It’s that time of year again. Starting afresh, setting goals, aiming high!
Well, you know what? This year, I’m taking a slightly different approach.
No starting afresh. No setting goals. No aiming high. My resolution in 2020 is to coast. Coast along at the same pace, doing the same stuff, and most of all…..
Just bloody well enjoy what I’ve got!
A close friend, @thenotsotogethermum (Not Another Supermum, and The Not So Together Mum…..you can see why we get on!), posted an Instagram post this morning about being content with what she has. After years of aiming high, working her backside off to build a business, a family, a life, she acknowledged the fact that she has finally convinced herself that what she has, and what she is at this very moment…..is enough.
I’m hearing you sister!
Every year, I spend New Years Eve trying to come up with a really brave, courageous, life changing resolution. I wrack my brain trying to determine the kind of promise to myself (which I never end up keeping anyway), that will raise the bar. Some years it’s deep and self reflective, pushing myself to be a better person. Some years it is threaded with mother guilt, an attempt to alleviate the constant niggle in the back of my head, reminding me to try harder to manage the delicate balance between mothering and working.
Last year, it was about self care. I will take more time out for myself. I will meditate, or go to yoga or do one of the million other hippy things that the internet tells me that, as a working mum, I should be doing to keep myself sane. The irony with this one, was that the constant pressure to take up things in an effort to prioritise self care (or at least what the internet defined as self care) drove me to a new level of guilt and anxiety. Constantly being bombarded by the message that if I didn’t put my own self care first, I would fall in a heap, actually caused me more stress!
In the end, self care for me was to stop worrying about self care!
And so this year, I’m changing my approach.
My New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to…….change nothing.
I am happy with where things are at. I’m happy with my family life. I’m happy with my career. I’m happy with my personal outlets (my alternative name for self care, and which have nothing to do with listening to rainforest sounds and sitting perfectly still - so not for me!).
And so….I am changing nothing! And that’s ok.
I have spent years striving, challenging, moving forward, working out the next step...and ultimately feeling like I am not enough. Proving to everyone around me that I was enough, even though I constantly felt like being enough was always just out of reach.
But now, in 2020 (or close enough to), I look around and have realised that my resolution is not that I think I am enough. It’s more that I think, who cares! I’m happy and my family is happy. This year, let’s just rest in that. Let’s just enjoy being happy, and being ok with exactly where we are. Let’s stop reading the articles that tell us how we should be mothering, ‘teenagering’ (a word? Probs not, but let’s go with it), ‘wifeing’, living, self reflecting, looking after ourselves…...and let’s just live the life we have, enjoy the people we have become and just rest in the everyday world that we have created around ourselves.
So for me, it’s time to stop looking forward.
It’s time to sit here, right now, and just enjoy!
When I first became a teacher, I was bursting at the seams with enthusiasm. Vivacious and ready, straight out of university. I was desperate for my own class, and ready to take on the world.
I still am. I still love the world of education. Love working with kids and teachers. Love the strong, yet unique communities that you find when you step inside each school. I love watching kids learn, discover and play. I love working with teachers, all like minded performing artists, who skillfully navigate their way through the day, engaging kids, loving kids, nurturing kids. Laughing at the hilarious, and often decorated stories of what happened at lunch, or on the weekend, or that morning on the way to school. Teary when they head home, because of the unbreakable connection that means that they don’t stop thinking about the issues and heart breaking stories that they hear when the bell goes at three o’clock. Teachers are a unique species, with no off switch, emotionally bound to each and every child that they teach, often long after they have left that grade and moved on.
And then today, I sat through two award ceremonies. One was for a Year 6 graduation. A grade that I had as Kindergartners. Tiny, timid 5 year olds, in uniforms that nearly reached their ankles and backpacks that were so big they nearly tipped them backwards. Over seven years I watched as they grew, matured, and bounced their way through primary school, until the day came when it was time for them to move on. And then I rushed on to a High School award ceremony at my daughter’s school, where, on top of watching my beautiful girl receive an award for her commitment to Music, I also watched a scattering of past students, now young men and women, being called up onto the stage for a huge variety of reasons. I skimmed the audience, spotting other handfuls of young adults that I had taught along the way. And through both ceremonies, whether I was watching my past students being called up onto the stage, or trying to catch their eye as they sat three rows over, I kept coming back to one thing.
What amazing young people they have become.
In one of those light-bulb moments, sitting among a crowd of parents and guests, I teared up. And as I refused to let the tears spill over, the reason that I became a teacher became all too clear. I was a part of their journey. Not just a journey to achieving academic greatness, or being highly skilled musicians, or being elite little sportsmen and women (not that I would have helped much with that one!). I had been a part of their journey in becoming an amazing person. A well rounded, kind, proud, driven young person.
And isn’t that all we really want. As their teachers, their parents, their mentors....is there anything better than looking at these young people and realising that, as well as the achievements and awards along the way, they have simply turned out to be an amazing kid.
Some will be academic. Some will be musical. Some will absolutely smash it on the soccer field, or the tennis court, or the athletics track. And they will work hard to get there.
As I watched these kids, the Year 6’s that I had taught as little ones, and my daughter’s peers who I had watched from Kinder until now, I just thought to myself…..
What amazing young people they have become.
In education, there are so many things that we can get bogged down in. We spend hours analysing data, reducing our students to numerical statistics, ranking them, reporting on them, assessing them. We spend night after night, analysing their achievement, their skills level, their strengths and weaknesses, and trying to plan learning that will hit the mark, cater for their next steps. And why?….because we are teachers. We want the best for them. We want them to achieve. It’s all part of the job. They are there to learn. But what I didn't expect was the pride that I felt at just how much they had learnt….and it wasn’t all from the curriculum.
In that moment, in a school hall with well over a thousand people looking up at them, it wasn’t their level of academic prowess that made me proud, or their high levels of musical skill.
As each child walked across the stage, I thought to myself….
What amazing young people they have become.
And, as a teacher, what an phenomenal blessing and honour to have played some small part in that.
So, a friend recently introduced me to Arianna Huffington. Well, not literally introduced me, but sometimes it does feel that way! Arianna, was the co-founder and past editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post…..that is, until she changed her focus. And not just her career focus. A change in focus resulted in a massive change in how she was living her life. Her books, her podcast, her newsletters. All of it….SERIOUSLY CHANGING MY LIFE! Her rich Greek accent, her never ending queue of interesting interviewees, and her approach to existing and living, have all completely sucked me in and as a result, have altered small, but influential aspects of my life. From work life balance, to technology use, to the positive effects of prioritising sleep….her podcast and book ‘Thrive’, have become my go to self help book of 2019.
And amongst all of this stands one quote. A quote that hit me like a tonne of bricks. A light bulb moment that has made me take stock. That has made me step back, reflect and now, see each little decision, action and conversation through a different lens.
‘Don’t buy society’s definition of success because it’s not working for anyone.’
What’s she talking about? What is society’s definition of success? And I realised, we have created a definition of success that is measured in a never-ending upward movement. Climbing the career ladder, raising our salaries, getting a bigger, better more expensive house, getting a bigger, better more expensive car, higher test scores, higher ATAR, higher reading level. It doesn’t matter what age we are. The way society measures how successful you are, depends on how far up any particular scale you sit.
Society’s definition of success if not working for anyone.
And I’ll tell you why.
Because it’s bloody stressful! What good is climbing the career ladder, and working your way through a series of positions, each one more demanding and stressful than the other? What good is this, if you are not happy? What success are you actually achieving if you get home each night, too exhausted to enjoy your children, too stressed to snuggle with your partner, or too overworked to be able to put away the laptop? If your day to day living is burning you out and putting you in this perpetual state of busy, that we all seem to think is a badge of honour, should we really be considered successful?
And so I ask you…..
What difference would it make to the world if instead of measuring success by positions on a career ladder, by dollars, by ATAR scores and by reading levels….
We measured it in joy? In happiness? In engagement? And in enthusiasm?
What would happen to the world, if you weren’t aiming for the top, but were aiming for joy?
What would happen to the workforce, if we were all in jobs that we loved? Where instead of aiming for the next promotion, that came hand in hand with the next payrise, and the next level of stress…..we instead just aimed for the job that we loved. That we got up every morning eager for and energised by. And what if society saw that as being successful?
What would happen to education, if we measured children’s success by how much they loved learning? How much they were motivated to learn, and how much joy they experienced through being at school, through learning and through the relationships that they developed, nurtured and cultivated whilst there? Our children have the world at their fingertips. Instead of measuring how well they remember a fact or a piece of knowledge with a test score, what would happen if we saw success in how eager they were to find it out for themselves, and how excited they were when they did?
What would happen to our perception of the world if we saw the guy who works at the coffee shop and loves chatting with his regulars every morning, asking about their lives, their kids, and their families, as being just as successful as the city lawyer who loves his job. What if their success wasn’t measured by their differences in income? What if we just saw two guys who love their work and were happy in what they do. And are therefore ...successful? Surely it can be both. Surely, if both guys love what they do, experience joy and happiness in their work and life, then surely both guys are as successful as each other?
Society’s definition of success is not working for anyone. But aren’t we society? Aren’t we the ones who have the change the perception? What good is a massive salary if you are too stressed out to enjoy it? What good is an off the charts reading level in Kindergarten, if your child hates to read?
I’m keen. I’m excited by what could happen in our world if we changed the way we perceive success. If we all took a good look at what brings us joy, what enriches and enthuses us, and measured our success in life by how much space we dare to let those things take up. I just wonder what it could do.