Certainty is a part of my DNA, the perfect mix of a childhood nurturing and God-given nature, both relishing the known, the concrete, the for certain. I love it so much that I seek it out whenever possible, always choosing what has specifics I can get my head around, good or bad, versus what is unknown, unpredictable, the uncertain.
Snug as a proverbial bug in a rug, I nestled into certainty as a child and there I’ve stayed. It’s cozy. And there’s very little I value more than cozy.
I happen to have also been called to a profession that, at least in the state of California, comes with a huge amount of certainty. Get through the insanity that is the first few years of teaching with better than average results and you’ve got yourself a job for life. I would have to do something pretty terrible to lose this job. That’s not a dig on teachers or on the unions that protect them, that’s just fact.
Ironically, in the last five years–despite given my intense propensity toward certainty–I’ve become a person who jumps impulsively into projects I do not understand but trust implicitly. Because I am certain of my family and my finances, that security gives me the courage to remain undaunted by enormous feats that call to me. Assess the certainty of the safety net, jump, then get details later.
For example, I was frustrated about how schools weren’t teaching our kids practical research skills, so I wrote a book about it. I couldn’t sell it to a publishing house, so I published it myself. I don’t have an agent and I don’t have a book contract, but I’ve outlined three more books that I’m sure are awesome. I don’t have connections in the movie industry and yet I know there is a fantastic movie in the yet-to-be published memoir I’ve written. I write two newsletters and I have a website along with two Facebook pages. It’s almost like I’m all official or something.
Similarly, I have come to know that, for whatever reason I have yet to understand, I must parlay the last 18 years of working with teenagers into now working with their teachers, so I’ve created workshops to start that process. No paying clients yet, just me, doing an incredible amount of work for no real reason other than I feel I should, all in a time when my state is cash-strapped and school-coffers are like echo chambers. I don’t know, someday some one will be ready to take teacher professional development seriously again and when they’re ready, I’ll be too.
Who does that?
I do. The same person who craves certainty also craves creativity. Desperately. And somehow, again the perfect mix of childhood nurturing and God-given nature, I have the confidence –the audacity—to assume that my gifts are needed in the world and I’ll be damned if I’m going to keep them cooped up in my heart. If the world isn’t ready for me, no matter because I know my time will come and when it does, I’ll be ready.
That’s for certain.
When I consider the prospect of walking away from the certainty of my job, I find myself plunged into an almost depressive state of the paralyzing blues, especially unusual considering my propensity toward anxiety. What do these blues mean? Did I really do all of this work preparing myself for what’s next only to say, nope, never mind, too uncertain?
I went to lunch with a friend today and she called the place I am currently residing (that state, the one I call Blue) a “gateway moment.” The choice I make is a gateway toward something new and exciting, only I know that when I walk through it the gate will slam shut on what I’ve known all of my adult life. As it clangs and bounces back and forth until it finally settles, I will have to make another choice: stay on course and move forward, or retreat. Before the clang-clang-clanging stops I can reach back with a hand to catch the gate, just in time to return to certainty.
In years past which path to choose would have never been a question. But something in me has shifted as of late and it has me thinking crazy things. Just yesterday I was guest lecturing in a teacher education class (more work for no known reason) and the conversation landed on how important it was for students to follow the rules. In fact, this new teacher said, there is no greater thing we can teach kids than how to follow directions.
“Wait,” I interrupted impulsively, “We’re all social studies teachers here, right?”
Nods around the room.
“This country was not created by people who follow the rules! We cannot stifle creativity and progress and innovation by teaching kids that, above all else, they must follow directions!”
Another young teacher, a laid-back looking guy in jeans and a t-shirt who sat in the back row when he came in, I’m guessing, to spend more time online than listening to me said, “That’s what I’m saying!” He, however, was the lone maverick. The rest of them, who sat in the front like the school-loving eager students they are, looked shell-shocked. Who was this woman saying kids needed to do more than follow directions?
No one, I’m sure, was more surprised about what I said than me.
I am a consummate rule-follower. I am mortified to disappoint people. Even a hint of disappointment in the eyes of someone I’m speaking to can set me on edge for hours. In my most insecure moments I might even call myself a name associated with someone who would sell herself for the approval of others. I do everything everyone tells me if for no other reason than they told me, and I just publicly questioned a perfectly well-intentioned new teacher about why he was so adamant that kids follow directions?
Something is loose in my skull. The certainty nut, the one that’s held me together all these years, it’s come loose and I’m doing and saying things I wouldn’t have done or said before. In all of this preparation for what’s next I unknowingly bought into something I never thought possible.
Possibility is what’s possible, not what is. Possibility is what could be, not what will be. From my seat in certainty, snug as a proverbial bug in a rug, I built this train of possibility, piece by little piece, for no other reason than I felt called to do so. Now I’m on that train without even realizing I bought a ticket.
That God, He is a sneaky, sneaky little character.
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