Sometimes I just wake up uninspired. I might not have slept well the night before. I might have had a weird conversation in which I felt misunderstood, underappreciated. Often I’m just overwhelmed with a million different things pulling on my minutes and hours, things that even though I know aren’t my priority just have to be done. And sometimes, perhaps the weirdest times, I just can’t put my finger on the why. I just know that today I’m not going to reinvent, reimagine, or think big picture, because all of my band width is stuck with sludging through the muck of the everyday.
Interestingly, in schools, such states of mind are often contagious. And they spin up in relation to particular times in the school year. When I taught college, I could guarantee that both faculty and students would reach a boiling point of stress right before all major breaks: Fall Break, Thanksgiving Break, and of course, final exam season. These were not the times of momentum, of big picture thinking, experimentation. These were the times of survival. For all of us.
Type A self that I am, I used to try to resist the pull back to boring, grounded, “put one foot in front of the other” mentality. I felt huge amounts of guilt for not “doing things to the very very best of my ability” 24/7. I might have planned on submitting five publications by November, but I only got out one! I might have planned on doing an incredible community partnership with a school, but it totally flopped. I thought goal-setting with concrete, time-bound tasks might save me from these perceived times of regression. It did not. I thought surrounding myself with other positive, heroic types might save me. But more often than not, they too were pulled into the slog.
But now as I peer into middle age, I feel quite differently. Namely, I rest assured that states of mind, styles of productivity, priorities, and levels of enthusiasm change. Or, as good old Ecclesiastes reminds us: “to everything there is a season . . . .” And I’ve begun to identify the times of year and the times of day and even the days of each week that are most likely to fuel a creative, thoughtful spark. Even more than this, I am beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that my seasons of relative “boring survival mode” actually help generate my seasons of big picture reinvention. After all, if slow and steady wins the race, who is to say that my moments of creative inspiration and risky innovation represent my best hour? What inspiration might be growing, unobtrusive and unnoticed, under the surface of the every day?
So no matter what season you find yourself in, ultra inspired or totally exhausted, know that the only thing that is certain is that this too shall pass. You might find yourself a week or a month or two months from now in an entirely different work and energy flow. Learn to appreciate the season you are in, and to milk it for all that its worth. And, perhaps even wiser, try to deliberately infuse a spark of balance into whichever season you are in. If you find yourself caught up with mundane planning for final exams and study guides, take a moment to remind yourself of the big picture goals you had when you first started this semester; then make a small tweak in your culminating assessment that will better measure that larger vision. And next Fall, when we could potentially feel all sorts of momentum and energy, we all would do well to remember this particular late November state of mind in order to build in a dose of reality into our year’s plans.
Oh and one more thing: you are educating tomorrow’s leaders. You are magical wranglers of adolescents navigating a very tricky world. You are content area experts and you are pedagogical unicorns that make what is arguably the best school in our state, the best school in our state. By virtue of showing up and doing what you do, whether it is study guide day or a lesson plan so impressive that marketing folks want to take pictures and post them on the website, you are inspiring. And by coming back and trying to do a better job the next day, you are innovating.
In this season of gratitude, I am thankful for this.