Hello, Goodbye

September was very good to me. Life handed me a stein full of cold beer, and let me tell you, the eighth swig was just as good as the first: refreshing, crisp, and ever so satisfying. And I lapped it up. Believe me, did I ever. I felt like Steph Curry in Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets back in 2013. It was amazing. Straight fire.  

Then October started. And some annoying work stuff happened. And I started pitying myself, which led to me counting the hours until I could get out of the office and wallow in that pity.  

But then, something unexpected happen. A friend gave me a life update. This person’s life had taken a turn, and they had to go another direction—which meant leaving my life story for the time being. 

The news stunned me. I sat at my desk shaking for several moments. How could this happen? Why? This was so unfair! My emotions ran the gamut several times over and left my head spinning. Only when I got into my car to go home could I begin gathering my thoughts. Here is the main thought I arrived at.

People leave our lives all the time—sometimes expectedly, sometimes not. Either way, you are then forced to say goodbye. A common reaction tends to be, “Why didn’t I spend more time with this person? Why didn’t I grab lunch when they asked? Why didn’t I respond to their message more promptly? Why wasn’t I a better friend?” Now, feeling guilty is natural, but it isn't terribly productive either. You don’t get to rewind and do it differently. Give thanks for that person’s presence, and if you wish, resolve to make time next time.

But there is something you can do, right here, right now. And it’s much easier than you might think.

Think about the people you care about and are with you in your story right now. Then go one step further: Tell them you care about them and that they matter. Do it directly: text message, phone call, email, video chat, whatever. Don’t be afraid of being honest. Tell me, what is the worst thing that can happen when you open up your heart to someone who matters to you and you know feels the same way? You aren’t talking to your middle-school crush. You’re talking to a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a neighborhood friend, a high school teammate, a college roommate. This is someone you already adore, no strings attached. Why not remind them of that adoration? Speak it into existence. The whole world doesn’t need to know. Just that person. 

Here, if you need a little template for inspiration: “Hey (INSERT NAME HERE). Was just thinking of you. Remember (INSERT FUN MEMORY HERE)? Good times. Appreciate you.”

Even if you make that person smile just for a moment, isn’t that worth it? To bring light to someone you care about?

Because let me tell you something. Time is our most precious resource in the world, and we really don’t know how much any of us truly have with each other. Lives are dynamic, not static. That doesn’t mean you should live afraid. Rather, it means there is little time to be afraid. Why hoard positivity? It isn’t a finite commodity. Plus, what happens if that person’s (or your, for that matter) story changes, and their chapter in your story ends? All those positive vibes you thought about but never shared do you little good. So please, open your heart with those that matter to you. I am certain you’ll brighten their spirits. We all could use a little more light in this world. 

Shout Out to the Teachers

I recently gave an informal presentation to a bunch of kids at work. They must have been as young as 7 or 8 and as old as high school students. In my head, it was going to be a piece of cake: I don’t mind talking in front of people, I can occasionally drop some dry wit and humor, and I’m nice. Simple! Or so I thought. 

Actually, it was much harder to keep kids’ attention than I imagined. For one, they sometimes blurt out stuff without waiting their turn to speak (to be fair, some adults do this too). Second, my words seemed to fall on deaf ears—kids had no patience or didn’t care about what I had to say. It all left me feeling a little flustered and out of my element. By the end of the presentation, I was shook. And I thought back to my time in school, whether it was K-8 or high school. My former teachers didn’t have to endure that just for an hour—that was their professional life

Ever since I was in college (and perhaps even younger), I’ve felt a pull toward teaching. I personally just like “school” a lot. I was a good student, which helped, but I really like learning and discussing ideas. I also enjoy helping people learn and improve their skills too. Writing has been my passion since I was a kid, so the idea of teaching students how to write appeals to me. The concept overall sounds grand. 

For a number of reasons, I haven’t made the career change (yet). A big one, perhaps even the most important: I know my perception of teaching is highly idealized. Like any other dream, you emphasize the positives and brush away the negatives. In this fantasy world, I would be educating students who were eager to learn, were respectful, rarely talked back, did the work, and trusted you. In other words, students like me. (And I don’t care how cocky that sounds, I was an excellent student and my teachers liked me. #facts) 

But the world isn’t ideal! It’s messy and goes against our dreams. I know this because some of my friends weren’t what I would consider good students. They cut corners, didn’t pay attention, interrupted, and generally didn’t want to be in the classroom. Which is fine—doesn’t make them bad people, of course. But the thing is, as a teacher, it is your job to mold both the apple shiners like me and the miscreants (as Ms. Finster would say). You don’t get to pick and choose. 

On that note, I’ve been really fortunate to learn from teachers who struck the balance between being a respected authority figure and someone you could like. Every teacher is her own person and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another, but in my experience, the best teachers know how to relate to their students while also raising them to a higher level. 

In that spirit, I would like to share a passage I wrote about one of my favorite teachers that sums up this sentiment:

But as I’ve learned after being more than a decade removed from graduating, it really isn’t about the specific lesson of the day that makes an impact—after all, I haven’t had to write out a mathematical function since high school. What matters more, what really lasts, is HOW your teacher acted. For impressionable teenagers, teachers serve as role models. Granted, mercurial adolescents will not always agree with authority figures—indeed, they intentionally push limits to see what they can get away with. This requires a talented personality to guide this volatile energy while taking care not to stamp it out. In other words, nurture this potential with both wisdom and respect. I have seen teachers veer too far on both sides of the spectrum, ranging from the authoritarian to the buddy. In my experience, the most successful, effective teachers respect where their students are coming from while also setting boundaries. And if the teacher can mix in some humor, that makes her all the more special. 

To all the teachers I know—whether you taught me directly or are fighting the good fight now—you have my admiration and support. Thank you for all the good you do.