I miss the wander of my words, skipping about with no particular direction other than the flow of my curiosity. I miss forgetting you are there, that my blog is nothing more than secrets written down on the page and accidentally, the covers of my diary are fallen open, under my bed. I miss my innocence and now when I watch my children, lovely and delicious they, I wonder if it’s too late for me. Is it too late? Is it too late to go back to that carefree world when I didn’t know, when I wasn’t tired of looking, when life was still a romantic quest?
I’ve been spending a lot of time alone. As a result, I’ve begun to re-evaluate my sense of purpose and well-being. What I want, don’t want— that sort of thing. I’ve always considered myself a self-directed person, engaged enough to keep my engine going, even while running on empty. My tendency is to read to fill up time. I research for pleasure, as you know, education is a never ending riddle. I look for opportunities and I exercise. Yet, these last few weeks have been different. I’ve taken pause. I’ve been sitting for longer periods of time doing nothing. Instead of burying my head in a book, I look around. I walk slower and drive slower. I do a little small talk, but not much, but more than usual. With a parent in the school yard, a stranger on line, that sort of thing. I’m outside, again. Outside of normal life.
As a result, I’ve begun to unravel.
And I’ve started dreaming more.
Things have begun moving around and so I’ve decided to take some stuff and put them in boxes. I’ve got a lot of clutter but I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all of my time cleaning and organizing. I feel like there’s something greater I need to put my energy to, like— I don’t know. Something bigger, that’s all.
I’ve been feeling like I don’t want to be a rat in this city. If you pick your head up long enough, you’ll begin to see how much human beings are robotized in New York City. Of course, this could be what I observe in the subway and we all know that the subway is in itself a wayward soul, but the truth remains—you have to be thick to live here. And a little crazy. I just feel that it’s easy to get lost and lose a sense of purpose when you’re a rat in the city.
What is my purpose and why is it so important? Are some people lucky enough to have a strong sense of purpose while others spend a lifetime looking for one? Is it something to have and hold, static like a possession or is it changing and organic and open to a total remodeling?
I’ve always been curious about the nature of purpose because purpose is the drive behind agency and agency is what makes human beings do amazing things in a lifetime. I’ve been working on a book that has a lot to say about purpose and agency: having it, losing it, nurturing it, teaching it. It is in actuality one of the most fundamental themes of our existence.
Purpose is what gives us the courage and the patience to go from day to day. Purpose is what pushes us to make long term investments in a project or in other people. It also embodies every important topic that is meaningful for us as human beings but especially for educators.
I am reminded of the time when I sat with three students after school. Each of them had a learning disability that I knew very little about. I was just getting to know them. In fact, I was amazed at how every time we had a conversation, I realized just how much I didn’t know about them, how they perceived the world and how they processed information. Every interaction was peeling away a layer. It was a tutoring session and we were discussing the weekly vocabulary words. I was also trying to explain what nouns were, specifically abstract nouns like the noun: love. One of the girls asked me to explain the word ‘abstract’ and I found myself fumbling over my words like a clown. Generally speaking, I’m pretty articulate so the experience of trying to explain the concept of abstract to eleven year olds was disarming and revealing. We laughed a lot, as you can imagine.
On my way home that evening I thought about the complexity of language and how difficult it is to teach with the right amount of care and attention to nuance. I also realized how much power I had over the minds of those children. I had been given the important task of framing the world with words. Whose vision of the world would I share? Our conversation about nouns was riddled with choice and I could teach them mechanically or I could teach them with the magic of a heightened awareness.
What I want to point out is how difficult it is to talk about purpose because it is an abstraction. It is a social and personal construct and we as unique individuals, can fill the word with meaning using a variety of different life tones and depending on how we experience it at an intimate level. Nonetheless, I wonder if we can come to some sort of agreement about the nature of purpose?
What is purpose? And why is it important to consider if you are an educator? Can you share your thoughts?