Every kindergarten teacher has read these words over and over. As a student I learned to identify these words when they came at the end of a story, seperated from all the other text. My students can do that too...these may be the only two words they can read.
And that is how it feels, the end, seperated from all the other... easily identifiable. Yesterday, I left my school for the last time after more than six years. Everyday was a privelege, though sometimes it didn't feel like it; that's the struggle in the story though, right? And you can only see that at THE END.
It was so different doing everything for the last time: taking attendance, correcting excitable behavior, passing out folders, conversations with teammates who are friends who are really family. Talking about the future. It feels altogether seperate when it's the end; there is an appreciation that isn't normally there. Most of the day I was in tears! Everything set me off. I am not, and have never been, a man who is afraid to cry. And I was bawling.
This was the first job I took after grad school. I was working and studying in Chicago and Houston, Texas was a bit of a change for me. Change is certainly what has defined this experience.
I didn't come to Texas and all the sudden get stressed out. I think a lot of people see it that way when I share my story. No, I lived my life like a stressball for most of it. My third grade teacher told my mother that if I didn't chill out I'd have an ulcer by 10... she was about 14 years off but ....
My stress has always centered around accomplishment. That is when I remember feeling my best as a child, when I was winning and being recognized. That is a pretty intense moment, winning something and being rewarded. Yet, I didn't recognize that the intensity of that moment couldn't be achieved 24/7. Like an addict, I strived for that type of recognition all the time. Working myself into the ground and completing this cycle over and over with more depth, conviction and severity for about 28 years. The hard part for me and others to realize was that this was unhealthy. It seemed like I was driven and unstoppable. At an early age I learned that if my abilities weren't enough, if i couldn't win, I could play the victim for awhile. If something was out of my control, or done to me, if it was just bad luck - I could still be a winner - and actually if I used my ability to sacrifice and self-regulate hard enough to come back stronger and achieve my goals - I could OVERCOME and be a HERO. I wanted to be a god. I wanted people to look at my life and want to be me. Sound like someone you know? Sound like you?
I didn't know this was a bad thing. I'm a white and male in America, this type of thinking is praised! So there I was, six and half years ago in Houston, TX, walking into a school and I was ready to WIN ...whatever that meant. Because, that is just what I did, it was what I'd always done.
In Houston, work became my life. It was hard to be a good teacher (win) in my new school; it was itself a new school. It had a lot of challenges, endless hours of work and at the heart of it-a mission. A mission to change the world, a way for me to be important. I was recognized at work because of my voracity and grit in a competitive environment. There was always something to do and I wanted to get credit. My personal life looked good too. I got a boyfriend and we moved in together. We swithced to a better apartment and got a dog. I was coaching teachers.
I was miserable.
I was in the young-professional capitol of America, working myself into the ground in a job that I really was passionate about but couldn't find joy in anymore. I had a nice-looking partner and a cute Christmas card and I hated my life.
I believe we all have a negative pattern of behavior; mine came out 100%. I began attacking those around me. I wanted to create distance. I began being really stressed out at school and distant; in my head blaming my co-workers and bosses for my own unhappiness. I couldn't understand why I had everything I'd always wanted...I could just take one more step and be an administrator and be a husband, homeowner and dad. It seemed like the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I was confused but really confused so I thought I was angry...
...then my assistant teacher invited me to hot yoga. It was at one of those breaking point times-my health was bad due to stress and anxiety. My stomach was always in knots. I was creating problems at home. I didn't feel comfortable anywhere and I wanted out of everything, especially my head.
In that hot yoga room... I wanted to stay forever. My ego became a benefit because I wasn't going to look weak and leave... even though I couldn't breath. I had come to this class because that seemed like what cool executive type ashley-olsens did, I WAS an ashley-olsen, I could make myself believe it... So I stayed, and it was silent, and my head was silent, and the instructor said focus on your breathing...
...and that was pretty much all I could do
and I did every pose and I sweat buckets and when the hour was over I realized I hadn't been able to think about anything but my breathing. It was such a relief! For the first time in my life MY HEAD WAS QUIET. I had a million things on my mind when I walked in, all the problems were solved. I had an answer for each one all at once. I swear. I got home, took a shower and I had the best night's sleep. I had the best day the next day. I went back and back and back to that hot room. I found my peace on the mat. I began to listen to what my yoga teachers were saying, I did a challenge at my studio, I bought a book... I began to connect with that voice that hated my life. It was the voice of truth, it was me. I learned to lean into this voice quickly and it has changed my entire existance.
My change did not happen quickly, and it didn't happen in one fluid movement, there were ups and downs. However, when I began to listen to the voice inside my heart I began to make better choices for myself. I slowly learned to keep listening to the worries in my head but I knew I didn't have to believe them anymore. Instead, I began to explore where they were coming from and why they were occuring. I began to recognize the little stories I told myself. Seeing them for what they were made them disappear. This allowed me to regain a peace of mind. This also stopped the negative behaviors associated with my fears from occuring. I had a fear that if I didn't accomplish anything then I wouldn't be worthy of love. So I worked myself into the ground at school. I had a fear that because I am gay I couldn't be taken seriously as an authority figure, that my place was to be fun and make people happy. So I always cracked jokes and undermined my own authority. I never thought that me, a small-town appalachian boy, could ever live up to what my students needed and I was scared everyone was going to find out. So, I gave more than 100% of myself at work and I had nothing left to give others. I didn't think I was worthy of love so I pushed away my partner for fear that he would eventually leave anyway.
I studied a lot of texts in my journey and I did a yoga-teacher training. I began to accept and love myself which lead to a trust in myself. A growing of my intuition. An acceptance of some things I'd always felt about myself but pushed away. I began to realize how my sensitivities (which lead to so much pain in the past) were a gift and could help me connect deeply with people. I learned that there is an inate sense of justice and fairness born inside me that I am meant to pass on to my students. I began to release the stressful stories associated with work and my relationships. I started enjoying teaching as much as I'd enjoyed the idea of teaching when I chose this career path. My classroom began to look like my ideal classroom. My school began to look like my ideal school. I began to heal my relationship with myself. Others started taking notice. I was probably once, the most stressed out teacher in my school. To others, it must have seemed like all of a sudden I was wearing Birkenstocks and growing out my hair. I went through a spiritual-adolescence, and when I came through the other end people were, for the first-time genuinely impressed with ME. Just who I had become. I connected with so many teachers who wanted to free themselves from the stories holding them back; we all have them. Every teacher wants to be their best, no matter the current situation we all came to the classroom for an authentic reason. Teaching is a calling. But so many of us have a chip on our shoulder instead of a passion in our belly. I enjoyed helping other change the same jaded attitudes I'd had by asking them the questions I'd asked myself.
By helping them see that the negative thoughts are just thoughts, and they don't need to be believed. We can correct every action we're unproud of, that doesn't seem right, because it's an action related to a thought and a thought can be changed. It's not real unless we believe it's real.
I had created a better reality for myself and that included helping others create better realities for themselves. I enjoyed helping teachers the most. We are teachers, we are role-models for an entire generation...or two or three. Imagine the benefit of a life-changing teacher. A guru. I wanted to help other teachers become that and I want to become that myself.
There is always shedding when growing. Like a snake sheds its skin and a hermit crab chooses a new shell, there is something to be left behind when moving forward. My personal relationship shifted into a great friendship, but the romance had to be shed for us both to grow. I have enjoyed helping my teammates and bringing mindfulness to my school. This year I had the opportunity to leave "the grades" and I became a yoga and mindfulness teacher to our students. Yeah! My boss saw that much growth in me that she wanted to share that transformative energy throughout the school. Little did we know how much we'd need mindfulness by starting the year after Hurricane Harvey.
I taught yoga weekly to teachers after school, too. I led PDs and even spoke at a few conferences. I also felt like the shift inside me needed a new home and the creativitiy that I'd been taught to supress needed a way out. I got great support from my teammates to make the next big decision. Ya'll I'm so grateful for your continued support and the momentum your feedback gave me in creating this project...because it led to THE END.
After much exploring, listening to myself, learning- including a fellowship with 4.0 Schools (shout-out). I realized I wanted to share what I learned with teachers beyong my school. I wanted to have a job where I could engage my passions and creative side, I wanted to live in a city that inspires and supports my new healthy choices. Ultimately I wanted a new beginning. A new space to step fully into my personal power and lead with love. I want to find my tribe.
So with every The End. comes a Once upon a time... a new beginning.
This time ...
I am moving to LA and starting this blog as a passion and creative project to share what I've learned about school-based mindfulness.To promote community through offerings and services I can provide. To share my journey and hold me to account to living my truest most authentic life.
This blog is for teaching searching for mindfulness techniques to use with themselves and with their students. It addresses the unique situations and lifestyle of teachers; we give different energies and have different needs than our friends in other professions. This blog is also about promoting the joys and healing power of teaching. Teaching is a heart calling it's also a gift! What other profession allows one to connect with our inner-child; the time in our life when we started telling ourselves the stories that effect our unconscious decision making today.
This blog is lifestyle blog for mindful teachers. It will promote whole-teacher care, life-long learning and balancing your life. It will promote travel, being in nature and healthy lifestyle living; as well as guilt-free living, making choices you'll love and loving yourself. This blog celebrates teachers, our power to change lives and our collective power to change the world.
Thank you for beginning this journey with me.