Yesterday afternoon, I sat on a blue and teal seat, facing forward (although facing backward doesn’t bother me) on the Long Island Railroad. I was Manhattan-bound to see one of my spiritual advisors, psychic medium Calise Simone. On my journey, I read from The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene’ Brown. This is the book we’ll be discussing at book club at the end of this month. If you’re local, you should join us.
Somewhere between the Merrick and Freeport stops, I read this passage. Then I re-read it, highlighted it and wished my Kindle had a print feature. Taking a picture of the screen would have to suffice. Dr. Brown writes:
Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feeling of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.
There it is, in a block quotation—me, before Rescue rescued me. The years of feeling directionless, of feeling purposeless in a career that felt like I was squeezing my foot into a shoe two sizes too small. The annoyance and resentment that manifested as anger, as buckets of tears because I felt stifled, like those walls were somehow crushing my insides. The moments of disappointment in myself for playing small, for holding back to fit in with the rest of them. The days on end where I slept, masking depression.
What I was doing every day, the same stuff I was told I would be doing for 30 or so years, just didn’t feel like enough for me. I felt empty because the system does not allow me to use or grow my gifts. I felt frustrated and resentful because I was told, down to the literal shoes I was wearing, how I should best try to conform with the system and the rest of them. I was disappointed in myself for squashing the little girl with big dreams, afraid that this was it for me forever and grieving the contributions I wasn’t going to make to the world.
Tears are coming now, but they aren’t sad tears. I am no longer squandering my gifts. I’m still in the same career but I rock it differently. Don’t worry—I teach to the state standards, but I’m unafraid now to season the work heavily with texts and activities that will foster confidence and empowerment in my students. I take the time, when appropriate, to have purposeful conversations, to address their world and their experience, rather than just stay on the curriculum schedule for that prescriptive schedule’s sake. I teach people.
At school, I lead young people to find their joy. In Rescue, I work alongside incredible volunteers to protect and care for those who need it. In my wellness business, I coach people to live their healthiest, happiest, safest lives. I am no longer squandering my gifts!
I don’t just have to be a teacher and like it. I can flourish, in multiple areas. I spent so many years holding that back, playing small. Thank you, Dr. Brene’ Brown and your colleagues whom I study, for putting on paper what I’ve been feeling since I was a little Denise, walking around the house with a notebook, a pen and big dreams. Thank you for affirming in black and white that my struggles were very real and that I absolutely must cultivate my gifts. Much love.