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Where to Start?

March 31, 2016

Do you find starting something overwhelming? I know I struggle getting started when I'm unsure and uncertain what the thing will look like in the end.  A tangled ball of yarn of ideas, thoughts, and dreams.  What if I spend the hours it'll take to unwind it, and there's nothing in the end? Perhaps unwinding it leads no where?   I'm left standing with a handful of useless yarn.  What's the point of that?  I don't even knit.

 

I'm a teacher.  I teach, or attempt to teach, teenagers.  As I wander around the classroom attempting to motivate the unmotivated.   The metaphor I often use is that homework is just like a pizza, and the only way to eat it is one bite at a time.  You just have to start.  You can't look at the entirety of the project.  You just have to start, and before you realize it an entire pizza is in your belly.  I realize, the metaphor is simplistic but it's purposefully simplistic.  I don't want to hear all the reasons why they aren't working, I just want them to start.  Now as an adult, the stakes in high school English class appear incredibly low.    It's easy to forget the drama surrounding life as a teenager.  It's easy to forget that to them, this is their life, even though they, hopefully, have many years to come. But perhaps how you handled the issue of homework then, may impact how you motivate yourself now.  How do you get started when it involves the rest of your life?  How do you get started when you've already been stabbed by disappointment and rejection and you've got the scars and PTSD to prove it?

 

Well, I think the homework analogy works perfectly and here's why.  In my career as a teacher, I've met two kinds of students who have trouble getting started - the perfectionists and the "I-Don't-Careists".  The perfectionists are the ones you think you may want on your team.  Their strengths include being hard working, and detailed orientated.  The downfall comes when it has to be "just right."  Perhaps they need to feel the inspiration of free flowing creativity, and we all know how elusive creativity can be.  She comes and goes as she's pleases.  The perfectionist may also want all the facts and figures before getting started.  He may be too fearful to get it wrong, he wants to do everything he can do to do it right.  (I will admit the pizza metaphor isn't the best fit for perfectionists as many people with eating disorders are known to be perfectionists.)   I am a recovering perfectionist (who also had the obligatory highschool eating disorder.)  The trouble is I would never say that I was trying to be perfect, but rather just good enough.   I have been told I ask too many questions.  I enjoy questions because they help me connect the dots.  I guess the trouble comes when the questions try to control uncertainty, which isn't possible.  Perfectionist don't like uncertainty.  

 

The I-Don't-Careists.  They are the kids in the room who just don't even try.  They give up before getting started.  They are the ones I have to tell to put away their phones, and get started.  Perhaps they are hidden geniuses and that when they get home they will have the work done in a matter of minutes, but more often than not, they just simply (as their name suggests) do not care.  It's not that important to them, but does everything have to be important for us to put effort into it? Or perhaps the uncaring is just a mask to hide how much they really do care and are struggling.  Again, it's the uncertainty of working hard on something and then still failing.  So they choose the certainty of not caring.   

 

So what do you do?  Life only gets more difficult, and lot more confusing.  How do you get started when the stakes appear so high and the disappointment feels incredibly true? This is where I am right now in my life.  I'm on a precipice.  I'm leaping into the unknown, and I'm struggling with how to begin.  It's easy to busy myself with busy work, like organizing my paper clips, it can appear to be useful, but really leads no where.  Or to busy myself with a job that has nothing to do with what I truly want my life to look like. The satisfaction of paying my rent, and buying those shoes I want, stifles any longing for more. So do I stand at the edge, look into the foggy unknown and ask myself a billion questions in order to get this jump right?  Or do give up?  Sit down on the ground, ignore the precipice, pull out my phone and pretend that I have more important things to do with my time.  

 

Now, there's a third group in the classroom. They are the ones who just try.   They may be academically gifted, or perhaps they struggle with learning difficulties, more often than not, they are just average students, but ultimately it doesn't matter because they just get to it.  They don't feel the need to get it right or certain.  They embrace the uncertainty of the situation, and it doesn't paralyze them into thinking through a ton of "what if scenarios" nor do they automatically discount themselves or even the assignment.  They leap.  They try.  They do.  

 

Now this is the part I dread.  The ending.  I don't want to tell you what to do.  I'm torn between loathing tidy little endings, yet being drawn to them.  I can't even say, "Hey this all worked out for me, so just leap, try and do!"  Nope, I am in the middle of the trying and doing.  I've leaped, stumbled, and now I'm currently dragging my body into an upright position. The only thing I can say is that I really do feel alive.  Life isn't about getting it right, even though every ounce of my inner perfectionist yearns for the A+ stamp of approval.  Life isn't about not caring how it turns out, my dirty little secret is that I am terrified what other's will think of me if I try and fail.   I feel like a messy, stumbling, ridiculous fool, and I'm hoping to inspire other stumbling fools to make lives that are messy, and ridiculous.  So I ask this question, with all sincerity, what really is the alternative?  (see, told you I love my questions). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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