I believe that who we are today is a reflection of our past, of everything that has happened in our lives and the impact those moments had on us. At the same time, with each passing year, I become more aware of this influence. This allows me to have better control of how past experiences affect my future decisions.
It’s weird when you finally notice you’re maturing. You find yourself in familiar situations, but you react differently than you used to. One of the things that irritated me most at work was the lack of consistency and planning: for example, when the school asked me to prepare a certain activity with my students, there were not many instructions for how to do so. I had to do what I believed was correct and hope it was to the boss’s liking. My anxiety ran high–I wanted everything to be perfect, but along the way my anxiety spiked, no one answered my questions, and in the end, I never got any feedback to see if my lesson was in line with their desires. Today, as soon as I get the news of any work project, I still ask a few clarifying questions to make sure I’m going in the right direction, but my worry about being perfect has passed. I found that I would never have certain answers because the person responsible for answering them did not even have the information.
Another interesting point is, for me, to observe the behaviors of certain people around you that you used to relate to and realize that today, they no longer correspond with who I am–not only that, I judge the other person’s attitude much less and I hope that with time, they also realize that maybe it’s not the best response to the situation. I don’t like to read self-help books often, but I started reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (I’m not done yet, because the book’s purpose is to put into practice what is taught) and it awakened me to the fact that every person has their own trajectory and it is necessary to respect each individual for their actions. More than that, however, it is necessary to focus on my life and what really concerns me as an individual so that I can be a better person for myself rather than trying to assess whether someone else has acted correctly or not.
Focusing on me
As weird as it seems, turning my attention inwards towards myself was one of the most selfless things I’ve ever done. I remember that when I was a child, every time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I hardly ever gave the same answer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and my interests kept changing over the years. When it came time to apply for college, I wasn’t sure what major to choose. I knew I wanted something in the humanities (at the very least), but otherwise, it was a shot in the dark. I passed the entrance exam and since I started college as soon as I finished high school, there was no time to reflect on my decision.
I wanted my parents to be proud of me, I wanted people to respect me for my profession. In the end, that’s how I settled on majoring in literature. Newly graduated with a small child to raise, I didn’t have time for things that were really important. I needed a job, I needed to be responsible; I had to learn how to be a mother.
Living in Brazil, I worked at three schools at the same time. Some days, I had classes in three straight periods; on weekends, I had lessons to prepare, texts to correct and a child to take care of. I’ll be honest: if it wasn’t for the support of my family, I would never have found myself where I am geographically, financially, or psychologically. What little free time I basically spent sleeping. Today, I have a much smaller workload, my son is fourteen years old and the type of attention he needs is completely different, and I have enough time to read, observe, listen, reflect, plan and learn.
Focusing on myself was the start of being able to value the voices of others. Recognizing my priorities and my desires without wanting to please anyone else is not so simple when you think about it, and along the way, I realized that just as I get frustrated with others because they don’t share my priorities or standards, others are also disappointed because I don’t understand what is plain for them.
The secret to being so proud of turning thirty-five while being single, a teacher, and a mother begins with allowing myself to make mistakes. I have been wrong as a mother, I have been wrong as a teacher and I have been wrong in all my relationships and, of course, I will be wrong in the future, but it is necessary to make mistakes.
In addition to making mistakes, you need to have time to reflect on what didn’t work and allow yourself to be blamed for it and not just point fingers. You have to force yourself to think of different solutions to problems that have been around us for years. Maybe they won’t be permanent solutions, maybe they will lead to yet another disappointment, but it is necessary to appreciate the steps you’ve taken towards what you believe in.
Above all, allow yourself to be at ease with who you are. There will always be someone to give you flattery and even more to tell you how much you need to improve, but at the end of the day (or any other time of day), when looking at yourself in the mirror, you need to value yourself. You need to recognize all the effort you’ve put in, how much you’ve been trying, and how much you’ve managed to progress in what you’ve dreamed of.
Proofreader/Translator Evelyn Jamila