Silence

I live and breathe my work as a music teacher. It is so important to me, and it is completely okay to me (for now at least) the sheer amount of time I spend planning lessons, tuning instruments and building new ways for my students to access resources. I feel like I’m giving so much of my soul to my job, as most people are at my age, but I want so badly for my kids to be the best that they can be, to develop a love for music as deep as mine.

Never more in my life has silence been more golden at night. So I’m told it’s okay that at the end of a long day, I don’t particularly want to talk to many people. That it’s okay that on my “freer nights” that I just stay in and rest myself out of exhaustion from the work week as opposed to going out to “let loose.” I don’t know when exactly this happened, but a gradual shift to this lifestyle of my own R&R (rest and recovery) brought me to where I am today.
When I do have the energy though, I want to meet up with my friends. I used to think that a friend I could count on was one who I could call up on a Friday night to grab a drink and he/she would be there. Why does it have to always be a drink or a shot? So when instead it’s to grab a cup of tea and chat about life, suddenly where are the friends? Where are the people who enjoy talking about life goals and what their actions are in attempt to achieve them instead of wasting their time frivolously by going to a club to get  “wasted” (pun in the word much)? In fact, why is that how we celebrate birthdays? Why do you want to forget the one day of the year you are mentally ingrained to remember the most? Where are those friends you can count on to talk to when you are feeling frustrated with a job you love so much instead of those who are constantly obsessed with gossiping yet claim not to be talking crap about others? It’s not to say that I’m looking for work-obsessed people who don’t have fun at all, but I want to be spending my time with people whose main focus is not fun but on achieving success in their lives.
On a daily basis I am that anal person who is constantly thinking about my next steps, how to get to point #728264891, and if I’m doing the best I can to get there. I am constantly reevaluating myself and trying to be the best person I can be. But who can I share that with? Insert silence – the lonely kind. I have tried to be there for so many people in the past, but have those people been there for me? Do those people truly know what makes me tick, turn and rejoice? The fact is that most don’t. Instead I feel that I have so many convenient friendships with people who I have just known for a long time, but who I am starting to drift away from because of my own self development and focus on my career and priorities.
So perhaps I should look for some new friends, people who are as driven as I am and who will do everything possible to achieve their dreams. But it’s true what people say about being friends after college; it’s very difficult to meet new people who genuinely want to get to know you, because like a romantic relationship, a friendship takes time, effort and investment, and we want that instant gratification that just doesn’t come. But it also doesn’t mean that I need to just settle for how I feel right now.
I don’t have any particularly clear next steps, except that I will try to make new, true friendships. I want you to think about your own friendships. Are you truly happy with the friends that you have? In the wise words of the honey-loving bear,
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
– Winnie the Pooh (A. A. Milne)

Turn the Corner

In the classroom (and sometimes just somewhere in the school), my kids will come up to me to tattletale, to complain about another’s actions, to defend their actions – and on occasion I’ll get the “You look pretty Ms. Alice!” Drama, the not so forgiving kind, unleashes in the lunchroom and at recess and can really be set off at any time of the day.

Last week, one of my students was bantering with her classmate across my classroom and speaking unkind words (it is the nicest way I can put it); I spoke to her about my disappointment in what she said, and did not allow her to go to recess that day. Her response?

“I hate you Ms. Alice! I never want to come to your class again!”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t take it a little personally. I tried talking to her during lunch to explain to her why what she said to her classmate was NOT okay, but she continued to tell me her hatred for me. It was definitely a downer and made me think a lot about what I did.

The next day came along and she came up to me on her own accord, and spoke something I found so surprising:

“I’m sorry for my language, Ms. Alice.”

She went on to explain how much she liked music class (and me, really!) and how she would do the right thing next time. Little did she know, she did the right thing – right then and there.

 

I preach and live by teaching my kids to apologize if they did something wrong or something that hurt another person’s feelings (even if it was an accident), to confront any problem without hesitation and using peaceful methods, and to solve any issues that may come between friendships. Teaching these values to my students have made me feel that I am now a better person as I try to follow these guidelines for friendships myself.

But what’s fascinating is how many of us, as grownups, do not do this. I will venture to say that we ALL know tackling a problem straightaway (albeit post initial moments of anger) is a better option than sweeping the issues under the rug, yet we all avoid confrontations. We are too afraid to be judged by both strangers and our friends, and we don’t want to cause discomfort or any awkward moments.

I’ll assume that you are considering the discomfort of yourself as well as the unpleasantness that the other party will feel. Here is a solid high five for that thought! But because we are so unwilling to create tension, that one uneasy moment then leads to more thoughts of how the problem was handled and less ideas for some kind of a solution. You believe that the other person is thinking negatively about the situation as well, but due to our non-confrontational manners, this situation will continue to gather dust. Ultimately, this one issue becomes piled onto accumulating dust bunnies, never truly vacuumed for as long as the problem goes publicly disregarded by both people.

As problems continue to arise and confrontations are still lacking, the pile of dust because greater and more intense… until there is no more room for that newest bit of dust and BAM! Welcome to the full blown argument. That last speck was probably so insignificant – something along the lines of your friend forgetting how to use a cassette player. But it was enough to trigger an argument with name calling, sassy tones of distress and endless sentences of anger. 

Here’s where it gets tricky. Sometimes this could be the absolute breaking point at which there is no return. You might never be friends with this person again, and to think it was all because that person did not return your book… or well, you don’t REALLY remember what were all the other tiny pieces to the argument that caused you to be SO livid at first. Maybe you will take a break from your friend, and just semi-apologize when you meet up again after a certain amount of time – but without truly addressing what had happened. 

My idealist solution? Be the bigger person. If you’ve gotten to that ridiculous peak of anger, break down every part of the mountain (assuming you even remember it all) and address all the issues with your friend. Better late than never. I firmly believe that true friends can work it out – or at least would understand where all the tensions had been boiling up.

Unfortunately, most of us let our selfish pride get in our way. We don’t like to admit that we have been wrong, or that we committed any wrong. We don’t want to be in the same sentence as the word “wrong” – not even for a split second. When was the last time you actually talked it out with a friend though? When was the last time that you solved a problem in your friendship by talking about it – not in a passive aggressive tone, but in a “let’s figure this out” way? 

I never thought my student would apologize to me, and it is certainly a testament to the great colleagues I have the privilege of working with instilling the importance of strong minds and kind hearts into their souls. The most surprising part of it for me was my realization that her apologizing to me the next day must have meant that she, on her own, had thought about it – past the moment. And she WANTED to fix things, and keep OUR relationship.

We should learn from her. We all have so much unnecessary drama in our lives that if we just took the time to apologize and work things out, I am certain would not exist. Hardships and vexations will come up, but we need to turn the page – through kindness and words. Imagine what friends we would not have lost, and also think about which relationships we can keep growing and developing in our lives. Turn the corner, and let’s keep going – together.

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Black Corner by Nancy Eckels

Sailing Friendships

Today, my Aim for my kids is

What is a choir?

Now my students sing every time they are in music with me, and they sang together on stage, and it may be a bit late in the year to explain the word “choir,” but my main reason for teaching the word choir NOW? I’m trying to reestablish the importance of teamwork and how it starts with someone as the individual first. Maybe what a lot of people don’t know is that aside from explaining, teaching and preaching music, I try to instill real-life applicable, core values: sharing, working together as a team, supporting one another, helping your friend, and the list goes on – but it all starts with YOU.

I think about my own friends and I wonder sometimes: do we actually work as a team? Friendships are two-sided (or more) but I feel that we all take friendships for granted. We all have the friends we reach out to first when we have some free time to hang out, and then we have the second layer and then the third layer of friends. We have so many Facebook friend lists: “Close Friends,” “College friends,”  “High School Friends,” the “Family friends we don’t really know,” the “Friends who went AWOL,” the “Far Away” friends.

I’ll stick to “Close Friends” list though. I, for example, am always the planner. Yes, I may pride myself on how excellent my plans are (no shame)… but I have literally played the planner role since elementary school birthday parties. For the most part, I would say my close friends just go along with the plan and show up. I almost never get appreciation for planning; I don’t necessarily seek appreciation, but saying a simple “thank you for planning” never hurt anyone.

Going back to my students, I currently MAKE them say “thank you,” apologize to each other when they have done something wrong, communicate with each other and confront any problems which may arise, and listen to as well as explain their own feelings. Hold on, why don’t we do this as adults? So much of “friendship drama” occur from lack of appreciation or apologies, miscommunication, and the unwillingness to compromise or directly problem solve. Here the problem is that I don’t always communicate to my friends my annoyance or frustration. There have been phases where I have refused to plan and therefore my friends either did not meet up, or met up in small groups themselves. So did I always have to plan? DO I always still have to plan?

Perhaps it is partially a refusal to let go of control on my part, but why do we not share responsibilities in making our friendships work? Just like in a romantic relationship, friendships are about the little things too – the “hey I want to plan something this time for our friends,” the “I really appreciate the fact that you always plan,” the “thank you for being my friend.” We should each take responsibilities for making our friendships work, and I think in an ideal world, everyone would take turns playing the different roles of planner, follower, bill calculator, reminder, to name a few. I also know it’s not in everyone’s comfort zone to plan something and have flakers or those nonresponders, but why should we be okay with taking on our roles of comfort in our society? No, it’s not okay to let someone’s energies go wasted and unnoticed. No, it’s not okay to keep ASSUMING someone will just plan and just “oh well” if you don’t see that friend until he or she reaches out to you. I’m speaking on behalf of planners everywhere when I say that I’d like for YOU, my friend, to plan, to initiate, to create, to make something from the simplest cup of tea together to the most extravagant trip abroad. Sure, you may get rejections and not everyone will respond all at once (in fact please let me know if everyone actually DOES respond immediately) and you will have to nag a lot of people, but it’s a process. We, as planners, definitely do not feel supported or cared for when we put so much work into one group brunch and no one cares to show appreciation, let alone if the friends show up late and disregards the time we spent creating that get-together.

I’m asking you to ask yourself:

When did I last plan an event for my friends to hang out? Even if it was just planning a simple dinner?

When did I last truly thank someone for organizing?

When did I last reach out to that friend who has been trying to hang out with me for the longest time but I never make time for?

When did I last show true appreciation for someone?

When did I last make an effort to step up and help a friend?

When did I last consider the time that friend spent looking up activities, figuring out timelines, mapping out itineraries and alerting us of subway problems just to make sure I COULD literally just show up?

When did I last play a different role on my team – my friends?

Something from How I Met Your Mother that really hit me this week:

“You will be shocked, kids, how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever. That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.” – Ted Mosby

I know I talked rather specifically about planning, showing appreciation, and being a part of a team – in this case, your group of friends. But just think about time. The time that it takes someone to plan something, is THEIR time. Their time spent to create shared time. Shared time is precious, and if you want that shared time, you would think like Ted Mosby – and then DO SOMETHING about it. Trust me, your friends – from the planners to the other followers in your group, will appreciate it.

Choir and Chorus are synonyms. Choir has an I, and Chorus has US – and only together, as synonyms, will the Choir/Chorus sing beautifully. The same goes for friendships. Make sure the ships keep sailing by giving your captain a break. Aye Aye?

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An Open Letter

Dearest You,

Last week we celebrated our 3-year anniversary and you were hoping that I would blog about it. I told you I would, but I am now reconsidering that promise. No, I don’t think I could just blog about you like I blog about other things in my life.

Where would I begin? Would I start with all your perfect imperfections? How you always wear the most compelling of outfits pieced together with a dimpled smile I can never resist, but take much longer than me to get ready, even for our anniversary? Or should I start with how you relish in my anxiety of being late as you take your sweet time because you are amused by hysterically anal me, something that hasn’t changed since day one of us being together?

Would I continue with our travels in the past year to 5 new cities where we explored new sights and shared new moments in the great big (and small) world? Maybe I will tell the fact that you planned every last detail of the trips and how much I appreciated and continue to appreciate your initiative to plan? Should I mention that you looked at each destination’s restaurant menus to make sure there were more options on the dessert menu because of my allergies even if that meant you didn’t get to try your desserts of choice? Could I say that you took snapshots of me when I wasn’t looking and thought I didn’t know even though I did and I thought it was the sweetest – maybe even as sweet as those desserts you didn’t try?

Should I actually reveal how relieved I felt once the long distance was over and how hard it was for me sometimes to know you were chasing your career and doing your thing, but so far away from me? Can I talk about how happy I was to tell you what trivial happenings occurred in New York while you were 6 hours ahead in time because I loved, and continue to love, to tell you every single thought that crossed my mind? Would it be silly if I personally attested to the idea that whatever I did during the day didn’t seem important until I told you? Could I even add to that and say that it really didn’t ever matter what we did but more so that we did it together and shared both wonderful wanderlust experiences and terrific typical Tuesdays watching TV?

Could I write about how smitten I always am when you come over and spend time with my family, and even though there’s a language barrier you still treat them with such respect it makes me feel so loved? Would it be too daring of me to say that you inspire me to be the best person I can ever be and that you always push me to achieve greater things? Should I share how grateful I am of the millions of talks regarding my career, family, and friends and how you always tell me that we are a team? Can I say that you have the best comebacks without you having the comeback “what can I say” that you haven’t said in the longest time because I always fill in your blanks now when you speak?

May I explain how endearing you are to the best of my abilities? How you look me deep in my eyes and reach into my soul like no one else does? How you support and comfort me every night before it is time to dream? How you joke with me just as much as you are serious about making our relationship work? How amazing it is when you surprise me because I like to believe I’m difficult to surprise? How loving you are to me no matter what? How even after 3 years you still make my heart skip beats and feel its heartstrings tugged at?

You see, I could never just blog about you. I could never describe you, or our relationship, perfectly. Instead, here’s a letter of everything I would have written about. By the way, there’s no ending.

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No Beginning / No Ending 2011