Looking back over my childhood days, I can easily recount the days I felt less than. I remember when I made a fool of myself at the primary school quiz, I remember when my exam grades disappointed. I remember the fear waiting to do the free section of the ballet exam, and trying not to cry the first time they tried to put mascara on my eyelashes as part of my stage make up. The negatives are imprinted on my brain in sharp relief and I can relay the stories and the context around most of them. And at that, we may shrug and agree that we all have that in common.
In later years, I stood in front of a class, many classes, of numerous students, walking entities of hope and cynicism finding their unique balance. And in front of them, I realised what the negative brain etchings meant. I knew what I would not tolerate but I didn’t know what I would celebrate. I knew what I would close down but I had no idea how to lift up. Maybe I do myself a disservice but it certainly felt that way. And it took years to retrain my brain to do otherwise with ease.
Forward again, and I grew more mindful of what I am like day to day, not just in the classroom but beyond. And as I started looking, eyes wide open, I realised that I treated my entire life as a classroom. I realised that I was great at quietly trying to dissipate behaviour that I didn’t appreciate but never revelling in that which I loved. I realised that I would pull energy from anything that didn’t suit me, but had little idea on how to celebrate the good. Not necessarily a big deal until you consider that your loves and friendships are defined by what you don’t like, your connections affirmed by others knowing what not to do. Even more terrifying was the prospect that my students would have heard more positivity from me than my nearest and dearest, who would only quietly hear what they did ‘wrong’.
Today and every day, I do my best to do something which is still sadly not second nature. I try to voice my appreciation in word and in gesture, to acknowledge the little and the big things they bring to me. I am learning, and whilst I learn, I have to trust that it sounds as genuine and as heart-felt as it really is. It’s not about effusing or waxing lyrical. It’s about saying the things you say about that person to everyone else, to the person themselves. It’s about balancing the nitpicking with the affection so that they understand their self value and value to you. I no longer want to assume that people know who they are to me and why, there’s enough noise out there to drown out any assumptions. No, today and every day, I want them know I see them from a place of love, quietly but openly, gently but firmly affirming that you are all of import.