Sunday, December 8, 2019

I'm Bad at Endings

I was reminded this past year that I'm bad at endings. Closure and conclusions don't come easy in a lot of my projects. So many times for this blog I've jotted down an exciting idea, started thinking it through, but ultimately abandoned it when I couldn't bring it to a nice conclusion.

When I launched this blog in 2013, I also started writing a Teaching Like an Artist book. It was a fascinating project, full of everything I learned and was learning about teaching. As you might have guessed, I couldn't finish it.

I realized something then that this past year really drove home to me. I'm usually most excited by what something could be rather than what it is currently. I'm living a few months or years ahead of the moment.

Working towards the goal fires me up so much that the present situation doesn't matter much. 

Six years ago I probably knew this, but I saw it mostly as a good thing. As for the book, I just decided I wasn't ready to finish it yet. I needed to give it some time and eventually the powerful stories I needed would come together. I had very little doubt and lots of seemingly encouraging hints to pull me along.

I was just getting started with conference presentations and some exciting changes on my regular job at the school. It felt like everything was coming together, pointing to a message people needed to hear. All the lessons that brought me there, well, they were good. I just needed more time prove it, when all those budding possibilities came to fruition.

It got a lot better before it got worse. Then, about two years in, some things began to unravel at work. I didn't mind too much. None of it had to do with me directly and I still had my side gigs. My training work, my writing and my music ministry at church were only looking up. I kept at it (wondering only sometimes if I was crazy), still expecting overall I'd have some amazing results to show for it.

I coasted two years on the enthusiasm and blessings from that period. I received the Excellence In Education award, met a lot of great educators around the state and made some good friends on the worship team I led. But I'm bad at endings and I can't make a good conclusion out of it now.

In late 2018 a couple events took place in the same week that crushed me. I was completely blindsided and it has taken a year for me to fully realize just how devastating they've been. I don't talk about the details much with others. When I do, people don't seem to understand. There's no reason they need to. It's been my puzzle to work through.

The point here is that those events proved fatal to what used to be my endless assurance that I was onto something. Those things I always looked forward to as the circumstances around me were difficult? Well what if they were just figments of my imagination? What if those promising possibilities I saw were just hallucinations?

I ignored those thoughts for quite some time, but I couldn't ignore them anymore when 2019 rolled around. Now I should note that almost no one has noticed any change in my behavior since these things happened. By most outside standards I've continued to do fine. Inside, however, I've been drained of energy. I've struggled giving anyone advice, especially my own two kids or my wife. I haven't been experiencing a life I'd wish on anyone else. Yet I find myself in the world of education, where I'm supposed to be helping teachers and students be successful.

It's a hard thing to look back on a career or a personal endeavor and realize the best moments are behind me. What's worse is to realize I never even paid enough attention at the time to enjoy those best moments when they happened.

So I'm bad at endings. I don't know how (or if I should) work out an ending for these things and let them go. I don't know which ending to work toward in the life that's now before me. I have discussed these things with a few close friends and family members. The range of suggestions I received are so vast there haven't been any clear answers.

And of course, I don't know exactly how to end this post! I wrote it to get some thoughts out and to explain a little why content here has been so sparse. If this isn't the end of the story I started here six years ago, then someday it can be important look at the reality of teaching like an artist. I won't venture to guess if it's an ending or an important part of the journey.

I'll just leave it here and maybe in time I will have an answer.