A friend and former student “just happened” to share this article about intuition at a time when I’ve really been working to listen to my own inner voice. And as I read and reflected on it this morning, I thought about reading the signs that show up all the time … or at least they show up when you’re ready and willing to look for them. Was it just a coincidence that I realized I shouldn’t buy a banquet ticket at the ACL Institute this year? Maybe, but I wasn’t surprised at all when a combination of allergies and indigestion made a smaller, quieter meal seem much preferable … and I wasn’t surprised that a friend “just happened” to need something from the most convenient place for me to eat that quiet meal. I was surprised when a friend who rarely posts on Facebook “just happened” to share this link when I was starting to feel better … and yet, when I followed the link trail to Steve Farber’s newest book, I wasn’t exactly surprised. It was exactly what I needed to read on Saturday, but I never would have read it (or even found it!) if I’d gone to the banquet as I normally would.
Reading the signs … listening to yourself and the still, small voice that sometimes speaks. It’s important work, but hard to do when you’re way too busy with not enough time and too much to cover and all those other factory-school thoughts buzzing around in your head.
The Girl is away for a few weeks at a really excellent summer program, so The Boy and I have had more “just us” time than usual this week. I was just starting to think about going to bed last night when he “just happened” to ask if I’d ever had an experience so wonderful that any problematic elements faded away. Yes, I said, and we went on to talk about the state of flow and our own flow experiences. For him, it’s usually in the context of gaming; for me, at least in recent years, there’s the process of creating a new Tres Columnae Project story or storyline and the amazing rush that happens when you can help someone (or, better yet, a newly formed joyful learning community) connect personal learning journeys with areas of passionate interest and something they want or need to learn. “That’s why I love teaching and learning, but I don’t love schools anymore,” I told him, and he understood instantly.
Of course signs can be ambiguous, too; you don’t always know if you’re reading them properly. I had a pair of emails from someone over the past few days that led me to read the signs one way, but a fifteen-minute phone conversation proved that my reading was faulty. There was an important piece of information that I just didn’t know, and as soon as I learned it, the signs all pointed in the right direction. “I wish I’d known that!” I told him, “because I was starting to think This Other Thing.”
Reading the signs … it gets easier when you have a community to share your readings and interpretations. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of a learning community, especially when those signs are leading you in a new, challenging direction. I had “just happened” to sign up for this MOOC from Coursera called “How to Change the World” and this one from iversity called “The DO School Start-Up Lab,” not really noticing how their timing overlapped. But the synergy between the two has been remarkable, and I’m grateful for the folks I’ve “just happened” to meet through the DO School “Education and Empowerment” Google+ community. I’m also grateful that somebody “just happened” to share a link to this article with me; that I “just happened” to reshare it on Google+; and that Jan “just happened” to share links to this article and this one.
It’s easy to feel as though you’re all alone when you read the signs and they start pointing in a new, unfamiliar direction. But when you pay attention to the signs and persist in the work, you tend to find the traveling companions you’ll need … and when you’re willing to keep reading the signs, the pathway gets clearer and clearer. I’m still not sure about all the logistical stuff that will need to happen over the next few weeks, but I’m more and more confident that what needs to happen will happen … and will happen exactly when the time is right, even though I’d love for it all to happen right now.
Reading the signs sometimes calls for patience … and it sometimes calls for pivoting from the plan you thought was just perfect. On Sunday morning, after several days of getting lost while driving around Williamsburg, I realized that my half-formed plan of going back into town to attend a church service wasn’t quite the right plan. Yes, my friend George and I wanted to go to church somewhere as I drove him back to the airport; yes, that was clearly important; but wait! Wasn’t there a very friendly-looking church right on the way when we were driving up? And of course the sincere welcome from that remarkable parish community … and the sermon about hospitality that the rector “just happened” to preach that day … and the conversations George and I had on the rest of our shared journey … were all exactly what was needed.
That’s what happens, I guess, when you read the signs, and when you read them as part of a joyful learning community where people help and support each other in their readings. I wonder what other new insights, discoveries, and actions await us all when the time is right!