Did anyone else play this game when you were little besides me? You know the one. You start with everyone along the starting line; when the "leader" says 'Green Light', everyone moves towards the finish line. When the leader says 'Red Light', everyone must immediately stop. If players are caught still moving when the leader calls 'Red Light', they must go back to the starting line.
I haven't thought about that game in a very long time. I do remember not liking it very much, but I couldn't have told you why. Now, I think I can be a bit more profound and say my reasoning for disliking it. It seems like it is just an essay in impeding progress. Maybe it is a mirror of real life, but I don't have to play a game that mimics problems in life. We have a game for that, already. It's called LIFE! (I just heard Jerry Seinfield's voice when I wrote that. If he wants that line, he can have it...for a small price).
I love setting goals and making progress towards them. I am currently writing curriculum for a two-day workshop I will deliver on improving purposeful student engagement. I have written the objectives/outcomes and set the success criteria (how will I know they know what I want them to know?). Now, the fun begins. I get to design the instruction that will make the most sense in reaching the objectives I've set. I'm using several really great books to help me design the curriculum, but nothing is holding me back. It is simply moving forward toward the finish line, and it is so much fun! Helping teachers and administrators is one of my favorite parts of educational consulting. I can see green lights everywhere.
Ah....but every once in a while, a red light pops up in my life. You know...the kind that makes you question the choices you've made? When red lights pop up for me, they are usually in the arena of my career. I have admittedly done everything that and so much more than I ever dreamed I would do when I was a little girl. My mother used to tell me I would make an amazing teacher one day. This was when I was seven years old, by the way. I taught for years and loved it so very much before going back to get a graduate degree in counseling so I could be a school counselor. A few years later, my mother told me I would be a school principal one day. "Sorry", I thought, "but that is not on my radar." Well, it may not have been on my radar at the time, but it was God's plan, for sure, for that to become part of my narrative.
I believe being a school leader is one of the most awesome jobs in the entire world (but, then again, Dave always reminds me, "You say that about every job you have ever had"---you caught me---that's true). And who was this prophetic mother who knew before I even did what kind of green light would allow me to become a principal at the best elementary school in the world (I'm very grateful I don't hold any biases)? And what about getting my doctorate? That most certainly wasn't on my bucket list of moves when I was a little girl. I did, however, want to become a ballerina for a time (I had the pink tutu and everything, and I would have even settled for any sort of dancer---maybe one of JLo's back-up dancers?) Alas, that was not in the cards for me. But getting my doctorate was a decision I made directly as a result of a red light that was put in my way by outside forces. And I am eternally grateful for that red light, because the cohort with whom I got my doctorate, (along with the professors, books, experiences and collaboration from which we grew) all made the opportunity a reality, and a blessing all wrapped into one.
Getting my doctorate opened up doors I never imagined possible....more green lights. I have been given the opportunity to teach at multiple universities, including graduate students who want to become principals one day as well as students who are getting their doctorates and need mentors to help them through the dissertation process. I like to think that, while some of those students may feel I am tough on their writing (a small red light that will most assuredly allow for more green lights in their future, I tell them), it has been a tremendous learning experience not only for them but for me, as well. Learning how to give feedback that is specific and timely has helped me in so many other areas of my career, namely in my own consulting, in which I am often asked to coach new and seasoned administrators in the intricacies of coaching and giving teachers helpful feedback.
It seems that so many green lights have helped other green lights occur (almost like when you are driving, and you get on that "roll" of green lights, and it feels like you have won the lottery----maybe that's just me? I love small victories). So, when a red light has been put in my life (like breast cancer a few years ago or needing to turn down a "dream job" as the timing simply wasn't right or I am not chosen for a position for which I thought I was perfectly qualified ---- cue the "ego-violins"), I have been momentarily shocked and frustrated. How can this be, I ask God or the universe, when I have done all the right things? The fact of the matter is that red lights are often the things that give me pause (which I, admittedly, do not do very well). They make me sit back in my proverbial chair and think about what I might do next...besides finish planning this and so many other in-person workshops I am going to be teaching in the next couple of months, while Dave and I (oh, did I forget to mention this part?) work on building our dream home in the Texas hill country.
When I run in the morning, I always try to listen to a book on tape (okay, sue me, I just dated myself---I listen to Audible books). The one I am currently listening to happens to be Matthew McConaughey called...wait for it Greenlights. In it are a couple of really great quotes:
Your life isn't always going to be green lights, but that doesn't mean we need to be running the red ones or risking it with the yellows. Don't get discouraged when you hit a red, it's only a matter of time before it turns green. It might take a minute, a week, or a few years, but in time, we all find the green lights.
--Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
“The problems we face today eventually turn into blessings in the rearview mirror of life. In time, yesterday’s red light leads us to a greenlight. All destruction eventually leads to construction, all death eventually leads to birth, all pain eventually leads to pleasure. In this life or the next, what goes down will come up. It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.”
― Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
Wow, just wow. What perfect quotes for me to hear, and listen to...really listen to. I have a dear spiritual advisor who has always said that, when there is a rough patch in front of us, we should ask: What's the blessing? What's the lesson? (If you speak "Southern", this really rhymes, trust me). Just for today, I vow to remember that the red lights that come up for me will eventually turn into blessings....and maybe some more really great green lights. I am ready!!