- Root for the underdog.
This lesson is particularly valuable, which is why it will be my #1 motto. I first admit that I am an underdog. In researching children from single parent families, particularly those who experienced abuse, it is possible to get stuck or to rebel. When you root for the underdog, you believe that hard work and human connection can move people forward. As a teacher, I always root for the underdog student. Find those with barriers and be the never-ending cheerleader who believes in them. Whether your struggles are in school or society, I root for you.
- Be who you needed when you were younger.
As a child, my grandfather was this person for me. I remember sitting fearful in fifth grade to receive my social studies test back. When the teacher passed it back, I turned it over without looking at the grade and stuffed it inside my red folder. I came home from school and told him that I knew I failed my first test and could not look. He told me to pass him the folder and he looked. He said, “I am so proud of you because you got 57% of the test correct.” It changed my way of thinking and helped me realize that people are proud of who you are based on what you put in, not based on perfection. Identify who has shaped your life for the better. Everyone needs a constant friend who tells them they are kind and beautiful. More importantly than having this friend, be this person.
- Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse “I love you.”
This is a quote from one of my favorite songs, but it simply states so much.
This is one of the most loving things you can do. Do not hold onto bad feelings. A few years ago, I made the decision to forgive the males who hurt me in college in that hallway. How did I do it? I found it within myself to think of everything I would say to them if I ever saw them again. I wrote it down. I then determined that I didn’t realize my own courage until I experienced this. Sure, I could have done without this happening. But it made me realize the importance of staying connected to others. I dropped the ball and found that I distanced myself from friendships because at the time, I couldn’t allow people to know this happened to me (shame). Over time, some of my friendships came back. I am sorry for allowing this event to cause me to become withdrawn and scared. But, over time, you see who comes back, which are the relationships you can trust.
I wrote a forgiveness letter that I never sent, but one that empowered me to move on. I chose to forgive them because I believe that people can change.. I wouldn’t want someone to be punished for choices they made. I wish that they move on and do good with their lives.
Smile at everyone you meet. It spreads warmth and light. Smiling at strangers can make someone’s day. Everyone’s smile is unique and it is a gift that spreads joy.
I was recently at a graduation speech where the superintendent stated, “Giving is the highest form of living.” I agree with this. You can give things like your time. You can give praise. You can give words of encouragement. Give to people who need it and also give thanks to those who stick by you. Give a compliment to a stranger. Give an anonymous note or compliment to a company about an employee. Tell someone a story to make them laugh. Give a live happy note to someone who pushes carts at a grocery store to keep them going. For every compliment you receive, give four to others. For every time you complain, give four positive affirmations.
- Write letters and send them.
Write letters to people and make it part of your routine. Write cards of gratitude and also forgiveness. Write positive messages to people just because. I like to do this with my letterboard. It can really make a person’s day! I also like to leave notes in mailboxes at work. I write notes to students all the time. Leave a note on someone’s windshield for unexpected kindness. Write a poem. Too often people only communicate with text. Letter writing is a lost art, and it is powerful. Put something in your handwriting or create something and watch how much more meaningful it is. Included in this post is a note from a student, written seven years ago. This student experienced abandonment from both parents. This student had behaviors that made him difficult to manage. I requested to have this student in my class. He had a great year!
It was the first and only student I shared my story with. At the end of the year, he wrote me this note. I kept it and will always cherish it because it was a student I reached. “When I grow up I want to be just like you.” “You are my number 1 role model and I am a BIG fan of yours.” If you write to me, I will always write back.
- Set your own expectations and finish lines.
This came with the tough lesson that I cannot meet some of the unreasonable expectations that others have for me. I love making lists with lofty goals. I avoid self-criticism for not completing everything on my lists. I like to set a lot of finish lines so I can continue to work hard and stay motivated. The best lesson has come with removing morality when it comes to expectations. There is not always a right or wrong, or a good or bad. Doing what is good for you is the best way to approach and to set expectations.
- Show up for others.
When a student or any person asks me to show up for something—a show, to talk, to listen, for coffee, for a walk—the answer is always yes, whenever possible. Yes, I will come see your Christmas show. Yes, I will sit for two hours to hear your ten word solo in one song! Yes, I will surprise an old student seven years later at a band concert. Yes, I will drive an hour to see you for five minutes. Yes, I will video chat you when you are receiving your chemo treatment. Showing up and being present for that person is a way to show you care. And when you empower others, you amplify your impact.
- If you have been invited to the room, you belong in the room. If you belong in the room, you have a seat the table. If you have a seat at the table, you have a responsibility to speak. Do not sit at the table you have been invited to and not speak. Let the room hear your voice.
Words are your power.
- If you have been lucky enough to be endowed with the gift of resiliency, take each lesson or life blessing and move forward. Do not get stuck feeling the weight of baggage. Get up, go forward, and do good.
12. Know your inherent worth, and remember it when people choose to walk away. ❤
Number 12 is a continuous work in progress because it is one of my biggest fears. I have tried to protect and guard myself if I feel like someone is about to walk away. But it is through trusting relationships that I can share this and feel accepted. When I decided to start seeing a therapist to talk about my anxiety, she asked why I was there sitting on her couch. She said I have already, within myself, done a lot of work. I believe you can always do even better.
My current list includes conquering anxiety through recognizing my three main anxieties.
- Fear of abandonment
- Fear of hallways in apartments or hotels.
- Fear of being wrongly accused (because of pictures/false accusations during court in college)