#BlogElul 4: Choose

(for the Jewish month of Elul, which happens to coincide pretty perfectly with the month of September this year, I’m going to try to blog once a day about one of the themes for the month to prepare for the upcoming Yamim Nora’im or High Holy Days. I will most likely blog in the evenings, so it will technically already be the next day in the Hebrew calendar, but I’m really going to try to keep up with this! you can pop on over to originator Rabbi Phyllis Sommer’s blog for more details about this project.)

I’m trying to get caught on posts at the moment—I have thought about the right word on the right day but struggled to get my thoughts down on paper (or screen, in this case). yet the delay meant that I got the opportunity to have an experience this morning that helped me figure out what I wanted to say about choosing, so perhaps I just need to be patient with myself.

towards the end of last week, just before the new school year started, I was given a brand new class that I got to pick—some junior Spanish-speaking students needed an elective and, since I’m fluent and I had them in class as froshies, we figured it’d be a good fit. I made our assistant principal read me the name of every available elective course and then immediately chose “Latin American Literature” when he read it, surprising both of us since I usually waffle so much before choosing. when I told my work wife about the incident, she was not surprised. “you don’t struggle to choose when it’s about something that matters to you,” she said. “you’re always assertive when it comes to doing what’s best for the kids.”

while I agreed with my work wife’s assessment, I didn’t think that it applied, since I thought I’d chosen the class I wanted to teach. however, last night a coworker sent me an interesting text message: I think it will be so important for them… they literally have all male teachers and it’s so important for them to see women, especially someone who looks and sounds like them. I carried her words with me this morning and entered that class with a smile and made a point of checking in with each of them to learn more about what they’ve been up to since I last had them in class. I was blown away by how sweet and communicative they are were, by how much they’ve grown since they were my students two years ago—and by how excited they were to go on this journey with me. “my mom’s going to be excited about me learning about books in Spanish,” one of them shared. another pointed out that she doesn’t actually read very well in Spanish but she’s willing to try in our room because she’s with people she knows.

which brings me back to this idea of choosing. our lives are made up of an immense number of choices, from seemingly inconsequential to earth-shattering, so every choice we make is an opportunity to affect the course of our lives. (or to spin off into a new universe, if we’re gonna go with a multiverse approach.) there are so many things in our lives that we cannot choose—and yes, being happy is one of those things when you have a mood disorder!—but for the things that we can choose, I think it makes sense to try and be more conscientious of the choices we’re making and the consequences that they can have.

this is why I am looking to be more intentional about the choices I make—especially when it comes to my interactions with people. like, last week I had a frankly heartbreaking conversation with an adult that damaged our relationship permanently on a personal level… but I am choosing to put that aside and, while I accept that there will be distance between us, I am hoping to move forward and continue collaborating. I am choosing to reply to kids pushing boundaries with kindness and understanding, even when they are exasperating. I am choosing to set aside my differences with my mom and talk to her more often because I don’t want to look back and have regrets about the way that I approached our relationship. and, since I’ve been doing better at being kinder to myself? I’m choosing to encourage the people around me to do the same when it comes to themselves.

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