Connecting the Dots

I look back at this photo… and many others that I have… of students and I begin to wonder about their journeys as I look upon mine. How does one connect the dots? There’s a huge need of mine (and I’m sure for other people) to see what’s ahead. I guess it’s my huge desire for certainty, but the truth is, I haven’t been on that train for quite some time. Why is this time any different? Why can’t I just focus on what I need to do (i.e. prepare for my oral defence) and take it from there? Admittedly, I am a bit anxious… not about the oral defence but what will happen after it.

This is exactly how Grade 12’s feel. After 13 years of schooling, what’s next? We all ask them… What are you going to do with your life? What school will you be attending? Where do you want to travel? This is STRESSFUL. I am there. What’s the plan? Life would have been much easier, straightforward, and somewhat predictable had I stayed teaching high school mathematics in public schools. I miss many of my students from teaching in high school and I love that I am still in contact with some of them via social media. I feel connected to them as I glimpse into their lives and learn about where the are going and where they have been. I will say that it’s crazy when I get Facebook updates on their 35th birthday. How is that possible when I’m 35?

Just the other day I was explaining to a colleague the other day that when we discover our passions and we have the will to pursue them, the path forward is not always clear or straightforward. I mentioned that same idea in my Chatelech Grad 2017 Speech as well. Hmm… this is the lesson I am suppose to learn. I was actually nervous during my speech at Chatelech, which is unusual. In hindsight, maybe my speech was not only a speech for the 2017 Grads but for me as well. The journey is not easy, but just learn from your lessons on move on. You have to make decisions that are best for you and true to you. I look back at some of the decisions I have made in my career and often wonder if I did the right thing. In turn, I would compare myself with others who were able to persist and persevere and wonder why I opted to walk away.

Depending on how you know me, I’ve walked away from something that was perceived “important” in each chapter of my life. Whether it be curling, professional development chair, my teaching position in public schools, or running for re-election on the provincial board, I opted not to “reach for the top.” Was I satisfied? Hmm… I would say yes and no. It depends. I was satisfied with what I’ve accomplished but I knew I was meant to be somewhere else. It’s a feeling that has no words to describe. As I reflect on my life’s history, I did walk away from several situations I deeply cared about. What’s unusual about this reflection is that I am at the verge of defending my dissertation… a 9-year long journey. I thought about walking away from my research 4-years ago, but I’m bringing it to completion. Why was this situation so different?

Right now, I am driven to get a job in place for September but feel that it’s not the right thing to do at this point in time. What has provoked my curiosity about my pedagogical journey so far is my current thought process in preparation for my TEDxWestVancouverED presentation. I am called to question. If I had to generalize or make a pattern, I believe I walked away from certain situations because I did not feel aligned to the situation at the time. I was unwilling to compromise my values, integrity, and mindset to just “suck it up.” That’s not my style. I am willing to endure the ups and downs. I have grit. I am resilient. But there comes a time when YOU KNOW you have to go. And when you don’t respond, that’s when it gets ugly.

Maybe the difference between my dissertation and other life’s situations is that I came into alignment. I will admit that I may have started my dissertation for the “wrong reasons.” ¬†After leaving teaching, I had to rediscover a new reason for completing my doctoral studies. What was my purpose? I struggled with this. I was in a state of transition, but now I realize that I was meant to answer the question, a question that I had for more than 20 years. I had to leave the practice go get perspective, a broader scope, and a deeper understanding. I had to learn from others and learn from experience. I could not have completed my dissertation had I not done what I have done. I feel blessed to have answered my research question.

It feels right and it’s the right thing to do for me. I feel content. I feel solace. I guess my worry or what’s different from before is… What’s next? There is no question in my mind that if I had followed through on my curling career, my leadership role in professional development, teaching career, or campaigned for the provincial board, I would be somewhere else, but also I would not be where I am. When I look back… all of the dots connect in a straight line as it was meant to be. The phenomena reminds me of Steve Jobs address at Stanford. The dots have connected. I would not trade-in anything that I have experienced so far that would have deviated me from where I am today. I am in a good place. As my good friend has said to me, trust your intuition.

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