Category Archives: Work

To Know What We Want

On a Friday evening, I met up with an ex-colleague. And we talked about the usual things. And among the things we spoke about, I realised one thing.

Knowing what you want to do with your life is a great privilege.

It’s so easy to assume that everyone knows what they’d want to do with their life. Who wouldn’t know what they want?

But the truth is that it’s much easier to know what we want at the material level than at a deeper level. It’s easier to decide what kind of movies we want to watch, which brands of clothing and bags we like, than to know what moves you, motivates you, and inspires you. And to have the circumstances to realise our aspirations are even more rare.

So today, I am thankful for the simple fact that I know what I want to do with my life (for now), and that I am equipped to live closely aligned enough to those aspirations.

Perfection will never be permanent, and maybe all we will ever have are glimpses of it. But knowing where we are in proximity makes all the difference.

What’s Your Grief?

It was a staff training workshop. The social worker conducting introduced the topic as “Relating to parents of children with special needs”. She spoke about the grief process, and correlated that to the grief which parents of special needs children experience too, as they deal with the loss of the “ideal”, “normal” child, and have to cope with a special child instead.

One of the activities we were asked to participate in is to come to terms with an aspect of the grief or loss in our lives, to use that as a stepping stone to which we can empathise and relate with the parents. We were each given a small piece of clay to work with.

“What does your grief look like?” We were asked, after the lights were dimmed and we were asked to close our eyes to sink into a reflective mood.

I spent the first few minutes of this trying to think of a time of grief and loss in my life. Yes, we lost my grandfather a few years back, but that was not grief. Maybe… the lost of a friendship? But… I think I had gotten over that pretty concretely too.

And then it came to me: What about the loss of Self?

That thought immediately opened the floodgates of memory, to all the times I had to purposely lose my authentic self because I felt she was not good enough, all the times I felt that the self within had to be pushed into a closet and not shown to the world. All the times I had reprimanded that self and asked why can’t you be better, why can’t you be more “normal”?

And while some losses are experienced once, there are also losses that fall into the recurring category. And I think the loss of self is one of them. Recurring on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day.

Every morning, especially on work days, I intentionally lose a part of Self. The part that I might not be too confident about. The part that I feel the world might not accept. The part that is deemed “not as useful” in the “real world”. For practical purposes, I lose my Self.

And I don’t think I’ve ever grieved over it, though from the thought processes then I think I would really like to and it also felt like I needed to.

By this time, the clay in my hands had become a little box.

Probably the box I put my self in whenever I feel that she’s not needed in the world. When she needs to make way for the masks, the little wayangs, the occasional show of extroversion.

And somehow, holding that box in my hand, giving a form and structure to my loss, did help. At the very least, it got the thoughts going.

“Now, mould your clay to represent how you might cope, or have coped, with your loss or grief.”

It didn’t take me too long to follow that one.

The box emerged with wings at its sides.

For her to take flight. Maybe she hasn’t really dared to come out yet. But when she does, hopefully she’ll see the wings there, ready and waiting for her to take and use them, and she’ll soar high above, unafraid of the world seeing her for who she really is.

Maybe. One day.

Remember

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The world can impose, force, and project all the voices it wants, but as long as we remember what we want to do, remember why we have chosen what we want to do, and continue doing what we believe in doing…

It will work out.

So far, I think I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people who remind and encourage me to remember my focus, who at times even remind me of what the focus is. And I’m thankful for the reminders to stay on track.

“it’s about the work” – OBAMA.

Last Day of School

About 2 weeks ago, school ended for the kids (teachers still have to go to work), and the year-end holidays began. With that also marked my last official day as a mainstream school teacher.

 

What followed was a good, quiet afternoon of coffee and reflection. Reading over the sweet notes from the girls. Thinking about how I would be embracing a new identity, a new profession. Thinking about how I can move on to embrace all the feelings I feel – the anticipation, the excitement, the fear, and the nervousness.

 

 

Everything is so imperfect. As it should be.

#RealLessons

“Cher, why did you give me a B?!” The student spouted in a somewhat accusatory tone.

“R”, I started in my most patient tone, knowing he didn’t take well to confrontations and challenges. “I didn’t GIVE you that B. You GOT a B. It’s what you earned for yourself.” I ended with a tiny knowing smile at him, just to show that I wasn’t really chiding, but reminding him of the truth he already knows.

My statement seemed to surprise him a little – I could tell from his loss of words, which doesn’t happen very often. He then gave a slightly sheepish smile. I knew he had been aiming for an A, and it was understandable that the B had left him disappointed.

More than learning where he had lost valuable marks, I also hope he learnt the value of taking responsibility for his effort and actions, and the importance of accepting disappointment in life, without blaming them all on others or on external circumstances.

#reallessons

“Don’t Steal My Dust!”

One of the inevitable side effects of teaching music in a classroom is that sometimes, the classroom instruments become more than that – they become weapons of childish acts of revenge, objects to tease with, objects which can be used to get attention.

After a particular trifle between 2 groups in which Boomwhackers were hurled through the air, I got them to stay back after class to Talk.

Long story short – after rounds of blame-pushing and fact-crosschecking, the culprits finally owned up to their actions and agreed to accept the consequences.

Still feeling angsty over their misbehaviour, I then curtly told them to make it quick and to make sure I can see how much dust they have each cleaned from the room.ย The 2 boys picked up the brooms and started sweeping earnestly. After a while, 2 small mounds of dust accumulatedย  on the floor. Boy1, after sweeping his mound into the dustpan, went over to Boy2’s mound and attempted to do the same. Boy2 became startled. “Hey!! Don’t steal my dust!!”

That he would be so protective over a mound of dust tickled me to no end.

Almost at once, I felt the irritation and angst over their earlier misbehavior dissipate, and I saw them for what they simply are: Young boys who are growing up. With hormones and all.

I allowed myself to crack a half-smile (even though I really wanted to burst into laughter), and told them there was lots more dust under the teacher’s table and under the stacks of chairs. It became almost like a game, with them trying to show me how much dust they could each collect.

I went back to the staffroom and shared the dusty story with a colleague, and we had a good laugh over it.

Self care for the day, done!