When I was eighteen, I got pregnant during my first semester of college. I was nine hours away from home, with a long distance boyfriend, at a college that I longed to attend. I didn't fit in in my home town, and my heart had taken me to the mountains of North Carolina to a progressive college, but I'd have to return home again to have this baby.
The pregnancy and all that it entailed will be chronicled in other places at other times. This is the story of going back to school.
I was pregnant October of my freshman year of college through July of my nineteenth year. She was born July 22, and I was back in school three weeks later (maybe two) at the beginning of August, my first born child adopted into another, older, more responsible, established family.
The formula, simply put, was to go back to school, succeed, make something of myself, make money, find a man, get a job, buy a house, and THEN I could be a mother again.
That belief system took up residence in me like only a trauma reaction can. It became the absolute belief of my entire system. Everything, and I mean everything, became about success, in order so that one day I might be able to be a mother again. In the back of my mind existed a formula for acceptance, motherhood, and success that I didn't really question. I was given this formula, as most of us are. I didn't yet know to question it.
The rhetoric and belief system of "not enough" is incredibly damaging. And, it's the belief system that is sadly underpinning most of our educational systems, and systems for perceived success, in our culture. We are a culture deficient of personal worth, and we focus much of our perceived value on the external circumstances of our lives - our job, education, the facts we know and can speak to, how much money we earn, what car we drive, how much monetary wealth we have accumulated.
We're enforcing the wrong narrative, the wrong formula of success. Pause for a moment and just begin to feel into how this has played out in your life.
I worked, feverishly, in education for fifteen years, making a career of doing education differently. I wanted to connect to the hearts and souls of each child, first studying emotional & behavioral differences in Special Education and then broadening my approach to school-wide character and mindfulness initiatives. How do we raise the WHOLE child? How do we instill a sense of purpose and wonder inside of children? How do we allow them to feel and deeply know that they are so much more than their grades or their achievement in just that realm?
Eventually, I had to break free, which I still have unrest about, as so much is needed inside of education. But eventually, my own integrity was in question when I had realized, deeply, that it wasn't the education that I cared about anymore, and perhaps it never had been - I wanted to work to nourish the human soul. A school principal that has lost her light for academics is just not the best school principal. I hope to still serve education in authentic ways, as I'm invited and called to do.
But this isn't a blog post about what education is not.
Rather, I simply seek to tell a story, share reflections of a woman in process, a woman with deep concerns about what is lost when we focus on achievement.
That's an answer I don't even actually have, but I know that the loss of my own sense of Self, my own Soul, through this rhetoric of "not enough," through the conditioning that the answers were outside of myself, has been something I've been recovering from since it began.
Since before I even knew how unhealthy it was, something inside of me struggled to find my own worth and value in a system that demanded effort while it assumed my inadequacy.
In the way we raise children now, in other words, we raise them to believe that the answers are outside of themselves. We have, most all of us, been raised this way. It is no one's "fault" - it is the common assumption and patterning and that's what's not working for anyone anymore.
I could go on, but I suppose blogs are supposed to be shorter.
I'll say this. This is what is really on my heart.
My daughter, my first born - she went to college this past weekend. Since her freshman year of high school, I've been hearing her family speak of the importance of honors classes and what to major in in college. It's an open adoption, and so while I don't know her family well, I get glimpses. They are wonderful parents, deeply fine people. It is the generalized societal pressure, the assumption of this success formula, that I take issue with, and not against her parents at all, but for the whole of our children. Does my daughter know how inherently wonderful she is, how knowing, how worthy, regardless of achievement? I don't know.
I do know that I'm more ready than ever to have these conversations. Young women are coming to me as clients, right after graduating college, saying "My anxiety is off the chain, and I know that this is not who I am meant to be, nor can I continue this way." Listen to how powerful that is - the voices of these women waking up.
I am a mother, having both believed the damaging inadequacy rhetoric myself, having worked inside this system while I myself efforted like hell to achieve inside of it, only to find that it is false. I never would find in the external world what was all along internal. This truth that nothing is inherently lacking. We are each inherently whole, inherently worthy, inherently knowing.
Of course, to eliminate education altogether is not likely the answer. I have a son who starts fourth grade tomorrow. He attends a public charter where I was a school administrator a few years ago. I support it. Aspects could be better, but they do a lot really well and better than most.
I want children to know who they are. I want us to question the formula for success, laid out before us in this assumptive "this is how you make something of yourself" rhetoric that leaves so many feeling empty. We have too-high rates of anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide, which I believe would absolutely all decrease if our systems also were built to tether us to something unquestionable. Something robust and profound. Something unflinchingly true and meaningful.