Change is a funny, funny thing. On the one hand, it’s inevitable. For example, infants develop before our eyes in their first year of life changing their sleep patterns, vision and focus, cognition and understanding, and more. It’s easy to use a baby as an example since babies change dramatically and quickly unlike the rest of us who change gradually (sometimes kicking and screaming) once adolescence hits. On the other hand, change is impossible. Routine is innate. We wake up, do what we do, go to sleep, and replay. Changing from our practiced reactions, our crystallized attitudes and perspectives- this is the most difficult thing to accomplish.
But enough theory. What am I talking about already? I woke up this morning and realized I’m 30 1/2 years old in just two days. Perhaps half-birthdays are no big deal for some people well into their double digits but for this almost 30.5 year old woman- I’m pretty excited. Why? Because I relish any opportunity to take a step back and pause for reflection. In the space of that pause, I get to evaluate my life, praise some aspects, criticize the parts that need work or maybe just sit back and watch. There are moments I feel 5, 15, 35, 55, 75, and even 95 all at one time and a birthday (or half birthday) calls for one of those moments.
As it turns out, I just discovered that I’ve been doing the High Holidays all wrong. I only found this out last week after sifting through 24 students’ participation, decorum, homework assignments, quiz and test grades, evaluations, and projects in order to present my findings to a range of parents during the 48 hour Parent-Teacher Conference Fall Term Extravaganza. During these meetings I showed parents several assignments and work my students prepared over the past few months along with scores and comments. Some kids who scored high on paper weren’t giving their best efforts, some kids were trying their best but their scores weren’t so high. Some kids had great grades and were thriving all-round but their parents weren’t happy. Some kids were doing poorly on all counts but their parents were satisfied. The thing that dawned on me was this: If I can take inventory of 24 students accurately and thoroughly, diagnose weaknesses and strengths, and come up with proposed steps for improvement…. Why in the world can’t I do that for myself?
Looking in the mirror is generally less accurate than looking at a picture and I think the same is true when taking stock of ourselves. We are biased and we’ve been stuck practicing the same good and bad habits for so long that objectivity often eludes us. But the combination of surviving PT Conferences with my upcoming Big 3-0-and-a-half has lit a fire under me. Big time. It doesn’t hurt that we’re in our “transition year” where my husband is trying to find himself in the work world. So I created my desired “skill set” list and started scoring myself. Everyday.
It hasn’t gone very well. Turns out, I make a lot more mistakes than I realized and, being totally honest, it was depressing. But I really want to change. I really want to break free from my 30.5 year old norms to be a better friend, employee, sister, in-law, daughter, citizen, parent, driver (!), and wife. But my psyche can’t seem to take the same analysis and dissection that my students have to endure so I’m trying something new and I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m going to try to do something really small but different each day for the next 10 days. No matter what, if I only just make an attempt, I will count that day as successful. I have written out a few choices within the categories of relationship (other people, God), self-discipline/restraint, and action/zeal/productivity. I’m also going to write 2 areas I’m pleased about and 1 area that needs work each day. The whole project can take no longer than 5 minutes per day.
I’d really like to hear your suggestions if you have any and if you’d like to struggle along with me than please let me know too! The purpose is to change for the better in pretty much any arena and we’ll call it our own personal Chanukah miracle if we see any fruits from our labors. Lastly, I leave you with the David Bowie classic that started it all. Happy Half Birthday Everybody.