It “just happened” that I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend … a friend who “just happens” to feel called to start something important, to move on to a new and different phase in his life. “What will you do in the next week or two?” we asked each other, and we both committed to taking some steps … some specific, concrete steps that will advance the process. Within a week, I told him, I’ll assemble a face-to-face group of at least three or four young people who love learning but hate school, and we’ll do a short demonstration of the process of connecting self-discovery, personal interest, and something important and worthwhile to learn about … and of making something real and valuable that others can use as a result of what we learn and discover.
Taking some steps is harder than it looks; just ask a small child who’s learning how to walk! It looks like it should be effortless, but it turns out to be quite an effort. And the first steps are the hardest. But eventually it becomes automatic … sometimes so automatic that we forget about the effort it took when we were beginners.
But I don’t want to forget that effort. When you work with beginners in a field, it’s important to stay in touch with that feeling. And working with beginners is still a very important part of what I’m called to do.
I “just happened” to get some good news last night after my long, eventful day of driving and reflecting on things. And I “just happened” to run into a former student and her mom, both of whom are in transition too … and we “just happened” to share our stories and talk about the importance of loving what you do. And this morning, when I “just happened” to need to drop off some Important Paperwork with a colleague and friend at the Local School District, we “just happened” to talk about loving what you do … and about people we both know who went through their whole professional careers hating what they did. It wasn’t surprising at all that the subject came up when I was getting my hair cut, and I wasn’t surprised to stop for lunch at a local restaurant where my server clearly loves what she does, too.
When you take some steps, you often start to notice some things … and those things either confirm or alter the direction of your journey. At this time a year ago, I was feeling bitter, wishing for things to change but knowing that I needed to change first … and every time I tried to take steps, obstacles seemed to appear. With some time and distance between now and then, I can see why I needed those obstacles! Taking some steps in a positive direction … that’s hard to do when your motivating force is a negative and bitter one. I could have had a surface-similar conversation with my friend F at the Local District last year, and as I think back, I probably did … but the outcome was different because I was in such a different place. I think I did drive to the various little towns a year ago, but a very different version of me was in the driver’s seat then, and I wouldn’t have been able to experience things as I do now.
Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post about running to and running from things here, and I wrote a related post on the blog I started for the “EdStartup 101” MOOC. Looking back at those posts now, I see how unready I was to take the steps I’m taking now … and I see that, when you start something new, it isn’t about running at all. At least not at first … at least not for me. First I had to stop running from, to take a good, hard look at factory-model Schools As They Are and see whether I could still do good work “from the inside.” The answer? Yes, but I don’t want to do that anymore. Then, instead of running in any direction, I had to look around and find the next direction to explore, and then it was more like crawling to than running to.
But just as obstacles seemed to crop up everywhere when I was trying to run from, confirmations are steadily appearing as I take some steps toward this next phase.
Thanks for reading, thanks for your comments, and thanks for your patience as I’ve been working through this process. I wonder what other amazing discoveries await us all on our journeys!