Do As I Do And As I Say

Today is one of those mixed emotion days.  I wake up to the first day of my summer break. I can’t put my finger on it but I am not bouncing around the house in celebration. This is my 26th time experiencing the end of a school year and I still struggle with the abrupt change in routine. Please don’t take this as a complaint. I would not mock those of you who do not have the gift of a long break from work. I have taught so long I don’t remember what it was like to go to “work” in June and July. I do know what it is like to work long hours in an effort to encourage and motivate students. I do know what it is like to speak to parents only to have a conversation loaded in apathy toward their child.  I do know frustrated passion for lives of these youth that is at times crippling.  I do know what it is like to be blamed for, well, every short coming of the national youth culture.  I see a large number of students that have one goal; to graduate, nothing more. And there is a surprising amount of them that don’t think past today. They don’t plan and they don’t dream. They don’t have a life plan at all. It is a defeated community.

I know most of my readers are from this very community but so am I. Our children need to see us dream. They need to see us live. They need to see our struggles and experience our successes. They need to be a part of the family and not outside looking in like some reality series. Families are too busy going and doing instead of being together and letting the whole family unit dream together. My students have no clue about their parents lives. Without a connection emotionally they can only model what they see so, in most cases, they see parents too busy too communicate. They see both parents begrudgingly going to work and they feel it is because of them that Mom or Dad has to work. That they have no stake in the family at all. They don’t know it is really because people want more stuff. They want more money. Or it is because parents didn’t dream, they, too, just wanted to graduate. They had to settle for a pay check instead of a path to a dream.

I guess my mixed emotions this morning come from the thoughts of the end of a school year that was full of kids without a path. So many know no purpose. They have no direction. Kinda of like the zombie craze, they just meander through life. Sorry this blog is not very uplifting today. It is more of a plea. If you have children talk to them! Spend time with each child one on one. Even if you have to do what they like to do. Be involved not spectating. They think their role as parents ends by being there as they sit in the stands or as part of the crowd. I see a culture that likes to go places but in large groups not just as a family unit.

How do we battle this cultural apathy?  One parent and one kid at a time. Talk to others about dreaming and help them plan a path to living their dreams. Set goals with them and be a part of those goals. And don’t stop dreaming yourself. Each week is not to be lived just to get through it. I am guilty of a lot of those weeks myself and find that is when my family was the most disconnected. If you don’t have children or you have an empty nest be an example to the kids around you. Remember when grandparents talked about “the good ole days”? All it takes is some conversation and a little of your time.

It is now time for me to get on my dreams. The pipe drawing and bass guitar have not been touched in weeks. I want my own children to see me as a person who dreams but seeks to follow those by making plans and setting goals. I need them to see an example of how to recover when your dreams take a set back or your goals are compromised like when my goal to run a triathlon in April was change due to the illness and death of my Dad.  I am now entering the Hokie Half Marathon in September.  I need them to see an example of how to live instead of how to just earn a pay check. And I need them to see that even now I continue to live. Maybe if you share completely yourself with your kids it will encourage you to dream as well.

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To Live The Impossible Dream

Ahhh, to dream the impossible dream.  If it is impossible then wouldn’t it be a fantasy? Are dreams and goals the same thing? How are successes measured? I know a lot of this is just splitting hairs but something to consider.

I recently watched “Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief”.  When Percy and his companions ventured into the Underworld, Hades told them it was the land of lost hopes and dreams that never come true. Dante could have made that a level of Hell.  To live an entire life without attaining your hopes and dreams would be a form of Hell.  I know all dreams are not achieved but I do feel we all have to believe we can live them.  Otherwise, wouldn’t they be fantasies?

I have the dream thing down pat.  just ask snt of my previous teachers. I was the kid staring out the window with a glazed over expression. My mind clearly somewhere else. I am also decent at setting goals even though I tend to set them too high or too many at one time.  The one that I always struggled with was the word success.  It was always such a bad word because I could never get a handle on its definition.

Success is defined on google as, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.  It is also defined as, “the attainment on popularity or profit”.  I had a distorted view of the word success.  When I left home to attend college I was going to make something of myself.  I had escaped.  I was going to get that degree and didn’t need anyone or anything.  It was my ticket to a big pay check, a classy job and proof of my success. As I blogged about in “I Believe In Me”.  I worked hard to make others proud so when I did graduate it was actually a little of a let down.  No big fanfare, no one was bowing and no job offers.  I went to a few interviews with no luck.  I was forced to take a minimum wage job working night shift in a convenience store.  It was difficult.  I barely made rent and had no money left over.  My bedroom consisted of a 4″ foam mattress, a lamp and a cardboard nightstand. This was not my idea of success.  I couldn’t tell my family that I was barely eating.  I was embarrassed that I had left home to make something of myself and here I was with my big degree making less money than everyone else.  Things continued to get worse.  I wrecked my car and lost my apartment.  I became even more stubborn, refusing to go home as, what I saw, a failure.  Next, I moved into a relatives house and worked as a waitress at a pizza place.  Most of my belongings packed in boxes in my car.  Another month went by and I had given up on a career.  I was done.

The phone call I dreaded.  I called my Dad.  “Can I come home?”  I was tired, lonely and defeated.  He was surprised that I even asked and quickly answered, “yes, of course you can.”  I tell you this whole story to illustrate this point.  All my mental suffering was at my own hands.  Not because I fought for months to keep my independence.  It was not because of my failure to begin my career.  It was not because anyone else was disappointed in me.  It was all because of my distorted view of success.  I thought it was a big pay check.  I thought it was a flashy job.  I thought it was a powerful position.  Turns out success is none of these.  Success is found in your character, in your work ethic, in your legacy.  It all cannot be summed up in a career.  It is what you are defined by as a person.

Matthew 16:26,  “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”