In my office at school, I have a large print-out, brailled and taped to a bare, beige wall. It reads:
What do I want?
What am I doing?
Is it helping or hurting?
What is my plan?
Originally, I put these statements up to help provide a simple reminder to the students who I see. I want them to know that they have autonomy, that they have control, and that they can work towards their own personal goals, no matter how big or small they may seem. In truth, these statements are not incredibly groundbreaking or unique; most likely, they are taped up on beige walls in many a counselor’s office across the world. But I’ve found that sometimes we need reminders about the simple things to help give us a cadence for the more complicated, challenging things. We can all use a cheat sheet taped to the wall every once in a while.
The students I work with are blind or visually impaired, and often have other disability conditions that can contribute to difficulty in meeting “normal” expectations and goals. Dreaming can be hard when you don’t look like or have the same social-emotional, cognitive, or physical abilities as those around you. Heck, dreaming can be hard even when you do. If there is anything that I’ve learned over the past five years of working with this population, it is that the human whole - the heart, mind, body, and spirit- is capable of so much more than we often know how to discuss, define, or even dream. Every single one of us is a miracle. And yet, almost every single one of us struggles to recognize where we fit in among all of the other miracles in this world.
When I ask my students the simple question of, “What do you want?”, there is almost always a hesitation in their response. Often they don’t know. Or maybe they know, but they don’t want to say. Or, maybe they want to say, but they don’t know how. I don’t blame them. I’m not very good at talking about what I want either. In fact, most of the time I’m pretty terrible at it. I try to talk myself out of my dreams with practical “facts” that are generally designed to temper my anticipation of failure. I know I’m not alone in this. Young or old, the fear of failure does not discriminate.
You may know (or you may not) that I would really like to write a book. LIKE, I REALLY WANT TO WRITE A BOOK. But, writing a book is scary. Things could go wrong. People could hate it. I could run out of things to write about. Or the things I write about could be deemed unimportant. Or stupid. Or ridiculous. And do I even have time to write a book? And how do I get an agent? And what if no one wants to publish it? What if I write about people I love, and the people I love are hurt by what I write? The list goes on and on. So, I don’t write said book. And then I feel lousy, which, of course, only serves to reinforce the obvious conclusion that I am CLEARLY INCAPABLE OF WRITING WORDS AND EVERYONE HATES ME.
And so, it comes as no surprise that yesterday I found myself staring intently at those four questions taped to my wall. I thought about them for a bit, weighed them out for a bit more, and then got to work making a short list of tangible, doable things that I can improve on to help me work towards what I want. It wasn’t monumental, and it wasn’t life-changing, but it was a swift kick in the pants to get moving towards the things that I dream about in the very quietest parts of my day. I’m taking inspiration from my beautiful, messy, miraculous students and not letting my penchant for “practicality” keep me from looking for opportunities to be brave. I may not be writing a book (yet), but I am trying to write more and share more and open myself up to the possibility of what is to come. Yes, it’s scary stuff. But it’s also one of the greatest privileges in the world- to have the freedom to ask yourself what you want and to move towards it with your whole heart, one step at a time. Sometimes, we just have to be reminded.