I had to step out of the classroom for a moment today, and when I came back in, there was a cluster of students gathered at the front of the room.
Any teacher knows that when students crowd in like that, there are likely shenanigans afoot, so I hopped over to break up whatever it was and discovered….
One of my students had brought in her rock collection, and the other kids were delicately, respectfully, excitedly passing them around. Quartzes, opals, tiger’s eye, amethyst, and a healthy smattering of geodes and fossils. They murmured and thrilled with excited questions and exclamations.
These are not elementary kids. These were high schoolers. Not jockeying to get the best picture for the ‘Gram, not taunting each other over their “dumb rocks.” Just literally passing rocks around with childlike wonder.
I typed “childlike wonder” before I remembered the phrase was redundant. We’re talking about high school children, after all.
Sometimes the simple things really are the most delightful.
Welp, they announced that teachers would be vaccine-eligible starting next week.
I was excited, but skeptical. “Eligible” means you’re “allowed” to get it, but whether logistically it happens is another matter altogether.
Then my district sent out the message that they would be working with the local department of health to get teachers vaccinated starting on Monday: right on time.
Again, excited, but skeptical. If lots of us were signing up for appointments (as I expect will be the case), then getting one right away might not be possible… but it was at least within the realm of possibility.
A few days later, the sign-up link went out. Wife and I were able to sign up for Monday and Tuesday — literally couldn’t get it done much sooner. Awesome! We can do our part and put our minds at ease and feel good about the whole thing.
Couple days later, the district e-mails us to cancel our appointments. “Not as much of the vaccine as anticipated”. So all appointments are cancelled.
Well, that’s sub-optimal.
Come to find out that not only are other districts around us *not* having this issue, but also that many, if not most, of them are actually closing school for a day or two next week to bring in personnel and vaccinate teachers. You know, proactively dedicating resources and time to get this thing done.
Meanwhile, wife and I have gone off on our own to make appointments to get it done. At a freakin’ Kroger pharmacy, no less.
We all have that image in our mind, right? The haggard writer, stooped with their spine bent over the keys, tumbler of coffee (or something stronger) clutched in spindly fingers, red-rimmed raccoon eyes staring at the page.
And you know the thing about stereotypes: there’s always a grain of truth. Sometimes more than a grain. We think of that because we’ve all been there — as you fight to get the story just right, as you push and pull and strive and struggle, you smile less, you agonize more. You hate the work some days and other days it feels like the work hates you right back.
But creating can’t be like that *all* the time. I mean, if the writing is like that *all* the time, why are you doing it?
On a good day, the writing is like turning on the hose on a hot summer day — it’s crisp and it’s clear and it flows without end. It’s almost like magic.
I haven’t had enough good days with my writing lately, and I wonder if it’s not because I was trying to make the wrong project happen. I switched gears today and I recaptured a little of that magic. So if you’re like me — struggling for days, weeks, months with your writing — maybe do yourself a favor and give that project a break. A *little* one, at least. And let your brain work on a project it wants to work on. Let it stretch its legs.
And there’s so much stuff everywhere, all the time, clamoring for our attention. Bad news headlines. Infuriating politics. Frightening developments. And then, at the same time, we all live in our own little tornadoes of uncertainty. Whose job or daily routine hasn’t been shaken up — if not shaken to its foundations — by the events of the past year? Nothing feels certain. Nothing feels dependable.
Every day we’re asked to give more, and every day after that, we’re asked again, as if the previous day’s ask never happened. There’s always more: more to do, more to think about, more to be responsible for.
And it’s easy — amidst all that “more” — to get overwhelmed. To see all that clutter and pressure and stuff and think I’ll never get through it. To fall into that dread: that the tasks are too big, the obstacles too impassable. Dread turns to despair. Despair turns into inaction. And inaction makes everything that was merely bad before become catastrophic.
How do we get past these things?
Take one step. Just one. A tiny step forward, whether that’s a step toward a goal or a step around an obstacle or just a step away from the dread and despair. And you don’t let inaction overtake you, don’t let despair define you. You take a step, even if it feels tiny and insignificant, because nothing else happens without that first step. One step follows the next. Once you’ve taken that step, you take another. And then another. And then you look behind you and you realize that you have made progress, you did accomplish something, even if the steps themselves felt like nothing.
There’s this story I saw a few years ago about the world’s largest beach cleanup. Mumbai had one of the dirtiest, most litter-stricken beaches in the world. Plastic and garbage and junk as far as the eye could see, and nothing to be done about it. Cleaning it up was unheard of: an impossible task. Until one person decided to get out there and start cleaning it up.
And when that person stepped up, so did others. And others. A little bit at a time. One person providing inspiration to another. The efforts cascaded. And within a year, the place had been transformed.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.