Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Coming To Terms

It was the most difficult period of my personal life and for the first time sadness started to consume me. Was I sad in the past? Yes but I was always able to reframe things and see the positive - maybe not right away but eventually. But this sadness didn't just last a few minutes or hours... it lasted for days... in fact, it lasted for months. 

Those six months changed me forever. Those six months felt like a lifetime. Those six months were some of the darkest in my life. I was struggling internally with my emotions and feelings and I was unable to verbalize the struggle to anyone. I didn't want people to judge me. I didn't want people to be disappointed in me. I didn't want people to feel angry with me. I was so consumed with what others would think that I started to withdraw because it seemed easier to just deal with it alone.

Eating was difficult on a daily basis; being around people was painful sometimes; sitting alone in silence was deafening and would stress me out; and anticipating what people would say or think raised my level of anxiety to a place I had never experienced before. It was such an incredibly stressful time but I tried hard each day to put a smile on my face and step into my world. I acted as if everything were "normal," even though I knew that nothing would ever be the same moving forward.

I guess it came down to expectations. Expectations I had of myself and the expectations I thought the people around me had of me too. From my perspective it seemed that I filled certain roles in my personal and professional world and I felt compelled to try and keep everything the same. I wanted my family to think everything was fine and that my world was stable because that is who I was in our family. I tried to be the positive and supportive person at school because that is who our staff was accustomed to dealing with each day. I tried to be the happy and light hearted principal because that is what our students needed and expected. I tried to maintain normalcy even though I could barely define it.

What people didn't know at the time was that I was coming to terms with my sexuality and it was an incredibly challenging and difficult journey. I was going through that alone. I needed to figure it out alone because I needed to understand myself before I could share myself with the world. Was I really wired any differently? No. Was my personality going to go through some drastic change? No. But, I did realize that I am gay and that although my sexual orientation would not define me, it would, on some levels, redefine my world.   

After coming to terms with my sexuality and having a better sense of self, I was starting to see the light at end of the tunnel. I started to shake the sadness that hung over me for months. I started to understand that my happiness was just that - mine; mine to find; mine to define; mine to celebrate; mine to share; and mine to cherish. Thanks to some much needed therapy, I was finally ready to share my story with the people in my world who mattered most - my family, my friends and the people who I respected. 

In the end, everyone who mattered was incredibly supportive and understanding. They listened to my journey and offered love, support and encouragement. The people who mattered and cared about me did not judge me - they just wrapped me up in their love and helped me see that things were going to be ok. 

I don't know why I thought the end result would be any different (I should never underestimate those around me) but I realized that going through the initial part of the journey alone, where sadness and anxiety became the norm, was a necessary part of the process for me. I needed to come to terms with myself before I could share my story with those around me. I needed to define my own happiness and emotional well being before I sought support from those around me. 

Those six months were the most difficult time of my life. Coming to terms with my reality was not an easy journey but it was the most important one of my life. Does sadness still enter my world? Yes. Have I experienced challenges and difficult situations that make me anxious (it is happening right now as I write this post)? Yes. Is life all sunshine and rainbows? No. But, I feel emotionally healthy for the first time in a long time and because of that, I know that I am a better me. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tale Of Two Conferences

It was the hottest of times... it was the coolest of times (thanks to the air conditioning); it was the busiest of times... it was the quietest of times (thanks to the end of the school year); it was the most connected of times... it was the most disconnected of times! Over a three day period at the end of June I had the opportunity to experience two amazing conferences - Model Schools in Atlanta and ISTE in Philly. The experiences were vastly different yet the end result was quite similar... I had social interactions with people that resonated with me on a personal level and will potentially impact my professional practices moving forward.

In some basic ways these conferences could not be more different... one was full of connected educators while the other featured very few connected educators... one featured a heavy focus on technology while the other featured some technology but by no means did it have a strong presence... but in the most important way, these conferences were exactly the same because they were both filled with thousands of educators who were giving up their "free" time during the summer to enhance their craft in the hopes of meeting the needs of children (at least that was my goal). 

With that being said, the experiences were incredibly different for me but equally as important for my personal and professional development (I see the two as interconnected and intertwined). While I was in Atlanta at the Model Schools conference, the conversations were mostly focused on professional practices and pedagogy where the majority of the people I was connecting with were new to me - they weren't part of my PLN and I had never been to Model Schools before. I have to say that I LOVED every minute of it because it helped push my thinking in the professional realm and it gave me a space to discuss the things that I am most passionate about as it relates to leadership, learning and teaching. It was awesome and there was something liberating about being in a space where most people didn't know me and thus didn't necessarily "expect" anything of me.  

That all changed when I got to Philly. You see, ISTE was full of connected educators and many of them were my friends as a result of being part of my PLN. I was excited but nervous at the same time... would I see everyone I wanted to see? Would I get to meet some of the people I have never met face to face? Would I be able to steal a few quiet moments with a couple of special people? What were people expecting from me if we did have a chance to speak? I was totally stressed about it even though I knew I was going to be seeing dozens of my friends. Well, after presenting on a panel with some of the amazing authors from the Corwin Connected Educators Series, I ended up hanging out in various small groups throughout the day with some great friends. There was food, laughter and some powerful conversations with people I consider some of my dearest friends. The discussions and interactions weren't necessarily about the same types of professional practices that I had the chance to discuss at Model Schools but they were equally as important because they met some personal needs. I was able to talk about balancing life and work; I was able to pick someone's brain about how they manage the whole presenting thing with their real life; and I was able to get a hug from a friend just at the right time. You see, for me, ISTE was filled with the emotional deposits that I needed on a personal level in order to sustain myself and maintain a positive frame of mind at a moment when I was feeling quite overwhelmed. Now, was I able to spend time with everyone I was hoping to see (no #educelebrities in my world - just friends but that is a whole other post)? No. Was I able to meet everyone I hoped to meet? No. But, I was able to engage in those important personal interactions that would be the catalyst for growth in my professional world. I needed ISTE in the worst way but not because I was going to learn about the newest tech tool or website but because I needed to be surrounded by friends who could relate to my professional world but could appreciate me on a personal level at the same time. 

My experiences at ISTE were the perfect compliment to my time at Model Schools because the personal and professional development happened almost simultaneously (the Perfect Storm if you will) and when I came back home to NY, I was ready to tackle both my professional and personal challenges. You see, based on my experiences and research, professional development doesn't happen in isolation and it is very much dependent or connected to personal development and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by educators who helped me develop in both areas and that was my tale of two conferences!