‘Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself’.
This quote sits on my desk. A more appropriate fortune cookie wisdom I have never found.
Not simply appropriate because I am a teacher who’s philosophy has always been to help the student realise their own potential, but because, as always and ever a student of life, I too often need courage to walk through doors, to not simply realise my own potential, but actualise it.
Perhaps because we find ourselves at the end of the year, a time of transition and reflection both between the one had and the one that could be, thoughts of potential hang heavy in the air at the moment. In recent weeks I’ve sat opposite a dear friend whilst she shed tears over dinner, unsure as to why she constantly did the same thing when ‘same’ wasn’t bringing her closer to what she truly wanted; and more recently, with a friend on my balcony, whose eyebrows were furrowed, deep in thought when similar matters of potential were mentioned.
Marrying these conversations with the philosophies a school I have recently been employed by, as well as the driftings of my own mind as I sat crying at the news of Nelson Mandela’s passing (thinking about his life and what he reflected on in his inaugural speech about fear and potential), I wonder why recognising and realising our own potential is sometimes such an arduous life task?
I would suggest ours here in Australia is due to our longstanding cultural cringe and that any pride we might exhibit in ourselves is seen as ‘show ponying’, ‘big noting oneself’ and ‘embarrassing’, not just for the big noter but those around them. As a result we shy away from putting our hand up, stepping forward and proclaiming ‘pick me first’, ‘I can do it’, ‘I want’ or ‘look what I can do’.
Though yes of course there are people who are egocentric and difficult to be around (these people and their behaviour often a direct result of deep insecurities), I for one only ever feel a sense of pride for any of my students and any of my friends or family who stand in their element, who say ‘look what I can do’. It’s moving, exciting, inspiring and JOYOUS. Proclaiming ‘look what I can do’ in my mind therefore isn’t embarrassing, it’s awesome. I want to see what people can do and enjoy a state of breathlessness, a ‘how did they do that?!’, a feeling nothing short of a state of love when I bare witness to an open and expansive soul. And rather than be overwhelmed by my own insecurities, thoughts of ‘why can’t IIIIII do that? What have IIIII got to offer?’ when I see it, grab hold of the feelings of inspiration I equally have and get out there and do.
And so, with three days until 2014 I am wonder-ing:
What do I know I need to challenge of myself still? What have I not yet done that I so desperately desire to do? What are the things that place me in my element, cultivate my potential and how can I ensure I invite more of these activities in my daily life?
To answer these questions is easier than you might think. Part of it is looking back at the you that you were when you were a child, for the dreams you had as a child I don’t think change that much.
I remember for instance looking at Cyndi Lauper and her orange hair and torn newspaper ra ra skirt with wide eyed-wondermeant. I remember rescuing drowning Christmas beetles from the pool and, whilst trying to teach them a better flight path, thinking how I could help other creatures learn useful facts. I also remember painting and drawing and writing for hours both in solitude and in the quiet company of others; and dancing (and dancing and dancing) and standing up on stage for the first time and thinking ‘YES’ …and in all activities feeling as close to a something I-know-not-what as possible.
Taking a moment to reflect and look back at what you have done is equally as useful therefore in this regard. It’s probably a lot more than you realise on your dark, pre new years eve days.
Reflecting on these desires I had as a child yes, but also looking over my resume recently I’ve been reminded of my adventures thus far. I’ve been on stage and on television as an actress and dancer, I’ve taught joyously, written for personal and professional pleasure, and in my personal life resume? I’ve had every hair color under the sun.
The dissatisfaction still looms however and that’s because I know that there’s a hell of a lot I still haven’t done and want to do. But I think that that should be the case. Life should be a constant opening up, a constant revelation. We must therefore keep asking ourselves what our wants and desires are, and whether they are the same or have changed completely, keep making choices that excite us, feed our curiosity and wonder and put us in our element.
Wonder. Meant …that perhaps the meaning of life is not just to simply ‘live it’, to play it out, but to realise it’s, and therefore our, greatest potential.
If we only have one life, best not to waste it huh ; – )
Happy New year