Thursday, October 22, 2015

Two lightbulb moments in as many days

Was writing an email to someone, talking about my work, when I wrote this:

    There's always so much to do, and I'm always looking for areas and ways to improve my teaching. It has to be something that is useful and practical, which will benefit the students. I think that's why I like teaching so much -- I'm continually challenged to innovate, so I'm constantly learning. There's no one batch of students quite like the other. They have different needs and a one-size-fits-all approach would never work.

It was a lightbulb moment.

Writing never challenged me that much; it comes easily, maybe too easily. It was fun in the sense that I was constantly meeting different people, and I did learn both about them and from them, but it was so touch and go: a single interview and I was unlikely to ever meet them again. There was no continuity and no challenge to better myself, to hone my craft. Newspaper writing style is pretty standard, and no one gave me feedback, suggested ways of improving my writing, or even talked with me about interview techniques, beyond the very basic stuff.

Teaching gives me both continuity and challenge. I see my students every day for a period of 10 weeks, and I'm trying new things all the time, thinking up new ways to convey various concepts to the students, experimenting to see if there's something I can do to spark greater understanding or retention. I taught one subject for four years before my boss moved me on to another, but even after teaching the same thing sixteen times (four semesters a year), I was still not satisfied and had plans in the pipeline to change certain approaches or try certain activities in the classroom. 
There's no chance of being bored or remaining static. I'm constantly innovating, and it's exhilarating. 

*      *      *      *      *      *
           Each time I resigned myself to never hearing from him again, he would write.
           "Are these dates?" my friends would ask.
           "They're datelike," I would answer, referring to Jonathan as my imaginary boyfriend, my insignificant other, my friend without benefits.
           Thirteen months of suboptimal dating passed. Several times I announced I couldn't see him anymore because I had feelings for him that weren't reciprocated. That went nowhere. If he looked (in my opinion) stricken, I would take it back.
           Finally, we had words, harsh ones, via email. He said I made him nervous, that I wasn't his girlfriend, that I was deluding myself. I asked him not to reply to my hotheaded rant of an answer.
    --Elinor Lipman, Taking a break for friendship

This, I could identify with. I've been there, wanting too much, maybe even pushing too hard, so I know how it is. You have to read to the end to know how her story went; needless to say, it does have a happy ending, and it made me smile.

But more than that, it gave me another lightbulb moment: For years, people have been telling me love will come when I'm not looking. I used to scoff and say, "How could I not look?" But now I think this refers to your state of being. That you're in a place where you're calm, relaxed, heart-whole, able to be yourself and to accept things as they are, to enjoy the now without continually getting ahead of yourself or anxiously second-guessing yourself.

You need to let go, let go of that dream, of that hope, so that with it you also let go of that anxiety which winds itself around you and constricts you and causes you to do and say things which you would ordinarily not do or say, to the point where you scarcely recognise yourself any longer. You need to stop trying so hard to make it happen and just be. That's the best version of you, the one who's comfortable in her own skin.

So it's not that love will come when you're not looking, but it's that you should not grasp your dreams too tightly in your hands, for you'll end up strangling love.

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