Seashells and Sticky Notes

Note:  A former student recently gave me a “shout out” in his blog.  In doing so, he spurred me on to begin writing and sharing again.  Thanks, Fox!

This school year has been tough. Not as tough as my first year of teaching but challenging all the same. Starting over at a new school – even when that new school is, in fact, very similar to the old – is never as fun or exciting as we may wish it to be. I miss my colleagues, and I miss my students. And while I know Teddy Roosevelt was right, and comparison is the thief of joy, I have spent the better part of my year comparing my former job with my current job. Sometimes, oftentimes, my new job comes out on top and sometimes not, but it doesn’t even matter, for the very act of comparing is, I think, sapping the joy out of my work.

My husband and I “finished” our kitchen this week. We had a backsplash installed and some painting done, and we were able to hang some things on the walls, including an old printer’s tray I found in an antique store a few months back. Each time my husband and I go for a walk, I look for something special or unique: a seashell, a rock, a feather, or a pinecone…anything that we stumble across along the way. These items, should I come across something, and I don’t always come across something, are placed in one of the little cubbies of the printer’s tray.

When I first started this little collection, I found myself hyper-focused on only the most perfect objects. If a shell had a crack in it, it was rejected. If a pine cone was lopsided, it too was dismissed. Over time, however, I realized there were two problems with this method. First, it was really hard to find “perfect” objects in nature. Second, I was missing out on some really good finds just because of a slight imperfection or two. So I changed tactics, and I decided that I would actually focus on collecting anything that I like, anything that I find interesting or pretty or unique. It doesn’t matter if the item is perfect or not, and in some cases, the imperfection itself is what I find most to my liking.

As I hung up the tray last evening and placed some of the items I’ve collected so far on the small shelves, something sort of clicked in place for me. Instead of focusing on comparing my old job with my new job, my old colleagues with my new colleagues, my old students with my new students, I need to find some way of opening myself up to collecting all these new experiences without regard to whether they are perfect or not, without comparing them. But then, I thought, how do I “collect” experiences? And how do I make this collection of ephemeral experiences visible like my printer’s tray filled with little gifts from nature?

The answer, once I got to school, seemed obvious. Sitting on my desk were quite a few pads of brightly colored sticky notes. I decided that each day at the end of the day and before I leave for home, I will find at least one experience, no matter how small and no matter how imperfect, to “collect” and to remember and to enjoy. I will write a brief note about the experience, date it, and stick it to the wall behind my desk. The idea is to be grateful and focus on the good. Simple? Yes.  But effective?  I think so.

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P.S.  I decided to keep the old blog going instead of starting a new one.  It may change in focus a bit and include more about my personal life, but it’s all connected as far as I’m concerned.  Cheers!

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