2021 Sportsperson Of The Year

This morning I asked the GalPal if she wanted to say anything on behalf of her candidacy for 2021 Sportsperson of the Year. But instead of touting her 2021 athletic greatest hits, she declined, saying, “I’m not into competition anymore.” 

How ironic because that’s exactly what this year’s winner says in the middle of this short documentary about what I’m deeming 2021’s Athletic Accomplishment of the Year. 

I present to you, the 2021 Sportsperson of the Year, Lachlan Morton and the 2021 Athletic Accomplishment of the Year, The Alt Tour.

What is there not to love about Morton? Among other attributes that tipped the scale his way was his self-awareness, his social conscience, his sense of humor, his commitment to fun, and his utter lack of ego. 

Sportsperson of the Year honorable mention goes to two athletes who, like Lachy, also inspire lots of other people without much media coverage at all (not counting Strava and Insta).   

Jeanette Byrnes for her commitment to open water swimming and monthly open water plunges sans wetsuit. #nails 

Dan, Dan, the Former Transportation Man for sticking like velcro for another year to the Boon Running Team, of which I am a proud member, despite giving up 2-13 years to the youngish, handsome “legends in their own minds” that make up the team. #nails

Sports Accomplishment of the Year honorable mention. M.A.’s inaugural marathon at 62 years young. Way to go rook.

The best of the rest: Tom Brady. 

How To Make A Positive Difference

A fall semester postscript.

When evaluating their progress at the end of the semester, my first year writing students say the same thing over and over. “In high school, all we ever did was literary analysis. Intro. Three body paragraphs with supporting details. A conclusion. I learned the formula, but it was mind numbing.”

Why are secondary teachers stuck in literary analysis mode? Is it as simple as teaching to Advanced Placement tests? If so, maybe we should risk the ire of parents determined to pass their privilege on and ditch Advanced Placement altogether.

Why not ask students to occasionally write about themselves in the context of big questions? To be introspective. To dare to be personal. To be philosophical. It takes some of my students longer than others to pivot to first person “I”, but eventually everyone sees value in it. Some experience an immediate awakening. For example, in one final paper a student wrote, “I don’t think I truly understood myself until this class because I never contemplated my biggest motivators. Why doesn’t my mom love me? Why do I feel so insignificant? Am I enough?”

K-12 teachers might reply that they’re not therapists so why venture into personal rabbit holes. I’m advocating for public, group-based community; not private, individual therapy.

Another student explained the difference especially well:

“Even on the days with the best attendance, our classroom does not exceed twenty people. This has allowed us to know each other on a deeper level than that of just classmates. I feel as though each person in class is now someone I can call my friend. Through group discussions, the sharing of intimate parts of our lives, and just laughing together in general, we have discovered all the similarities each of us share. As a group, we have formed our own sort of community, filled with people of all different majors and parts of the country. I can confidently say that I have learned just as much from talking to my classmates as I have from the assigned class readings.

Despite the different reasons for each student being placed into Writing 101, we are each leaving the class with one commonality. We formed a special little community built on finding our footing in a new place, trust, and compassion. . . . We made connections that could last a lifetime and learned lessons from one another that changed our perspectives.”

Since classmates don’t assign grades, students are socialized to pay attention exclusively to their teachers. Watch for yourself, in the vast majority of classrooms, students completely tune out one another.

Dig this paradox. My teaching is most consequential when I fade into the background and get my students to listen to, and learn from, one another.

Wednesday Required Reading

The ‘Mighty Mo’ begins her second century as a swimming champion. Thanks DB.

10 New Dating Slang Words To Know In 2021. Ladies, I’m tired of all the breadcrumbing.

Researchers shrink camera to the size of a salt grain. More University of Washington academic prowess.

Why there hasn’t been a mass exodus of teachers.

The latest imitation calls an academic journal’s integrity into question. LOL.

Tell Someone They’re Amazing

In preparation for tomorrow’s writing seminars, I’m rereading old final papers to select a few to share with my current students who are writing their fifth and final ones of the semester. In short, the final paper is a self-assessment of the progress they’ve made throughout the semester.

One former student wrote:

“This course has had a profound impact on the way I think about writing and life. I have become a stronger conversational writer with more confidence in my abilities, and I have been encouraged to continue writing outside of an academic setting. Now I really enjoy informal writing: I am planning on writing an op-ed in the Mooring Mast (the school newspaper) and am even applying to work at the Writing Center at Professor Ron’s suggestion. Without his support, I would not have had the confidence to make that decision.”

Thanks to their elementary, middle, and high school teachers; and parents I presume; about a third of my first year students have really high ceilings as writers. And over the years, I’ve gotten better and better at helping them realize their writing potential. I do it by telling them they’re amazing. While they’ve earned good grades throughout their lives, they’ve received very little or no meaningful and specific praise. The good grades don’t add up to much over time and many of them lack confidence.

I make a boatload of electronic comments on every paper. Some are suggested revisions, but many others are smiley faces, comments like “really excellent paragraph” and “nice insight”. At first their insights are sentence-long, now they come in waves of paragraphs. I always end with a long comment where I highlight their clearest strengths and next steps and often conclude by telling them how much I enjoy reading them. Upon returning papers, I follow up in class with praise for their last writing effort and positive examples of their improving work.

Those are some of my ways of telling them not that they’re “A” students, but that they’re amazing young adults. Pete Carroll, of the 3-8 Seahawks LOL, refers to it as “relentless optimism”.

Like my students, we lack confidence that there’s anything amazing about us. We could change that if we started telling family and friends what we most appreciate about them.

The Good Wife is grieving the loss of her mom and dad. Last night, in an attempt to cheer her up a wee bit, I told her she had been an amazing daughter to them for the last five years. She replied, “I have?”

I couldn’t believe that she was too close to it and too hard on herself not to see how amazing she had been. Flying to see them in Central California repeatedly, moving them to Washington State, and then putting her life on hold for the last year as their needs grew exponentially. Lovingly and completely selflessly caring for them to the end almost by herself.

It wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t sure she had done enough. Because no one had told her she was amazing.

Next Level Philautia

Ancient Greeks had six distinct words for different types of “love”, eros, philia, ludus, pragma, agape, and philautia. Philautia is self-love. The more you like and feel secure in yourself the more philautia you enjoy. 

In this recent New York Times personal essay, “I Just Turned 60, but Feel 22“, Margaret Renkl provides the single best example of philautia of all time.

“The joking birthday cards that start coming at 40 were funny 20 years ago because they were so far from reality. Now they’re funny because they’re so true. One of the cards I got last week featured a vintage photograph of plump women in swimsuits who looked remarkably like me in my swimsuit. “At your age, swimming can be dangerous,” the card read. “Lifeguards don’t try as hard.”

I laughed so hard, my belly jiggled, a feature of being 60 that troubles me only a little. This is just who I am now, a person who looks exactly like her late mother, despite far more exercise and a far healthier diet. Besides, I loved my mother, and I love seeing her again in every store window I pass.

 

 

Are You ‘Misliving’?

William Irvine’s The Guide To The Good Life is an attempt to reinvent Stoicism for the 21st Century. Irvine argues that everyone should have a philosophy of life that includes specific strategies for achieving their primary objective(s) in life. Absent an intentional plan, at the end of life, people will regret that they have “mislived”.

Put differently, one should live intentionally, not spontaneously. He acknowledges few people do so mostly because of the “endless stream of distractions” that keeps them from clarifying what’s most important. And he made that point before social media and streaming television both exploded.

If pressed though, I’m guessing Irvine would acknowledge rewarding times in his life when he acted spontaneously, when he said yes to an unexpected invitation or adventure.

I wonder if the answer to the dilemma of just how intentional to be in planning one’s life lies in the tides, meaning there should be some sort of natural ebb and flow between intentionality and spontaneity.

The older other people and I get, the more set we become in our daily routines. Losing some of our youthful spontaneity, we should carefully consider the improvisors’ dictum of always saying YES. Okay, “always” is unrealistic, but what about “more often”?

A LOT of my acquaintances and friends have died lately, almost all of them from cancer, a scourge we may be sleeping on amidst the endemic. Being my age, their deaths have got me thinking about my own.

Despite not having an explicit philosophy of life, if I die sometime soon, and have time to reflect on my six decades*, I wouldn’t at all think I had mislived. Quite the opposite. I would be grateful for all the meaningful friendships; all the socially redeeming work; and all the fond memories of things including athletics, traveling, and especially family.

Lately, I’ve felt a deep and profound sense of contentment for most everything including my new and improved health, our home, and the natural environment in which it sits.

That very spiritual sense of contentment doesn’t have to conspire against saying YES to new invitations and adventures does it? To continual growth?

Presently, I’m most interested in personal growth. Professionally there’s nothing I feel a need to accomplish. My plan is to spend my remaining days learning to listen more patiently and empathetically to others—whether the Good Wife, my daughters, you, my students, everyone. That could easily take several more decades. Guess I should keep exercising and eating healthily.

*meaning not on my bike :) 

Be Adventurous, Tell Stories

Apologies for going silent during the annual dose of cycling and running in Bend, Oregon last week. Pretty damn selfish, but at least I didn’t kill the Humble Blog like The Former Guy did. Grow a spine Former Guy, if I closed shop every time a “friend” made fun of the Humble Blog, the world would be bereft of all my insights. Cue “friends” making fun again.

Yesterday, I was driving north on Hwy 26 from Bend to Gresham at the same time as a badass woman in a convertible MiniCooper. Like me, she was OLD, but that didn’t stop her from embracing the elements. The air temp was 45F/7C, but we were doing 60mph, so adjust accordingly. She paired a hooded winter jacket with ski gloves.

I would never do that (how could I hear my podcasts; plus, my hair), but I loved that she was. Each time we leap frogged one another, I became more intrigued with her story. What kind of person drives with the top down when it’s hella cold? The answer of course is an adventurous one.

I wanted to meet her because anyone that adventurous has to have a lot of great stories from a life well lived. That’s one of the best things about adventures, besides the actual experience, you end up with a treasure trove of stories that enable others to experience your adventure vicariously, and therefore, for the experience to live on.

But then I ruminated on the fact that she was alone, which of course means she doesn’t get along with other people. I mean, if she did, even just a little, wouldn’t she have someone in the car with her? Someone she’s shared some adventures with?

So, maybe having a beer with her wouldn’t be so great an experience after all.

But then I thought about the fact that apart from Blanca and Rosa, I was alone in my car too. So who am I to judge, maybe I’m not God’s gift to interpersonal relations. So maybe I shouldn’t keep her solo-ness from proposing we stop for a beer in Sandy for some story telling.

But alas, I wasn’t adventurous enough to propose that, so I don’t have any stories to tell about the woman in the convertible MiniCooper.

Don’t be me. Get jabbed, be even more adventurous, meet people, and make stories.

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