I’m not sure where it started. Maybe when I was a kid. Wanting to fit in. Wanting to belong.
Maybe it’s because I’m the eldest of four. Setting the example. Making good choices for others to follow.
I have always hung on other people’s approval.
Parents. Teachers. Employers. Friends. I’ve always looked outside for what should be solidly inside after 53 completed trips around the sun.
But I don’t.
The C-word (as I will refer to the virus which shall not be named for the duration of this piece) has accentuated this for me.
To mask or not to mask? Run in or use the pick-up lanes? Travel or stay put? And the judgment on whichever decision you make. So much judgment. In a lot of these cases, I know what’s best for me. I follow the science and I don’t really care whether or not people approve or disapprove of what I do.
But when I put my heart into something, I care. And I care deeply about what people think.
The C-word has been problematic, to say the least, for public education. Teaching remotely? Not good for kids. Teaching a hybrid of remote and face to face? Teachers are stretched too thin and what do you do on those days when kids aren’t in school? Teaching in person? You are putting everyone in harm’s way.
And everybody, mostly those who have never tried to teach, has an expert opinion on what should be done. It’s like me telling my dentist how to do a root canal because I’ve had one.
We are currently remote but are going to a hybrid in mid-October. And as I sat in a meeting yesterday going over the individual roles of faculty and staff, I realized something. My masters degreed, nationally board-certified, 19-years-in-the-profession self had one duty. To pick up fourth-grade car riders at the end of the day and bring them to the carpool line. That’s it. No classes. No instructional support duties. Just carpool.
I think I went through the seven stages of grief in 30 minutes. It was the one day I was glad I was wearing a mask because if I looked at the floor, nobody could see how I felt. Not the healthiest of responses, I know but it was authentic.
To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I have always been a person who wants to be of value wherever I am. On multiple occasions, I have asked for more to do and told my principal that I felt underutilized. And for the most part, I find things to do which serve my kiddos.
But yesterday was different. As she announced that there would be no media classes in a meeting with my colleagues, I felt humiliated. Like I wasn’t pulling my weight and everybody knew it. And even though I know I was the same person who has worked there multiple years with outstanding evaluations, I felt like I had done something wrong. I was not considered a person of value.
But why? Why do I give up so much of my own power of approval to external forces? Why do I let other people determine my inner worth?
I got home where my husband and son talked me off the ledge. Independently, they both told me that this is an opportunity to turn the focus off of everybody else and turn it inward. When I think about it, really think about it, I know that if I think about how I can impact others, I don’t have to think about impacting me. The old “If you don’t try you can never fail,” thing.
The truth is, I don’t need anybody’s approval but my own. I get to determine my worth. I’m not a used car with a trade-in value. I’m a precious family heirloom that, honestly, is priceless. And if others can’t see that, it’s not my job to make them see it. It’s my job to keep throwing logs on the fire that resides within me so that I can do things that matter.
So today, I will walk into work with my head held high, knowing who I am and what I have to offer. If others want to share in that, I will give gracefully and without limits. If they don’t. It’s okay. But honestly, they are the ones missing out.
During this whole debacle which is 2020, we all have a choice to look outward or inward for approval It’s a great time to make some decisions about who you are and what you want out of life. If you make a mistake? No problem. Just look ’em in the eye, shrug your shoulders, and whisper the C-word. Everyone will understand.