My Initial Want of Approval

lannister

“Jugglers and singers require applause.” -Lord Lannister

Aside from my growing obsession with the intriguing characters and tantalizing story lines, I thoroughly enjoy the thought-provoking comments littered throughout the hit HBO series, Games of Thrones. The above quote was disgustedly uttered by a father towards his son, who wanted some recognition for his bravery on the battlefield. And at that moment, I felt connected to the son. There are times when I want to be recognized for the often thankless hard work that I do. There are times when I want to feel appreciated by those closest to me. But, I caught myself, while in this empathetic lull, and shifted my attention to the father’s words. Lord Lannister, though cruel, was absolutely correct. There are those professions in which applause is mandatory (editor’s note: all teachers can attest that our profession is definitely not one of them), and countless others in which recognition is scarce (editor’s note: just nod along fellow teachers). And then I started to think about why I, like Tyrion, lust after appreciation and recognition, especially from those closest to me.

It is linked to my fear of failure and, more acutely, my feeling of inadequacy and/or feeling wayward. The hallowed approval of those close to me falsely signals that I am adequate, that I am doing the right thing, that I am somehow how on the right path by pleasing them.

But then I caught myself again from falling down this self-loathing, dependent on others for my joy free-for-all that I sometimes masochistically endure, and reminded myself of one of my life sayings, “Don’t judge me.” Often when people hear the phrase, they think that I am repelling potential negative criticism. But most fail to realize that praise is the prettier side of judgement. In other words, criticism and praise are two sides of the same coin, aptly named judgement.

So when I say “don’t judge me,” not only am I telling the other person not to flip their coin and share their sentiments based on which side lies upward, but, more importantly, I am reminding myself that I do not care about their coin; I do not need their recognition or approval. Instead, the saying reminds me to find solace in my own decision and continue to work tirelessly because I am not doing this work or making those decisions for the applause. Nope. I am doing the work so that my students’ lives will be filled with opportunities so that they can make their own choices, which will craft their life narrative. I am making personal decisions because I want to make them!

Thanks Game of Thrones for another moment, in which I was able to dig a little deeper into my character by watching the drama unfold between fictional characters.

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Elevator Buttons and Judging Others


“Hold the elevator, please,” a woman shouts across the lobby. I hear her footsteps quicken.

Unable to see who it is making the request, I respond, “No reason to run; I got it,” leisurely extending my arm into the elevator’s doorway, preventing the door from closing.

“Thank you,” she lightly pants.

Her.

If I knew it was her, I would have pressed the “close doors” button with no problem, no hesitation. (Editor’s note: Don’t judge me.)

She lives on the second floor, and I see her most mornings on my way to work. She always has this soured look on her face. Always. In the mornings, she pushes both the up and down buttons to signal the elevator; she often rides up a few floors and then back down, stopping once again on her floor, before she actually reaches the lobby. Such a circuitous route to get to the ground floor can be frustrating; yet, she continually pushes both buttons. Her fault.

Along with her sadden look, she is borderline rude; I say “Good morning” to her each time I see her, and she does not respond, not even a grunted response or a head nod to acknowledge that she heard me. Nothing. For a while, I stopped saying anything, but after a few silent, awkward rides together, I returned to saying “Good morning” with continued futility. Strangely, if there is someone else in the elevator, she would make small talk with them, but never with me.

Needless to say, when I see her my attitude changes; I can feel my body tense up.

“Isn’t today a beautiful day?” I casually throw out into the shared space.

“I hate the weekends,” she begins.

Thankfully, she lives on the second floor, I think to myself.

“I don’t like the weekends because I have nothing to do anymore.” There is a slight pause, which causes me to look at her in her eyes.

She turns her head to face me, both eyes locked onto mine.

“Since my husband died last month, I’ve been lonely. And on the weekend, there is just too much free time. Normally, we would be all over the city.” She talks with her hands, and her brief, playful gesture of being “all over the city” demonstrates the fun that she no longer has, but wants.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I respond, offering my condolences as fleeting solace for the immense pain that she must feel on a daily basis with the prominent absence of her beloved husband.

Ding.

The sound of the elevator alerts us that we have reached the second floor, breaking our oddly intimate time as once “beefing” neighbors. I was convinced she hated me or, if I am being truthful with myself, I disliked her. But now…

“Thank you,” she musters, walking through the doorway.

With my friends, I playfully say, “Don’t judge me,” when I say something that may evoke their judgment as I did earlier in this post.

This seemingly ordinary elevator reinforced that I need follow my own command.