My Initial Want of Approval

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“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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Get Out of My Own Way

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In the dimly lit Midtown bar, she excitedly talks about one of her favorite rappers, Blu. Never heard of him.

Here is a quick bio: talented LA rapper, named Rookie of the Year 2007 by HipHopDX, named Top Ten Freshman of 2009 by XXL Magazine. With such laudable recognition from reputable sources, why is Blu not a household name or at least a name that has made a noticeable bleep onto my hip hop radar?

My friend, a music insider, giggles and rhetorically asks her, “Why won’t Blu let himself be great?” The female fan, puzzled yet ready to defend her musical homeboy, questions his comment. “What do you mean?” she utters inquisitively. My friend goes on to state a laundry list of missed opportunities, recalling Blu’s “random disappearance” before potentially star-forming shows at the South x Southwest venue in Austin and the legendary SOBs in New York’s West Village. Each time, he recalls, Blu was “found” at a random lady friend’s house, claiming that he “didn’t feel like performing that night.”

Wait, what?

I, like Blu’s ardent supporter, am baffled that Blu, a talented rapper and producer, would seemingly sabotage his pending success. His fan shakes her head, and then recounts being disappointed when she saw him perform live because “he didn’t want it.

A few days later, my friend sends me links about a recent show in San Francisco where an audience member called Blu out on his weak performance, highlighted by his forgetting of lyrics and his obvious inebriated state.

Why won’t Blu let himself be great? I thought while scanning the various websites filled with negative and disappointed reviews of Blu’s recent shows.

I started to think about my own missed opportunities to be “great,” often sabotaged or tampered by no one other than myself. I, like Blue and I assume many others, block success. In other words, I get in own way.

Hard work beats talent, when talent does not work hard is the recurring phrase played in my mind as I type.

I guess the real question I need to ponder is:

Why won’t I let myself be great?