Tag Archive | changes

Vacation mode

For many years, I was afraid to not be busy. I associated little activity or staying at home with being depressed or letting anxiety overwhelm me. I still worry about falling prey to negative emotions, thoughts or behaviors. But they’re not the scary monsters they once were. Now I can have a low-key day or several without self-diagnosing a period of depression. This summer vacation has been a good balance of busy and calm. Certain routines have been put on hold like my 5 a.m. wake up time, daily praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, and making time to write on a regular basis. For a long time, my daily schedule and those regular routines felt like a protection from feelings of sadness and worthlessness. I’ve gotten away from that magical thinking. I know those are normal feelings that I will experience. I know I will be able to work through them.

Free time is a luxury I don’t often enjoy. My days strike a balance between being a mom, being a school principal, dance, writing, reading, exercise, socializing, and parish service. In the last few weeks, I have revisited my defunct vegetable garden and am working to revive the soil. (Que bonito, verdad?  Un simbolo de mi desarrollo) I have purged our house of numerous unwanted items. (Another analogy. I am rolling my AP English teacher eyes.) I’ve actually ironed clothing.(Can somebody tell me how they avoid ironing? I do not like wrinkles but I detest ironing.) Miracle of miracles, I have even slept in more than once. I have been up and gone back to bed and slept for two more hours. A few times, I have judged myself as being unproductive but I haven’t allowed this opinion to get me down for too long. Para que? I’ve been my own pinata too many times in my life to want to keep doing it.  Done. Nope, not today. Tomorrow’s not looking good either. I can enjoy my time however I want.

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I head back to work Monday. I look forward to making my schedule less hectic.  Maybe I’ll even figure out how to sleep in on work days.

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An example of growth

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Recently on a Sunday morning, I heard Donnie McClurkin preach about being an example. He noted how often in the church we are told to be examples which we interpret to mean examples of perfection.  We no longer strive to be examples. We give up.”Well I’m not perfect so therefore I’m not a good example for folks.” McClurkin pointed out that we need to be examples of growth. Our testimony needs to be about the mistakes that we have made and the progress that we’ve made.

Growth is central to my faith life. I base the majority of my writing on my growth. When people ask me for advice, I’m good at couching my words appropriately. I’m  aware of how it could be taken. If we have a trusting friendship, I’m going to open about my progress. I am not perfect. I am honest about my weaknesses. The majority of my blogging in the last decade has been about where I need to grow,  where I am weak,and where I struggle. I struggle with fear, pettiness, and the desire to be vengeful.These are all challenges with which I continue to mature. All of the struggles that I have endured, whether they have been emotional, professional, mental, or physical, have helped me become stronger through faith. Like everyone who practices a religious faith, I experience periods in which my faith is shaken, weak, or lazy. It doesn’t waver. There are times when I don’t feel like praying, reading the scriptures or doing spiritual reading. II don’t make an effort to be disciplined.  Even during those periods of struggle, I find great comfort and inspiration in my faith. It is my faith that has given me the strength to grow as much as I have.

One complaint I have heard others make about people of faith is the feeling that we presume those who not practice or believe do are lesser than. The term “holier than thou” arose because people have used their religious practice or faith as a means of shutting themselves off from others. This is a mistake as people striving towards holiness because holiness is about wholeness. I cannot be a whole person if I’m not part of a whole community. If I look at others as sinners or judge others as not worthy to be saved, I have missed the meaning of what it means to be holy.

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we learn that God loves us. He loves our imperfect world. He loves humanity, which, by its nature, is flawed. He loves us.. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He wants us to grow. He gave us an offering of his love and faith in us through his son. That is hard for us to understand. One of my struggles is to truly accept His love. I feel pressure to be perfect I’m not perfect. I’m loved but I’m number 57 or 338 or 1250 on his list.  Those thoughts are about me not about His love.

I’m thankful to Pastor Donnie McClurkin for sharing his wisdom and helping me to reflect on the Gospel.  I’m grateful to Dynamic Catholic for continuing to push me to reflect on questions about myself and for always reminding me that my faith will help me find the answers. I hope I have the courage to share how I am an example of growth. My faith does not make me different from others. It is part of what makes me strong.  if you’re a person of faith, I encourage you to read the scriptures or find some spiritual reading to help deepen your growth. If you are Catholic, visit Dynamic Catholic and take part in Best Lent Ever. It has changed my faith life and therefore my life. Whatever your stance on spirituality and faith, find something that brings you closer to feeling whole. That will bring you closer to being holy.

New school solution

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I’ve decided that I’m going to be experimenting with something new in my writing. I’ve been trying to figure out various ways to blog and I have found some challenges namely time management. Between taking care of family, household chores, work, fitness, and sleep, it is very difficult to carve out time to write. I have been using voice memo on my cell phone as a means of capturing my thoughts. This was helpful during my commutes because I could make an audio file and later transcribe it.  I’ve amassed multiple audio files yet have no time to transcribe them. I’m going to try to use voice type.

I tend to speak quite quickly. I When I was a student teacher and later a new teacher, I was often criticized for speaking too fast. Now that I’m an administrator, I purposely slow down when I speak. however as a blogger, because I was writing by voice into my phone, I was using my regular talking speed.  Because I have been my own transcriber, I realize I speak very quickly at times, especially if I’m passionate about my topic. This will be a challenge to me as I try this new mode of communication.

I spent some time with a good friend from grad school, a fellow writer, yesterday.  We both shared that we haven’t made time for writing fiction. We wrote works of fiction for our master’s degrees in Writing. We both use writing in our careers. He uses his skills and experience as a writer in a much more creative way. School administrators do a lot of writing but it’s often academic or managerial;  it’s not too glamorous. I have continued to blog over the years but I haven’t carved out time for my fiction. I have ideas for my fiction. I don’t think it’s a writer’s block per se; it’s a fiction writers pause. In the meantime, I’m enjoying blogging and I hope that this new technology will enable me to continue to share my work. I’m encouraged by the possibilities.  

Maker of chains

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In my previous leadership role, I did some writing and reflecting on being an exorcist and having to slay demons. I had to face my fears and insecurities. I relied on my teammate to help me face toxic individuals. I then began to see Game of Thrones as an analogy for my new leadership role.  Over the course of last summer, I had an opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne (an awesome replica, anyway); I found it exciting and empowering.  Since starting my new role, I had another experience to sit in the same throne. It made think about how things have changed now that I’m living my new role, as opposed to pondering my new title.

A new leader can quickly go from being well-loved to being criticized or vilified.  The transition to a new staff has mostly been seamless. Interestingly, the struggle has been with my students. In the past, while there have been challenging clients, I played a different role and felt mostly successful. In my current position, there is no buffer. I’m both good cop and bad cop. Instead of breaker of chains, I have been perceived by some students to be the maker of chains.

As a woman of color, I have not often been the one making decisions. I have been affected by others imposing systems and structures on everyone else. Now I’m the one implementing change and meting out discipline. Young people see me as an authority figure first.  I’m not here to be a good time Carla or anybody’s little friend. I’ve been in the education game since I was the “cool teacher.” I look back on some of my actions back then and realize I showed a lack of maturity. I have grown in experience and judgment. As a leader, I have to be mindful of upholding my values, of ensuring safety and making decisions that will help my students move on in their lives. While they may call me a “prison warden” or “dictator,” (yes those are the terms used) I want to empower these young people. When I first started hearing that I had changed the school and made it feel so strict, I actually took pride in those comments.  Though it is sometimes painful, I am clear in who I am.  It is my students who can learn from my example.  So many of them don’t feel powerful. I want them to be proactive about their future plans and to not merely passively accept their life experiences.  It’s a challenge to reconnect with those who feel disenfranchised, disillusioned, demoralized, and disconnected. One of the ways I feel I can do that is to be firm and consistent. It involves being tough on the use of drugs and defiance against staff.  My students, many of whom are dealing with personal and family issues, are also recovering from the loss of my predecessor. They have to now work with someone who they feel is very different, someone they perceive as oppressive. That is bothersome.

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Being is a leader isn’t all glory and power. Even as I experience resistance to my vision, I try to leave work behind at the end of the day.  During my commute, I listen to audiobooks. Then I’m home focused on family and fitness. I’m reading fiction and nonfiction. On weekends, I’m enjoying cultural events and dancing (even some paid gigs now). I’m doing what I need to feed my soul and heart. I need a strong foundation for my leadership. In the long run, my students will see that I’m coming from a good place of deep concern and love.  Hopefully, they will someday see that I came to empower.

Year of change

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Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange…Shakespeare, The Tempest

Two weeks ago, one of my dance sisters asked us on Facebook to share highlights from the past year. I shared that I celebrated 10 years with my boyfriend and that I walked away from toxic personal and professional situations.  In a year of change, I struggled with the latter the most.  It’s never easy to walk away from people or relationships, even those that hurt us. We hang onto to what’s familiar. Pero es necesario para seguir adelante.

Quien soy yo para decir que algo es dañino?  Welp, that’s it. I decide what or who is toxic to me. If I can no longer grow within a relationship, whatever kind it may be, it’s harmful. This is not to say a toxic situation cannot have positive aspects. I loved my last job; there were only a few toxic individuals that I could no longer tolerate. It is my right to say enough already. More importantly, it was time to test my confidence and leadership. Best decision of 2017! In my personal life, I made the decision to distance myself from a group with which I had worked for many years. I created beautiful memories and felt great joy during most of my time with them. But the cons greatly outweighed the pros this past year. So I made the decision to walk away.

The second half of last year was tough due to adjusting to all the changes. I experienced grief over the loss of familiar faces and experiences. Yo tuve que hacerlo por mi. I have to live with myself. I have to get up every morning and feel good about who I am. I choose to do the things that are going to help me grow and make me feel good about myself.

Though I took a break from writing, I have been doing what feeds my soul. I have continued to dance. My samba teacher is nurturing and loving. She was exactly who I needed at this time. It is so important to be seen, heard, and encouraged.  I needed that one-on-one support, not only in dance technique and style, but as a woman.

I have exercised every day during the winter break. I admit I can be an emotional eater and also that I can lose motivation when anxious or sad; this time of transition tested me and won.  Pero se acabo.  I will get back on track with my physical fitness; I will do the work. But I don’t want it to happen because #carnavalsooncome. I want to stay fit because it will be best for my overall health.

I ended the year with the friends who have been in my life for decades who know, love, accept and embrace me. Al fin y al cabo, I alone choose who and what will help me grow. Sea changes help me see changes.

Greener grass

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I started my new job approximately a month ago. I am energized, excited, happy, and hopeful. These are positive feelings which bode well for my new start.   This is my 22nd year in secondary education.   It is my first year as principal.    During the summer, my friend, fitness and leadership guru @dymeetworld (find her on Instagram!) posted that “the grass is greener under me.” I really liked that post and idea. So often, when we change jobs, end relationships or move locations, we do so out of the feeling that the grass will be greener in a different situation. The grass can be green, yellow, or non-existent, no matter where you go.

My mindset is what I bring to every experience I have. I go into a new situation with an open mind and hopeful heart. To be happy is an action, not a feeling. It’s not about feeling bitterness and resentment about the past; it’s about challenging me to take new opportunities. I consistently aim to be my best self.  The grass is always going to be greener because I’m always looking for the best in even the darkest situation. I feel lighter. I feel free. I feel younger.  My last experience prepared me well for the job I now hold. No hay mal que por bien no venga. All experiences are for my growth and progress. Change moves me forward.  The grass is green underneath me.

*Thanks, dear friend, for sharing your positivity and wisdom with us. You will continue to inspire me in this new phase of my career.

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End of watch

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Every four years or so, I go through a change. This isn’t only career changes. (The 3.5 year itch) It also has to do with the creative communities in which I participate.  The longer I am with an activity or community, the more familiar I become with it. The stars fall out of my eyes.  Familiarity allows me to see the reality of the people around me and whether or not the activity or community is contributing to my growth.

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I used to be on a TV show.  The first year I was in star-in-my-eyes newbie. I thought it was the greatest thing I had done.  I was happy to meet new people, to have a new social network, and to have a new creative outlet.  It was fun, positive, even with the complicated and tedious logistics of being on TV. My second year went well as I expanded my social network. I had gotten my bearings as I knew what was going on.  But I began to experience interpersonal drama. As with any close-knit community that spends lots of time working together, conflicts arose. Within the social circle, hierarchies and cliques formed. People expressed their affinities towards one group over another. The group became divided into factions along various lines. So being on the show began to go sour. By the end of my time on the show, I had cut back on the time I gave. I no longer made an extra effort to appear on the show. I had severed ties with several people with whom I had socialized. I moved on at a point when being on the show was still fun. I knew its time had ended.

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Years before that experience, I was a club kid for years. I hung with the same group of fellow dancers and followed the same DJs for nearly a decade. Of course, my life went through many changes, both personal and professional. While there were moments of drama, we were able to move past those. I have been friends with some of those people for over twenty years. Whenever we reunite, we recreate the best of those times. Our bonds are still intact. The love that was fostered has transcended time.  As I compare both these experiences, it could be that my time on the TV show wasn’t about fostering love.

As I grow within a community, my thinking begins to shift after the second year and definitely during the third year.  I see this as positive as it allows me to reflect. I evaluate whether my participation is worthwhile. When I’m no longer being the best version of myself within that social circle or if I feel that my creativity is being stifled by my own lack of effort, by social circumstances, or due to the leadership, it is time for me to move on. I understand when I have completed my growth cycle through a community and outlet.

Creative communities are called to foster love. Where there is genuine respect and love, problems can be resolved. But it’s important for me to recognize when an activity or community has served its purpose. I have grown and accomplished some goals. I am ready to move on to the next project or experience.

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Me moving on to new opportunities