There Should Be A Medal

The most extraordinary, ordinary thing happened to me recently.

A former student, a career changer, early fiftyish former draftsperson, wrapping up his third year teaching English/Language Arts at a local high school, contacted me.

After a long school day in the middle of May, he tucked his students’ essays under his arm, got in his car, and instead of driving home, headed to my university office. He wanted my help better preparing his students for college level writing. He admitted he wasn’t doing a good job teaching writing and didn’t really know how to improve.

He deserves a medal of some sort for a trifecta of positive attributes that are a powerful formula for self improvement writ large. Not just self improvement, a foundation for strengthening the common good.

1) Self-compassion. His starting point was the essence of this NYT essay:

‘I’m an imperfect human being living an imperfect life.’

2) Selflessness. He cares deeply about his students. So much so he wants to increase their odds of success in college, and in turn, life.

3) Initiative. 999 out of 1,000 high school English teachers are content not really knowing if they’re doing their best to prepare their students for college level writing. They have lots of other, more pressing things to do after work.

self-compassion + selflessness + initiative = personal growth

We had a great conversation despite my being distracted by two things. First, I was struck by the fact that college writing is a topic I know a lot about. That was a nice realization, because like most people I suspect, sometimes I wonder if I have any expertise.

Second, I was distracted by the realization that I don’t do what my fellow educator was modeling so powerfully. I have a lot of acquaintances and friends who are way more knowledgeable about and/or skilled in areas I’d like to learn more about and/or improve, yet I never ask them if they’d be up to teaching me.

Why is that? There are lots of possibilities. Maybe I’m not secure/vulnerable enough to embrace my imperfections. Or maybe I’m too lazy a sad sack (how’s that for self compassion). Or most likely, despite how much I enjoyed helping my former student, I just don’t want to impose on them.

I’m not alone. Most people pay experts for specialized knowledge and skills or watch “Do It Yourself” YouTube tutorials. The person who asks a friend or acquaintance to teach them something they don’t know is the wonderful exception to how most of us approach life.

 

Redefining Memorial Day

I thought Memorial Day was for remembering the sacrifices of male and female military killed in service to the country.

The President’s tweet this morning changes that:

“Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!”

Now, Memorial Day is for self promotion. Making my “no profanity” pledge difficult to keep.

Saturday Assorted Links

1. Where you live has a bigger impact on happiness and health than you might imagine. Unhappy? Maybe you should move.

2. The Most Ruthlessly Effective Move in Sports. Man, did I dominate kickball at Zachary Taylor Elementary School in Louisville, KY! A legend in my own mind. And another thing, you have to love Slate.com. Imagine, in this day and age, pitching this, “I’d like to do a piece on bunting in kickball” and then having it green-lighted. “By all means,” the editor responds, “this is a story that needs to be told.”

3. Dog ‘adopts’ nine orphaned ducks at Essex Castle. This link will be clicked more than all the others combined because who can resist doggies and duckies alone, let alone together?

4. The Men Who Terrorize Rio. Maybe our Second Amendment zealots who are down with citizen militias should vacation in Rio’s militia controlled neighborhoods this summer.

5. A Day in The Life of my Supposedly Frugal Stomach. An engineer tries to perfect his diet on the cheap.

Seeing The World As It Is

Julia Galef’s argument that thoughtful, objective problem solving is a question of leveraging particular emotions is compelling, with broad implications in our disUnited States.

Everyone on the globe, to differing degrees, sees the world as they want it to be, not as it is.

Where are you on Galef’s soldier-scout mindset continuum?

My adoption of a scout mindset is a work in progress.

Worst Advice Ever, Take the Emotion Out of It

Maybe not the worst advice ever, just the least practical.

That’s what a former engineer recommended we do at last Sunday’s annual congregational meeting when discussing the uncertain status of the After School Tutoring Program (ASTP).

It’s been a tough year for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Maybe historians will point to my being elected to the Church Council as the catalyst for the downturn.

Recently, my fellow Council members and I asked the pastor to resign. Inevitably, that upset some members, some so much so they left. Others stopped attending probably because they had enough conflict in their lives already. Consequently, we have challenging budget decisions to make.

Despite the fact that the After School Tutoring Program represents somewhere between 2-2.5% of the total budget, the congregation spent 90% of last Sunday’s budget discussion debating whether we should continue it or not. This wasn’t a one-off, the church is preoccupied by it. I am totally flummoxed and exasperated by the congregation’s seeming fixation with the ASTP. The attention is receives is totally out of proportion to that of other programs, ministries, and issues.

Which begs the question why. My only conclusion is that my engineering friend has it completely backwards. It’s impossible to take the emotion out of it because it’s  exclusively based upon competing emotions that have formed over its long history.

I am resigned to the fact that the ASTP is our Ford Mustang. Of Ford’s decision to eliminate every sedan except the Mustang:

“. . . the Mustang’s survival isn’t really about numbers. ‘Five years from now, whether Ford decided to keep the Mustang or not isn’t going to be a material factor,’ Mr. Jonas said. ‘It’s more of an emotional thing. They’re trying to preserve the sexuality of motoring the way it used to be known.'”

Apparently, Ford suits gets what my engineering friend does not. You can’t take emotions out of things. At least not completely. And in the case of the ASTP, hardly at all. Resistance, I’m finding, is futile.

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By Age 35

Earlier this month, Marketwatch published an article stating that by 35 years old, a person should have twice their salary saved for retirement.

In my view, an imminently sensible goal, but the Millennial blowback on Twitter was fast, furious, and funny. You know what “they” say, goals should be achievable.

Cases in point:

  • By age 35 you should have at least one fork in your cutlery drawer that you just don’t like, and actively frown at if you accidentally grab it.
  • By age 35 you should have a huge box of cables but you can’t throw them out because you’re pretty sure you still need a couple of them but you’re not sure which ones.
  • By age 35 you should have a kitchen cabinet dedicated entirely to plastic bags that contain other, smaller plastic bags.
  • By age 35 you should have approximately 10 times the existential dread you had when you graduated high school.
  • Listen. Meghan Markle wasn’t a duchess til age 36 so stop telling me what I should have by age 35.
  • By age 35, you should have hoarded more books than any human could possibly read in three lifetimes.*
  • By age 35, you should have a big bag of socks that have no matches that you are afraid to throw even one of them away because as soon as you do, you’ll run into its match.
  • By age 35 you should stop paying attention to condescending life advice from strangers writing think pieces.
  • By age 35 you should have a shitload of books. Some of them you have read and are too sentimental to give away. Others (you know in your heart) you will never read and yet you will keep these as well. All of these books have followed you through multiple moves.*
  • By age 35 you should have one pair of jeans you like and a four shirt rotation.
  • By age 35 you should be able to re-watch Bridget Jones and think ‘You’re only 30 and you manage to afford to live alone?’
  • By age 35 you should have a list of documentaries you tell people you want to watch but you don’t watch them because you just never feel like you’re in the right mood.

Go ahead, give it a go, by age 35. . .

*Alison