Knowing that “we’re doing our best at any given moment”- and yet we want to do better. We want to be better, to be perfect, basically. At the same time, we are afraid of perfection- because once you achieve it for a minute, or a day, or a month, you begin holding yourself to an immaculate standard all the time.
Why not relax?
Why not praise ourselves for good choices, and forgive mistakes?
This relaxed, flexible, confident approach to progress is the only approach that leads to actual progress. The other approach leads to shame… and to more failure.
After I began cutting myself some slack- as I would others- I became happier. I began achieving my goals.
I’m speaking in front of crowds of people. I’m acting, teaching, making a fool of myself for everyone to see. I’m being pushed to all my uncomfortable limits… and I’m loving every bit of it.
I only experience true joy when I am challenging myself, surprising myself, and becoming proud of myself. I only experience true joy when I see my joy spread to other people, when I know they have received some benefit from my efforts.
Why is this? I think it’s because I love life more when I give to other peiple, even if it’s hard at times. I think I receive more when I give more. Not in a victimized way, not anymore. I’m giving because deep down I actually want to- not because the act is expected from me. I’m exhausted and I’m happy. It’s all worth it.
Maybe some days my effort feels wasted or ignored or ineffective. But those days when I put everything I have out on the table, the days when I hold no part of me back, reaching as far as I can reach, I lean back and admire what I have done, and what others have done because I extended all of myself.
I think my mind is supposed to be shared. My ideas, my love- what use are they if I keep them hidden from veiw? They have the potential to be a drop of red dye in a glass of water- dye that instantly spreads and is absorbed by the surrounding matter. That matter is the mind of each one of my students. And that dye is every thought I’ve ever had, capable of innundating the minds of others, and capable of so much more than I can predict.
I’m learning- absorbing everything new and different, slightly disturbing, awesome, scary…Every day I am reminded that we can have beautiful moments with people without speaking, without knowing each others language. We can look in someone’s eyes and see them smiling, without needing to hear the words that describe their happiness. Every day I am once again blown away by the similarities among people all over the world. I may not know how to speak to you, but we both know what a smile means.
We both know what tears mean. We both know what embarrassment feels like. We both feel sadness at times. Both feel excited when good fortune arises, when we receive something we’ve wanted for a long time. We both feel. We may react to stimuli differently, but we both react. Feelings, emotions run through every body whether that body is in the United States or in China or in Italy or wherever. And within those emotions we find common ground, we find connection. Not always within language.
Words can only do so much. But what if I don’t want you to talk to me, what if all I really want is a hug. What if all I want is a smile, a hand to hold, a person to dance with? What if I want the comfort of your presence, or reassurance through facial expressions? Can you give that to me through words? Every day I am motivated by the answer to that question. I will build a connection with my students, because I know that connection is built upon so much more than language.
I’m tempted to say that Taiwanese students are shy. But shy is an understatement. I feel like there is no word in the English language to describe their overall behavior, behavior that seems to be instilled in them from the moment they open their eyes as a baby. They demonstrate a shyness that is not just indicative of an awkward teenage phase. This trait is bred not just in students but in the entire culture. Adults, kids, teenagers…everyone, with the exception of a few people who we would describe as confident but docile in the U.S.
In the classroom I do whatever I can to help the students feel comfortable talking, but a lot of times I’m left feeling frustrated an confused. The feeling of “talking to a brick wall” comes to mind. But I know they are just scared. I keep having to remind myself that they aren’t used to talking back to the teacher; education in Taiwan seems to promote teachers lecturing the students, while the students sit there and listen, mute. They have been taught to respect- and fear- the teacher. And not to talk back. So how do I make them un-learn these tendencies?? It’s not going to happen.
All I can do is try to get them to see me as a friend- a friend who knows English and plays games with them.
This is Maui. Obviously beautiful. But is there anything more beautiful than seeing my mom smile? Anything more beautiful than instilling optimism, not just in another person, but in ourselves?
Is there anything more beautiful than someone saying “hello” to us as we pass by, never to see that part of nature again? Or more amazing than showing acceptance for someone whose beliefs are not parallel with own own? Anything more meaningful than acting reasonably and purposefully when we are tempted to resign? How bout is there anything more satisfying than a complete indifference to towards all things that are not in our control?
Everything is beautiful if I’m capable of seeing it as so. This mind-set will not be given to me, though. It requires self-discipline.