Dear students: This is my parting and final lesson for you.
From Surviving to Thriving Through Life’s Storms
Having passed through the halls of our schools you are all well on your way to fulfilling your destiny. You were not ready for this lesson back in our time together nor was I ready to deliver it. A good teacher's’ lessons are always carefully seasoned with a combination of life experience and content knowledge.
I would feel remiss if I did not give you perhaps the most relevant lesson I have imparted to date. I hope this message finds you via your most frequented social media platforms or perhaps by word of mouth. Either way, life has a funny way of giving us what we need exactly when we need it. Among all life’s uncertainties one thing you can be certain of is this; there will be storms and you will get caught in at least one of them. Are you equipped to survive a storm?
Three important steps to surviving and thriving your storm:
- Always take the Low road. The low road is symbolized by; perseverance, patience, and restraint. Do not engage in the mudslinging and drama that are the essence of today’s world of media. I have taught you in broadcasting class that both reporters and media journalists are responsible to air all stories with the greatest of objectivity. And that this requires balanced and fair reporting. And that gathering all the facts is critical in fair reporting. I stand behind this but I must inform you it is no longer fully adhered to by today’s media professionals. In the quest to sell papers and attract viewers guarding the civic rights of an individual and extending the basic respect and honor due any human being has become optional. What is front and foremost is creating drama you know the kind that sells, the kind that commands viewership or goes viral on social media. We live in a culture addicted to reality TV whose viewers crave the opportunity to watch someone else’s life unravel on the public screen.
- Be responsible to preserve the dignity, respect, and honor due all people. Don’t allow profit, a win at any cost attitude, or viewership to become your driving force.
- Bad things sometimes happen to good people. You are a good person. There is no guarantee in life that you will not be violated in one way or another.
- Maintain self-control (restraint) No matter the conclusion of the “Court of Public Opinion” walk with your head held high and hold your tongue. Adversity is the best test of one’s true character. However, this may not be about character if it were you would not be here. It turns out the stellar reputation you may have built or honors you have garnered over the years don’t count in your defense. Organizations seek to minimizing risk and protect themselves over the individual. Nothing personal just protecting the status quo or minimizing perceived risk. Actually, that is perhaps why you are here. You dared to stand out. You dared to leave the realm of the status quo. Good for you! Just know that comes at a price. There could be many reasons for these personal attacks on you; jealous colleagues or just plain evil acts by mentally unstable individuals. Don’t allow this to rock your solid foundation. Hold fast (persevere). The facts will be skewed even omitted and you may be dragged endlessly through the mud. Remember drama is what sells. Lean on your friends and family. This when you find out who your real friends are. What others think does not matter in the end. It never did you just may not have understood that before now. Keep your family close. They love you very much.
- Vengeance is a dangerous path. The quickest way to zap your energy and cloud your thinking is to get off track thinking about getting even. It will harden your heart and you will become bitter.
- Forgiveness is a cure. For an added challenge forgive your transgressors. You will find the act of forgiveness very liberating and healing to your soul. In your heart thank them for lessons learned and don’t write them off as hopeless human beings. Everyone can change for better. Focus and conserve your positive energy to rebuilding a vision for your new future.
- Take care of yourself. In any storm there is always a quick way out. I won’t elaborate it will be obvious to you at the time. I hope you choose life. You are much stronger than you think. Recommit to living a rich life it’s the best revenge. And when you choose life, and I encourage you to, you will need to do these three things:
Nourish your body. It is common to lose weight as feelings of anxiety, despair, and defeat envelop you like a dark thick cloud. Eat better than you ever have in your life. Don’t self-medicate with unhealthy remedies such as alcohol or non-prescribed drugs. They will only pull you further down the tunnel of despair. Go to the gym and start working out with a group. It is a good time to have the support of people who are not familiar with your situation. Volunteer in your community. Get outside and hike, walk, or bike. Become grounded in nature. It is a positive way to manage anxiety.
Seek the help of a good therapist. You may already have one. A lot of folks do in light of the everyday increasing pressures of our demanding culture. Your therapist will help you manage your anxiety. Talk, cry, be angry. This is a safe place to let it out. You will be on an emotional roller coaster for longer than you anticipate. Just when you think you are okay the next day seems to consume you with another wave of negative emotions. Remember you will heal. There is light at the end of what may seem like an endless tunnel.
Feed your soul. If you already are a person of faith, then lean into your faith. Start attending gatherings, services, or meditation if this will work for you. Seek to understand the truths, rely on a higher power, and reflect on your journey. You will find you are not alone. Don’t be afraid of being alone. It can be an insightful time of learning more about yourself, the world around you, and the higher power that created it all. You may feel as though you dropped into a big black hole cut off from the world. That is scary at first. Calm yourself knowing this is meant to be, in a cosmic realm, and for good reason. It is in this stillness the universe speaks to you and you begin to hear so listen. Be still. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything you are going through someone has already gone through before you. Be anxious for nothing but in all things have hope(patience). Being present means giving attention to your every breathe, the smell of the air, the sounds of the world around you, and the beating of your heart. Feel all these things.
Yes, there will be a test but not by me. You are not subject to my tests ever again. Life will continue to test you and make opportunity for you to deepen your wisdom, strengthen your resiliency, and to increase your capacity to love. I am no longer the one to judge your academic standing. I don’t hold you in judgment I never did. As your teacher and now your colleague in life I accept you with all that is you and continue to hold the highest hopes that you will reach your full potential and walk a happy and blessed journey. Know that I am always here for you.
See you on the next mountain top,
2013 Vermont Teacher of the Year
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi