I remembered that one of my recent goals (resolution?) was to defeat my self-defeating thoughts. I realized that all of the angst I was feeling toward my decision stemmed from the possible negative outcomes of choosing one “side” over another (traditional teacher education vs. alternative certification programs). I have made multiple decision trees, with myriad pros and cons and factors. But I realized on new year’s morning that all of my cons had their roots in my fear of failure, my fear of being underprepared to be an awesome teacher my first year in the classroom. Those were the factors I was dwelling on in my decision making, and they were the ones that kept nagging at me even after I had thought I had chosen a path.
Those negative factors are all self-defeating thoughts because I will most likely not fail. I have resources, past experiences, and support systems to draw from when I finally do get into a classroom. I must come to terms with the fact that I won’t be great from day one, and that even though I have a lot of strengths to bring to this new career, a lot of growth will happen through the experience of actually teaching. I have to accept that there will be factors outside of my control during that first year, but that I will be able to ask for help. I have to remember to have enough faith in myself.
I’ve thought a lot, and I’ve read a lot…and maybe it’s been difficult to keep perspective on things because it’s been so. much. information. And much of it feeds the self-defeating part of my mind that whispers things like, “you’re not ready,” “you’ll need years to absorb all of this information,” “you’ll need to know so much more before you start teaching,” “you WON’T be ready.” But you never are. Ready, that is. You can prepare, and you can study, but to do something for the first time is to do it for the first time. I’m not saying there aren’t important basics and necessary experience I need before I start. However, I’ll probably learn my best and most important and lasting lessons while I’m actually doing the thing I’m trying to get better at, reflecting on it, doing it some more.
If I am to defeat my self-defeating thoughts, I have to turn things upside down and air them out a little. I have to base my decision, not on my fears, not on the cons, not on the negative possibilities, but on the positives, the pros, all the good that can come out of any of these programs. And here’s the thing — these are all really good programs, and they all have their strengths and benefits. I am going to be a teacher, (and I daresay a good one) no matter which route I take to official certification. Regardless of how much “training” I receive from my slated teacher education program, I will continue to learn, develop, reflect, and research on my own because that is my nature.
These realizations were refreshing, and I felt a lot lighter new year’s morning. I managed to stay off the computer, and I even convinced the boy that he should stay away from the screens, too. We went for a long walk at Pease Park instead.
I also realized that if I had jumped onto the computer, I would have stayed muddled and anxious all day. Which led me to my other new year’s lightbulb moment: we all need time and space and silence to truly reflect on our lives. This is becoming more and more difficult given the ubiquity of media and things that seemingly need our immediate attention. Sometimes it’s non-stop, and sometimes my mind just needs a big ol’ break. I’ve been finding myself more and more lately craving the silence I can get during a drive or a bus ride if I don’t turn on the radio or take out a book (respectively). When I’m surfing the internet, I’m multitasking as it is, and my brain has stopped wanting background music to accompany the noisy webpages. When I’m stuck in line at the post office, I just stand and wait and stare whereas before I might have tried to get through maybe a half a page of an article. My mind now craves the stillness, the silence, the calm.
I say all this at the risk of sounding like a Luddite, but I am not issuing a blanket indictment against all things that go beep. But as with all things, we must stay mindful instead of accepting the status quo as inevitable. We must become cognizant of how the ways we ingest information are shaping our lives and minds. As our synapses adapt to processing more and more information at quicker and quicker speeds, we also need to figure out how reflection might happen in these new technologies. I don’t know if it does yet, but I have noticed that when I’m drawn to my GoogleReader (even during those times when I really need a break from technology), the posts I choose to consume are those in my folder labeled “sweet.” Not those about the environment or those introducing big ideas or those written by educators or even those fancy modern design blogs. I browse instead those authors who share beautiful things, those who dwell on the sweet moments of a family’s life, or those whose posts are merely intended to bring a smile to the reader’s face. Maybe others’ reflections on their lives helps me reflect on mine, similar to how a good book or movie necessitates processing time afterward, how a good story can give pause and provoke new thoughts…?
In any case, on new year’s day, I even managed to stay away from my GoogleReader, so I was able to stay very present in my here and now life. I cooked and I hung out with my boyfriend and I read just a little. Some of my thoughts for 2010 are to walk/bike more even without destination, to single-task more, and to give myself a break from those self-defeating spirals of negativity. I never really call them resolutions because I find myself assessing, reassessing, reflecting, sometimes overthinking, and giving myself challenges all year round. Making (and breaking) resolutions has become an item on society’s to-do list as a holiday ritual to ring in the new year with promises to do better — and resigned sighs, que sera sera, when things/people end up staying pretty much the same.
The other day, I shared a link to this “Resolution Generator” on GoogleReader. I guess at the time I thought it was clever, or I found it amusing to find some of my thoughts mirrored in this coded web meme. During a new year’s eve hike with my brother, I asked him if he had any resolutions for 2010, and he said that yes, he had generated one: Sing out of tune.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized how silly this was, yet it also proves a sign of our times. Ideally, individuals have enough time, silence, and space in their lives to reflect on their lives and make commitments to improve — with resolve and gusto. But we are able to fill our minds and spaces and attention with ever more stuff…and so we do because we can. It’s certainly easy to allow myself to be swept along by the momentum of others’ ever-updated stories (webcomics, Netflix streaming, book series, and movie sequels), but it is when I sit in my own life and experience its discomfort, when I identify those areas that need work and then find ways to work on them, it is really only then that I grow.
Each day since new year’s, I have once again found myself dwelling on some negative thoughts. It turns out self-defeating thoughts aren’t so easy to defeat, but then again, growth isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s what resolutions aspire to be: commitments to growth. And a commitment is a practice in consistently making good choices again and again. With time and work and mindfulness, it’ll get easier. But then we’ll be onto the next challenge. Such is life. Happy new year.