Holidays

Snooze the alarm.
Make coffee from the drip machine.
Wait for Korean drama to load on Dramafire.
Open documents folder.
Go back to Dramafire.
Open PowerPoint and Word documents.
Go back to Dramafire.
Play with other tabs on the Internet.
Create a new document for a worksheet.
Go back to Dramafire.
Use the toilet.
Order in lunch.
Pretend to pack up a small part of the house.
Go back to Dramafire.
Fiddle with PowerPoint.
Have lunch.
Take a nap.
Channel surf on TV.
Tell myself that there is still tomorrow.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Finding Inspiration

That is the most uninspiring title for someone desperate for some inspiration. In previous years, I have spent Novembers crafting schemes of work, designing potential learning programmes, reimagining lessons and translating those visions into lesson materials for the upcoming year. Novembers would be a period of evaluation, preparation, reflection and creativity. But this November feels like a stalled vehicle with an engine that does little more than sputter and cough.

I spent a large part of November 2014 coming to terms with the emotions wracked up from a number of events that happened this year. I lost a friendship that still leaves me bewildered and embarrassed. I deleted her from my Facebook and Instagram accounts and left all mutual group chats so I need not have to deal with the constant reminder of what we lost. I struggle to accept my deployment for next year with joy, feeling indignation and jealousy toward some colleagues, and at the same time, trying to remind myself to give thanks to God for His providence (James 1:17). I struggle to get down to work – I have lost considerable momentum and inspiration in preparing for the coming year. I stare and stare at the schemes of work or at the resources and feel… nothing.

No idea comes to mind to make it better, or more accessible, or more relevant. No motivation comes either, and I am left sitting in front of my laptop, feeling shriveled and terribly uninspired and bored.

Hence the urge to find inspiration through WordPress. If I look back at 2011 to 2014 and ask myself what drove me these four years, what would I say?

Students who enjoy learning
When they start to pick up confidence in themselves and believe that they can achieve their personal goals, they start to enjoy the process of learning… and in turn, they inspire you.

Being a part of their growing up
Students grow and mature in a variety of ways, and one of the best parts of the job is to simply be a part of their life when it happens. To watch a student participate in a competition, rise to occasion, and win, is gold. To watch them grow in ability and confidence, is pure bliss.

Being thanked for being a part
Sometimes the student turns back and thank you, and most of the other times, the student does not. Nonetheless, you experience joy on both occasions – and you wish for them to succeed over and over again, even if they do not recognise you or thank you for it.

When a programme works
At other times, I also feel happy when a learning programme is implemented and is proven to work – either it reaps visible results that pleases others, or it receives outstandingly great feedback from teachers and students, or students enjoy it so much they ask about it again, or your team of colleagues believe in the project so much they want to do it again, and better.

These are the things that drive me. When I work this holiday, it has to contribute to at least one of the four things that drives me.

But as humans we do wear out and get tired, and I think we need a higher purpose to sustain us in the long run. Colossians 3: 23 and 24 says:

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

This principle, although familiar, is different from the rhetoric that we are so used to. The world tells us that we ought to add fuel to what drives us – our goals, our ambitions, our emotions – and these should be in essence, good virtuous things. But this drive is personal, and therefore has to be narrow-mindedly conceived.

On the contrary, the Bible tells us that our goals should not merely be what would give us pleasure. Perhaps one day, I may be called to do something with all my heart, even if it does not interest me. Perhaps one day, I may be called to do what I have personally never dreamed of doing. Instead, we are asked to work at everything with all my heart because we are working – we are living – for the Lord. The last thing we want is to serve ourselves based on our very narrow-minded goals. Our God is omniscient, I think that truth alone is sufficient to convince me to trust in the Lord and His plans for me. (Psalm 3: 5,6)

Coming back to this issue of being inspired, I think what I lack is not inspiration for work, but inspiration to work. And this ill, can only be treated by the spiritual intimacy to bring me back to Christ.

May our hearts be soothed.

What Gives Life

With the advent of the holiday season, someone on Facebook suggesting listing down 10 things that we most enjoy, things that make us who we are, that make us feel alive. Those, I guess, are the things we need to hold on to and if there were ever something to get ourselves lost in, these would be it. Here’s my list.

  1. Being among children
  2. Watching movies (Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, The Hunger Games: MockingJay Part 1, The Hobbit … the holiday repertoire of movies is mindblowing!)
  3. Music (k-boxing, Michael Buble, One Republic, The Corrs)
  4. Writing (anything from blogging to typing emails to actual writing)
  5. “Me” time and wide, open spaces
  6. Honest conversations with good friends
  7. Making artsy stuff for friends (putting that Paper Market collection to good use!)
  8. Thrilling experiences (roller coasters and things like that)
  9. Being with my kids at school (surprisingly.)
  10. Poetry (<3)

I wonder how this would change say, in the next five, ten, fifteen years. :)

Sick

Two days ago I woke up feeling an indescribable pang of ache in my left leg and lower back. After doing some slow stretches to try relief the pain, I made myself go to work anyway, only to find myself wincing in pain as I sat on the hard chair waiting for the four hour long meeting to come to an end. I did not feel right, and my body was finding all sorts of ways to convince me that I need to take care of my health!

The doctor said I was suffering from a lower back sprain, with the pain nestled deep within the fats in my bums, that there was nothing I could do about it except wait for it to subside in one or two weeks, that I need to start doing exercises to strength my core muscles, that I just have to maintain the right posture and wait it out.

Ouch.

It is time to look out for my body a little more than my tastebuds or emotions.

Demons In My Heart

This afternoon was another hard battle with the nasty thoughts and feelings of angst and pain from a lost friendship. I feel that her hatred or stubbornness towards me was not only costing the department efficiency, it was also compromising on the quality of students’ learning and my professional outlook. Today I found out that she had shared information on reading programmes with other teachers in the department, but had conveniently left me out. I had a good mind to confront her about everything that has happened, but as I picked up my phone to craft a message, my fears of rejection and anger towards her got the better of me. Once again, that urge to deal with this conflict face to face subsided and is temporarily cast aside. I have to admit, when things happen that remind me of the nasty aftertaste our friendship has withered into, I need to get into my car, drive off and let it all out – sometimes as if I am talking to her, other times as if I am talking to someone else.

I think I have learnt that friendship is hardly ever a constant, and sometimes, relationships can turn sour, even the most unexpected ones. These demons have been plaguing my mind and my heart for weeks, and I really do not know to expel them from within me, if that is even possible. I realised what disgusts me at this point is not the bitterness that we have harboured between us, but the uncertainty of what is to come. I need to know if she expects or foresees a reconciliation. If that is not on the menu, I will then learn to adapt and work around it. What is driving me nuts right now, is not knowing how she is feeling, or what she is thinking. Today she walked past my cubicle, and in her eyes I saw an impenetrable glassiness, maybe even a sense of iciness that she had set up, perhaps to guard herself from wearing her emotions on her sleeves. All my remaining resolve to re-establish contact and speak to her personally melted away in desperation and pain.

This is not the only thing that is creating an unfathomable and unpleasant stir in my heart. As our managers iron out the intricate details of our roles and responsibilities in 2015, I realised a slipping in and out of contentment and discontentment. A good friend of mine  attributed it to seeing how everyone else seemed to be “more in control” than I was. They were assigned the classes they had hoped for and the coordinatorship roles they had requested for. On the other hand, my dreams were crushed when I found out about some of my assigned duties, and that not everything had developed according to what I had in mind for myself.

I was upset – more than I probably needed to be – that my colleague requested for a duty I was given. My role has a coordinator was that simply taken away. There were practical reasons for my colleague to have made that request, but I took offense that she had done so at a meeting in front of all of us, leaving little room for private negotiation or discussion. I took offense that she had earlier asked that I put in a request that she be given the role instead. I took offense that she was inexperienced and yet demanded so much – I questioned how ready she was and whether or not she truly knew what was at stake. I was upset that when our shared concern to refine the Lower Secondary syllabus and assessment gave way to a stronger more balanced curriculum, she seemed to forget that we had pushed for it together. I know for sure that she has reasons to be proud of herself for she had accomplished much. But for what she asked for and was given, I felt she had taken away.

I don’t think I have ever experienced jealousy in the workplace quite so pungently before. Perhaps there never was direct competition.

But I need to pause and reflect again. When writing the previous entry, “Learning to Let Go” – you would see a blank entry right now, which is testament to God teaching me to let go (similar to the title), even when a wonky connection meant that I lost an entire personal entry – I had promised myself never to forget the goodness and grace of God in my life. I had promised myself to learn to let go and let God because there simply isn’t any other way to go toward joy and peace and a victorious life.

Since putting that entry together, James 1:17 keeps coming to mind:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I had prayed and committed my career and my life into God’s hands. I had trusted Him that whatever role and responsibility I was assigned next year, God would teach me to humbly receive and then to humbly give back. No matter how trying that seemed to be, I could trust that God would give me the courage and strength to accept in joy, the good and perfect gift from above.

This soup of unhappiness and discontent and angst that have been stirring in my heart is a concoction of disgruntle and bitterness. I had expected myself to be playing particular roles, to take on particular responsibilities, to be stretched and groomed in particular ways, and when the opposite of that happened, I became upset and found it hard to swallow. Especially when everyone else around me seemed to be happy with their lot. It is easy to be jealous of another’s lot, I realised.

But when I reconfigure my mind and look at my assigned duties and teaching classes as a privilege, a calling, a chance to learn how to serve… and last but not least, as a gift from God – I don’t think anyone can complain.

My soiled friendships may have cost me some opportunities, but I know that when resources are inadequate, God’s strength is made perfect and His resources are abundant. If there are other challenges that may pose problems along the way, I need to be prayerful and proactive in seeking out a new way.

My goal for next year, is to be 1) More proactive – in voicing out problems, suggestions, and making possible things happen. As well as, 2) Be nice. Say what builds up, not what tears down.

I need to trust that even if the workplace politics are cut-throat selfish and competitive, in His own time and way, God will make me.