Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Repeat After Me: "I am a strong, capable woman..."*

I was cleaning the unfinished area of our basement last night for a project I’ll share with you in a day or two. As I looked around at all the plastic storage tubs, I knew it was time to get rid of the years of teaching materials that I had been saving. I taught high school for 6 years, and it has been almost 11 years since I quit to stay home with my kids.

I felt weird going through it and putting 99% of it in the recycling bin. Every single lesson plan was typed and in a plastic sleeve, then placed in a binder with support materials. I smiled at the memory of specific lessons, specific students, and that challenging yet rewarding stage in my life. It was difficult to let go of all that hard work and save just the memories, but I had to be realistic.

Even if I went back to teaching tomorrow, chances are I’d be teaching different grade levels, different works of literature, with a completely new curriculum. What good were my 100’s of transparencies of model papers and great works of art when they now can be found via the Internet and probably beamed directly into students’ brains? A lot has changed in a decade.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that I’m forgetful. Not forgetful as in losing things, but forgetful of what I have been through and been able to accomplish. I think back to myself in my early 20’s embarking on a teaching career. I must have been scared sh*tless. But there, in black in white, was the proof that I had not just survived, but thrived.

The students were amazing and the lessons were usually pretty good. Sure, I would change some things (what MOM would support giving 15 year old boys 4 novels, including "Wuthering Heights," to read during Summer Break? Aargh. Talk about killing the love of reading), but I’m proud of a lot of it. The teaching materials reminded me that I was an energetic and creative teacher.

The weird thing is that the minute I had my first baby almost 11 years ago (my water broke at 2 a.m. and I never made it to work at 6:30 a.m.) I lost confidence in my ability to teach. Even when I went back to visit a few times, I felt like a fraud-- as if I’d never taught before. I had so quickly forgotten what I could do.

But there is great benefit to remembering. When I started a new part-time job a year ago as the manager of a small bookstore, I was nervous again. This job, while far less stressful than teaching, was completely new to me. I had to remind myself: “I can do new things. I can learn.”

Drawing upon the past helped me take the plunge and try something new, even though I was frightened. I think it was also a great example to my kids. We are always having them try new things: basketball, gymnastics, etcetera, but we need to be brave, too. Now if only I could muster the courage to pursue my dream of becoming a estate agent…

What is it that you need to remember about yourself? Is it that you have been strong? Perhaps you need to remember when you broke away from a destructive relationship or ended a toxic friendship. You still have that strength inside you today.

Maybe you are facing unemployment or underemployment and are too scared to branch out of the comfort zone of a familiar field. Chances are you can remember another time in your life when you had to stretch way beyond what you thought your limits were.

Maybe your husband is working all the time and you don’t think you can handle another 14 hour day alone with your children. Can you think back to an earlier day or stage in life that you thought would never end (say, 7th grade?) but that thankfully, did? If you made it through that, you can make it through this.

Maybe you are lonely and tired of doing this thing called life alone. Remember people you have impacted. The world is a better place because you are in it.

I’m not sure what it is that you are facing today, but I bet there is a challenge before you.

Remember: You can do hard things. You have done hard things. And you will again.

*This is Molly's and my mantra when we need a little boost.


Ali said...

LOVE this post!! My friend and I were saying yesterday that you never know your strength until you move through something...

I am battling an area of clutter (stuff ignored for 5-6 yrs in tubs too) and need to discard it. It feels so good when you clean house like that!

Mel said...

Thanks for this post and the reminder that I can get through this.

It's exactly what I need at this very moment.

Christy said...

Fabulous post and reminders. As you know, I've been struggling, and this was a great exercise in remember much harder struggles I've endured. I am a strong, capable woman! Hear me roar!

ps I lost your real email address and emailed your in of gray address, earlier today...

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today as I am in the middle of my job hunt and frankly fraught with anxiety about making progress or the lack thereof.

Thank you for wonderful words!

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Marinka said...

Thanks for the reminder. We all need it.

Brenda Susan said...

Wonderful post (once again!). Believe it or not I still have tons of pre-schools lesson stuff in boxes in my garage from....over 15 yrs ago! Time to dump it I know, just so much love & passion went into it!

The Brick Cottage said...

Thanks for such an encouraging and positive post! I've been unemployeed for over a year and the longer I'm unemployeed the more I have a hard time feeling confindent of my abilities especially since I am trying to embark on a different career path. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one with those feelings.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Going back to teaching after more than a decade was terrifying. And I still feel like a poser in a meeting with peers my age who honed their craft the whole time I was busy being a mom.

What is worrying me now.... being a student again. I am taking some undergrad level courses to update my teaching certificate. I am hoping to go on a study abroad to Japan this spring. I am very, very nervous!!
Pray for me?!

Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Of course I'll pray for you, Gail! Thanks for all of the comments, friends. Or should I say, STRONG, CAPABLE WOMEN?

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I love how you tossed that stuff. I would find that soooo hard. That proof of six years of your life. I have serious pack rat leanings ("I might need that again"..."maybe someone else could use it"...) But it seems like after 10 years pass, I can look at old paper treasures and say, "yeah - I don't need this anymore."

I feel this way about being a SAHM. So often I feel like I just suck at it. But I appreciate the pep talk, "I am a strong, capable woman..." Indeed.

TheLab said...

Awesome, Anna! I love this post! Thank you for it! Last year I added a second job to my routine, as a server... I had done it when I was 20 was terrible at it and hated it. I almost cried when I got hired, I was scared out of my mind... turns out it's an awesome job, I'm GREAT at it, and I hope to replace my day job with it! I wish I had read this post the day I got the serving job, I needed it!

Rebecca said...

What a great post! Thank you for reminding us that we can try those things that we are scared of doing and are strong enough to tackle the challenges.

BTW, what's up with the weird comments? How are they doing that in your comment section I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I too needed to read this today. Thanks for the pep talk. It's so true, but it's hard to really believe some days.


Shay said...

What an inspirational post.

I know I sometimes spend too much time thinking about the negative things about myself (probably many of them only imagined anyway ) and don't give myself enough credit for all of the positive things.

Thanks for the reminder Anna.

katie said...

great post!

a few of us were just talking about this. it is sad how we have to retell and remind ourselves about all of the "cool" things that we are doing or realize all of the people we are impacting.

i forget all of the time and i'm trying to daily "talk to myself" about the positive things that bring me joy so that i can remember?

make sense?

great post! thanks!

Chris said...

What a positive, uplifting and encouraging post. Thank you. I like how you chose to be "realistic" about some of the things you purged. I have to do that too. We can't drag every piece of evidence from our past work around with us. Great picture of you too!

PS: I have an "inch of gray" that I need to tend to. Ugh.

dearheart said...

Thanks for the shout out. Sooo good to feel validated about our past endeavors too. Go You! then, and of course, Go You! now.

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purejoy said...

oh, anna, you've been such a sweet encourage to me, and this was a lovely post. i imagine being a young person and having an energetic, creative YOU to teach me. to develop a love of learning (and reading) is such a gift. i'm sure you're a real treasure to the children you have in your home.

it is good to remember what we can do.


i needed that!

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