My Initial Want of Approval


“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.


An Email and a Well

I am not ready to become a better me, I think to myself as I walk past the book, resting on the coffee table, for the umpteenth time. At least twice a day I cross the book’s stationary path, when I head to my bedroom and when I leave my apartment. So the number of times I have this thought is significantly higher than the word, umpteenth, implies. Truthfully, I must have had that thought for an ‘umpmillionth’ time. Finally, one weekend, when my life was in complete shambles, I decided to crack open the cover, and read what lay behind the smiling pastor’s picture. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain at that point. Desperation enables action.

I’m a fast reader, but it took me a while to read the book. Normally, I process a book’s deeper message while reading. With this book, I read, paused, processed, processed some more, then continued to read. Each page became filled with annotations, resembling Joel Osteen’s manuscript after a visit with an editor.

Words were circled.
Important lines were underlined.
Questions, affirmations, and comments were written in the margins.
Tears were shed.

Last night Early this morning, I received an email that ‘effed’ up my mood, completing extinguishing the high I had after a long, productive day. After reading it, I did not want to do anything else. I simply wanted to crawl into the hotel’s bed and sleep, with the flawed expectation that I would escape, ignore, or at least delay my emotional reaction to its presence. The hours completing REM cycles would be buffers, protecting me from those hurtful words and their intentional desire to trample and stomp all over my sensitive and fragile esteem. In other words, I sought a false solace in the bed, cowering from a bully.

In the book, there is a section that discusses relationships. He suggests that one should not allow others to throw stones in your happiness well. When one does, one’s well becomes drier because of the presence of the additional rocks, which build up and eventually dry out the well. I have very little knowledge of or experience with wells. Yet, I interpret this analogy to signify that one is in control of one’s happiness.

After one REM cycle, roughly three hours, I woke up with this troubling email still on my heart, already draining my energy needed for another marathon day. I strongly considered going back to sleep to run, hide, and ignore. Then my synapses snapped to the message of the well, the book, and the promise I made years ago to protect my well. I positioned my body upright and said a silent prayer. Then I reached for my ipad and accompanying keyboard and began to write, a safe and true solace.