Little You

Rainbows and dinosaurs. Snowstorms and recess and ice cream parties. Saturday morning cartoons and pizza for lunch and staying up late and no homework. Hide and seek and playing chutes and ladders and swinging until the sunset and walking on the fall leaves just to hear those crunchy sounds.

Little things. All of these were little things you used to love, search for, crave, and absolutely wait for to happen. These were the things that you loved – all the things that brought you anywhere from one smile of satisfaction to tons of laughter for your tummy, sometimes even more.

Little You was so simple. Little You just wanted to be happy, and happiness was evoked in the simplicity of these things.

Fast forward twenty or so years. Here you are, an “adult” who has finally come of age to bypass any rule of a curfew and can spend money to buy ice cream whenever desired. You can google a picture of a rainbow in a split second and pizza for lunch is just the cheap option close to work. You dread staying up late because you are always so tired, and homework is just work that you take home – or the home you create at work because you never leave work. Chutes and ladders is now in the form of figuring out which staircases have faster moving people in the subway, and snowstorms mean your commute will take twice as long. The last time you saw a dinosaur was on a meme, recess means going to the gym to work on your body. Unswept leaves are in your way as you shuffle on in the streets, and the sunset? Well, what sunset? You didn’t see it today, yesterday, or the last year.

Suddenly, Big You can do all the things that Little You loved to do, at any moment. But instead, every moment of those once desired things is much more depressing than you would like for any of them to be.

Now, why is that? Why is it that as we grow older, the things we loved as kids suddenly become ordinary things that we take for granted?

Simply put, we discover other things. Somewhere along our life paths, whether it is through education, the media, or the people we are surrounded with, we become limited by the scope of “important” reality without any room for imagination. We discover the “importance” of money, status, practicality and adhering to the status quo. Suddenly, happiness is measured by these new terms, and we give no regard to the simple things that we grew up loving. All adults are guilty of this. ALL.

So then I ask, would Little You be proud of Big You? Big You knows that it is practically impossible to live without working, without thinking about the bills, without making important connections, without making the bosses happy. Big You knows that supporting yourself, let alone your family, is much more difficult than previously imagined, and Big You is doing everything you can to make it happen and still have a social life. Big You is also willing to sacrifice a lot for that social life.

Little You WANTS to be proud of Big You. Big You reasons that everything you do in life is so that you can survive. But Little You survived too – without thinking about all these things. What kept Little You going?

DREAMS. Little You had dreams of growing up and being the best YOU possible. Little You could not wait to be Big You to achieve all these childhood goals, and also to tiptoe onto the rascal side every once in a while. Little You wanted to help the world, to change it for the better, to give your friends clouds in the skies that looked like them so you could all be cloud friends. Little You wrote handwritten apology letters when things went wrong. Little You got mad when you weren’t picked by the teacher, but Little You was told that sharing was important and became the bigger person by sharing the toy with your classmate – or your little brother. Little You loved birthday balloons, and Little You loved getting older because each plus one meant one year closer to making your dreams real.

Think about your childhood dreams. Are you living them? Are you being the best Big You possible? If Little You met Big You today, would both of them rejoice in the success of your life as it continues?

Don’t dismiss those “silly thoughts” Little You may have had. Little You was innocent and may have believed that the raindrops were always racing down the car window, but these were the thoughts that Little You had that made you happy. Little You believed in You – both Little You and Big You. 

Little Me wrote some life advice for future me in the autograph book I rediscovered tonight. She reminded me to “never give up, never” and that “u can do it!” (because using “u” instead of “you” was/is the coolest thing).

Little Me had dreams and knew what was best for future me. She still does today.

Childhood

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The Power of Music

Some “amazing” (I like to think they’re amazing anyway) things happened in my music classroom this week. During the Adele Dazeem climb in Let It Go, one of my quiet, sweet Kindergarteners broke out into full Idina mode and sang the solo “the past is in the past” in the most empowering voice ever. Twice. My Pre-Kindergarteners managed to make their classroom teacher cry happy tears when they sang for her.

But on March 6, 2014, the power of music managed to make my entire class of 2nd graders cry. Together.

I know, I know. Everyone’s initial reaction is “Oh my goodness Alice what the heck did you do to them?!” Trust me, that’s what all my fellow teachers asked me, too. So here’s what happened (I’m also totally gearing up for the How I Met Your Mother finale):

I decided that for the school’s Spring Arts Festival, all my students (aka the whole school) should sing “I Believe I Can Fly” as the final number. Empowering, all about dreaming big, and just a great song and message for everyone. On the board was Aim: What does believe mean? – and I was excited to engage my students in a discussion about what it means to believe something and what it takes to go from believe to ACHIEVE in life.

Kindergarteners and 1st Graders received the song really well, and some of them had heard it before – even better! I was extremely excited to welcome my 2nd Graders into class to really delve deep into the topic of the day. I told them I was about to play a song that some of them may have heard before, and I wanted them to close their eyes and really think about what it meant when R. Kelly sang the word believe.

The song started playing and I closed my eyes as well. But as I took peeks throughout various moments in the song to make sure my kids’ eyes were closed, I started seeing one or two my students cry. When we reached the end of the song, I opened my eyes to see four of my students crying. Immediately I thought, wow, it must have really moved them! I asked in a gentle voice, “would you like to share what this song is making you feel?” I could hardly believe what I was about to hear.

One by one, each of the four students told me stories about how they last heard this song at a relative’s funeral. For one it was a close uncle. For the others, their grandparents. I immediately responded, “it is completely okay to feel this way and let your emotions out like this,” and we started talking about what it meant to lose someone. The room was so quiet but the cries so deafening as I heard my students truly cry out for those they have lost in life. I then started to talk about how music can help us let these emotions out and allow us to express ourselves. I personally shared that I had not met three of my grandparents and how I feel loss and resonate with them. I even said that those who are no longer with us want to see us happy and doing the right thing and enjoying school and life.

But the more I talked about the situation, the more students started crying. I can only imagine that more and more students started identifying with their friends and/or with me and envisioned those they missed in their lives or family members they had never met. In a matter of minutes, my entire class of 2nd graders were crying – some hysterically and some quietly with the kids they sat next to.

I didn’t know what to do. First, I had us all take deep breaths. It didn’t work. Then I had us sing Let It Go to literally try to let go of our burdens and sadness that now weighed so heavily upon all their little shoulders. But my kids were literally inconsolable. I don’t even know if you can really imagine this. A room full of melancholy sobs and sorrowful cries so loud that the classroom down the hall could hear them. It was time for lunch and my kids were in two lines, crying and crying and crying.

But I didn’t stop it. I let it continue. We walked down the stairs and at each landing I would look back at my heavy-hearted, grief-stricken students. We walked into the lunch room with stares from all the other kids in the school wondering what the heck I had just done to this class. They continued to sob on the lunch line, and even after they sat back down with their lunch.

One of the initial 2nd graders who started crying asked me,

“Why did you HAVE to play that song, Miss Alice? Why?!”

“Well, do you think I would have played that song if I knew it was played at your Uncle’s funeral?”

“No…”

“I’m really sorry, A. I never meant to make you upset, just know that it’s okay to feel this way.”

I really didn’t mean to unleash all these emotions. After all, I had no idea this was a popular funeral song!

I took a few moments for myself after I left the lunchroom just walking through the hallways and reflecting on what I had just experienced. In Her, one of the most powerful quotes that really struck me was,

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”

It’s an interesting idea, what this quote says, especially since I often feel that I have already experienced a lot of what music has to offer me personally. But what I experienced proves this quote wrong at an extraordinary level. Never could I imagine that one song could elicit such a reaction from ALL of my students.

What a powerful experience that was. In those moments together with my students, we all felt loss, pain, hurt, so low-spirited. We mourned together, and as crazy the hysterical cries must have been – it brought us closer. We shared those moments together. And it’s because the power of music allowed us to

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I mean, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I did manage to make a fellow teacher cry happy tears because her Pre-K students sang so beautifully for her. But there’s something about the other end of the spectrum of somber crying that is so deep and indescribable when we confront it. The kind that happens at funerals when you’re missing the one who had passed. But this happened in my music classroom. Because we listened to one song. And that one song made us each think of people we missed. People, nonetheless – but different people.

It was much more than just a music lesson. But it was the most powerful kind of music lesson I could have ever imagined. It’s certainly something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

I wonder if my kids will remember it when they grow up.