This last year had only one event, Jacob’s fight with cancer.
How did it affect me? It made me question everything I’ve ever known. Even the “knowns” like the sky is up and the floor is down felt questionable. Right versus wrong felt uncertain. Even my own identity I was unclear about.
Was I good? Was I being punished? Is the world a good place? Did I even want to be in it?
I went inwards. I went walking. I went to the river. I listened to music.
But mainly I observed.
I saw the world in a new light. I watched it run by me. And even though I walked it felt like I was stagnant. It was really an out of body experience. At first it looked like pure chaos. I felt sad for humanity. Just all these people in their worlds with no rhyme or reason. Running with frowns. And at first I thought that was the lesson, that there is no meaning and my search for the WHY (why all these things happen) was a fruitless pursuit that would only bring confusion and pain.
But one thing I had was time. Lots of time. Sitting. Sitting. Sitting by beds. Sitting with books.
So I sat.
And I saw something. I saw a thread. I saw patterns. I saw some order in the chaos. I wish I could say I hold that understanding now in every step, but that would be a lie. I fight for that understanding each and every day.
Especially when the world feels so fragile and “tribed” off.
But I oddly leave this year of trauma with incredible inspiration. I also leave in debt to the world and the pattern that truly do exist. The reality that there are no coincidences. The reality that things happen because they have meaning for you, but that meaning may only present itself 10 years down the road. But the WHY does exist. It is up to us to connect the dots.
I feel inspired. I feel alive. I feel unbelievably grateful.
And my path led to remission of Jacob. A gift like no other. And it led me to today. To PAY IT FORWARD.
I think we all should rise. I’m going to start a slow clap. One of those dramatic ones.
Or maybe this is more appropriate
Because there has been NO lack of effort here.
Standing ovation is in order!
As you can say a lot of things, but one thing I think we all agree on here. There is NO lack of effort. NOPE. There is no lack of effort from the educators in this country to do right by our kids.
Teachers- you were given the impossible. You were given days within a summer of wasted months to finally learn what was being expected of you and not only prepare in a new normal, do it in less time than you usually have. You were able to open with limited resources. You took on more roles and responsibilities than ever. And all the while with little support from our government that will spend wildly to spare our economy, but not for its children’s safety.
And even given the lack of time, resources and extreme fear, you did what?!
Everything humanly possible.
Everything for our children.
You got creative and like the problem solvers you inspire, you became one yourself.
While my own children are not back in “school,” I applaud you. I have watched in awe my niece’s experience. How in every class there is a 5 minute mask break where students are allowed to take off their masks, but no one can speak for fear of spread of the virus. How at lunch she sits at a table with dividers from her peers. How she can’t touch her friends. How horrible it all sounds.
But ask her. “How was school?”
And there you have it.
Teachers you amaze all of us. You amaze us by your bravery and dedication. You make our children whole.
Last year around this time I recall attempting to transform our hospital room into a school. I remember trying in desperation to fill the void of his deep sense of loss of not returning to school with his friends by putting on the “mom show.”
As we spent these last days as a nation weathering storms, I continue to brace for the “big one.” The big one with countless deaths, one being our democracy.
You know…November rain. Election time.
There are signs that the rain is coming even sooner than anticipated.
Did you hear the thunder as storm systems collided right there in Portland?
And November isn’t even here yet, but yet here we are and instead of grabbing umbrellas, some are grabbing guns.
I very much fear for our democracy this November. I fear Trump declaring a false election (which he has already started) and rallying his base to fight it. They will take to the streets as they will feel cheated. The anger will be real.
But at the end of the day, I would remind myself that this November will pass. That we would all return to its rightful place as the military would make sure a smooth transition of power. If Trump refused to vacate, they would make him. It would be an awful stain on our history, but democracy would prevail.
But now…I fear that this November rain, may be December HAIL.
It started with hair for me. I wanted to be blonde.
And at age 8 I began my blonde journey. Just two hours and bam, blonde.
And while I’m sure Barbie and the Norwegian blonde blue-eyed descendants that made up the majority of my 2nd grade Minnesotan classroom played a role, there was another reason for this blonde wish. I didn’t want to not be recognized. I needed to blend in.
I learned about the Holocaust in 2nd grade.
I can’t recall exactly where I was, but I do remember the image. Kids just my age.
I went into panic. I had no idea that Jews were so hated. People called for our extermination. I quickly began thinking back to all the moments I let my Jewishness known.
How could I have let my mother (the token Jew parent at my Episcopalian school) bring lakas to my classmates every year. Prior, I was excited to have my mom invited in to school to share our holiday. But now, I was horrified. How stupid was that?! Was she not aware that people hated Jews?! Was she not aware that she let out our secret?!
The brown hair had to go.
The holocaust rocked my core as it showed the dark side of humanity. And even though I had never felt any anti-semitism prior to that day, the world now felt uncertain.
Would I one day be asked to don a star to be marked for slaughter? Would it happen over night?
But I had a plan… no one would ever know I’m Jewish.
And I felt safer with that mane of blonde. No one would know I was Jewish unless I felt the need to share that fact. This felt fool proof for this 8 year old girl. I solved it. Check.
But the fear remained and I later in high school realized I wasn’t alone, that there were others who had reasons to be scared, and sadly, my plan didn’t work for them. 2 hours at the salon would not give them solace.
Skin color cannot be changed.
I became obsessed with the racial inequality in this country my junior year after I took a course in African American history. I had the same feeling from second grade. How is this possible? How can mankind behave in such a manor? And how unfair it is for people of color to walk down the streets and be treated differently than me and how under my blonde disguise I never knew this.
I was inspired to make this my life’s work to learn and work to help race relations in this country. I felt that this was the modern holocaust and applied to Duke University, which had the number one African American history program in the nation.
I was accepted.
My first class in the Af Am building at Duke was memorable. I was the only white girl in the room and how white I felt. All eyes were on me. I was silent for most of class, but when I did speak, I could feel the daggers in my back. It was clear that my peers were annoyed that my voice was taking up space in a place that was theirs. And then the worst part happened for a freshman girl trying to make it on campus, all went to eat lunch, and it was clear, I was not invited.
I left the major by my second class (where I went to the bathroom and never came back).
Instead I found “my place” on the Quad, the bagel shop at the 2nd table on the left, where the Jewish kids from the east coast congregated.
*Please note that this is no knock on Duke, this is a knock on ALL college campuses (where we ironically send our youth to grow to become leaders of tomorrow). College campuses are the most segregated communities in the world. Just think back reader…how diverse was your friendships in undergraduate?
And I went along with my life, my easier life. My privileged life with my blonde hair. And left others who did not have that privilege behind.
So when my best friend, Jenna Arnold, a blonde white female, told me that she was going to spend her activist energies on race in our country, I was very clear: “Admirable, but suicidal.” This is TOO hard. You will be hated by the far right and questioned by the far left as who wants to hear from you, a white woman, on race. I implored her to continue to solve the organ crisis and continue the work of the Women’s March, both of which she has been instrumental in. This is tough. This is too hard. I was clear, don’t do this.
But, I forgot who I was talking to, this was Jenna Arnold. Having spent her career trying to make people “give a shit” she knew that race in this country was THE mountain that needed to be moved. That if humans could not treat each other with respect and understand the history of our abuse of each other to properly heal, that there was no way for us to care about the dolphins, the environment, Syria, etc. And there was no way to unite women when our voices were splintered into racial groups each eyeing the other with suspicion.
She decided to write it to me, and all the other white women who got too busy in our white world. Too busy working on being “perfect” (more on that in the book!). And how we have turned a blind eye to all the people without voices and that silence is implicitly teaching our children to do the same.
Like a true educator that she is, she uses her own narrative and journey to help others understand.
I implore all of us white women, the MOST powerful voting demographic, the MOST powerful “doers” to use our privileged voice to stand up for others who don’t have a voice. To spend less time on the PTA and the lunch party, and raise our hands. It starts by reading this book to understand how to navigate this mountain that I so quickly ran away from.
Or at least read this book for our fellow mothers. Mothers who deal with all the stress we face and then some. Who can’t just take their children for a dye job to make them feel safe on the streets. Who everyday have to carry their race with them and help their children navigate the implicit bias in our society. Having to tell their child that the shampoo for “normal” hair does not include her.
So Jenna, thank you. I’m in awe of you. I wish I was as brave as you.
And I’m ready to RAISE MY HAND with you. Thank you for reminding me that with power comes responsibility.
The collapse of the institution, the rise of the individual.
The workplace has slowly been morphing to meet the 21st century economy, an economy of AI and tech that forces us to reimagine the how and needs of what we call “work.”
We see it everywhere. The disruption of the real estate business model with office sharing or an office in the cloud that fits into your living room. We see the increasing quality of video conferencing that challenges the need for any in person business. And then there is the culture shift as machines take over labor sectors and the milleniail and gen Z generations want “more” and that “more” is defined quality over quantity.
Millennials and Gen Z are less interested in working for the established corporations, but want the rush and empowerment of start-ups and mission driven companies. They look for this new concept they named “fit.” A job that “fits” them. They lead with their individualism rather than the established collective that many of us led with.
“I” can add value here because “I” am good at “X.” Contrary to previous generations, “I” can help you and do whatever task you say “we” should do. Stability and 401Ks are last on the list. Impact, mission and individualism first.
Here are some of the answers when I asked young college kids what type of workplace they wanted to work for after college:
“I want something with flexibility that allows me to be outside.”
“I want to work on a product that helps the world in some way.”
“I want to be able to work distantly.”
“I want a place where I can be creative and can make impact and values me.”
Never once did I hear about wanting to work for an “established company with great dental!” And never did I hear anything like “I want to make a solid 80K.”
Thus we see the rise of what I’m calling the impact generations. I don’t necessarily disagree with there rally crys. They are a product of being digital natives and have grown up in a world us adults are just visiting/ understanding. They grew up with technology as part of their themselves, an extension of thier arm if you will. That extension can do amazing things, like feed them without cooking or get them the latest data without leaving thier beds.
They know no other way of life allowing them to think bigger and question what makes them human. They are focused on the “I”- who am I? How am I unique? Where do I “fit” in?
The workplace is a changing…as our workforce is too.
And this workforce is making us challenge “knowns” and educaiton is no different.
Educators around the world are rethinking the concept of what makes something a school. Is it the institution or the individual? Is it the physical building with rows of classrooms, or is it the teachers within it? Is it a place where teachers come in and do their job or is it a place where the individual teacher connects with individual students all unique in their own way?
Our younger teachers are questioning the collective of the institution of schools that leave little flexibility and individual voice. The institution of school does not allow teachers to feel like individuals, but rather a cog in the machine that is state run. The government being the biggest institution of all institutions in their minds. They are questioning the parameters that we have operated under for decades. This one fits all model where teachers specialize in a grade and subject and watch their kids rotate out of their boxes of classrooms.
Schools also offer little flexibility. You don’t get to take lunch off. You can’t run out and vote during the day. You can’t even pee when you need to go! And thus, it has become a not desirable vocation. We are not producing enough teachers.
We need teachers. We need more than ever teachers of the impact generations!
We need to create desirable teaching pathways for teachers and emphasize the individual among the collective. I do believe microschooling is a place where this generation can shine. Please encourage our youth to come make IMPACT. Education is the greatest impact anyone can give and now there are ways you can do that and have your individualism too!