Maybe it is just me, but I doubt it. I have been told I have this tendency in the past, and despite knowing better, I find myself “lost in the forest for the trees”. I know it is a weakness, and I am choosing from here on out, to be more deliberate in overcoming it. It is a joy thief, a success thief, and certainly a waste of time. I was graciously rescued this week, having sent out flares unwittingly. I have a student whose journey in school has caused me many sleepless nights and on whom I have spent much physical and emotional energy and time. We all have those, right? However, I was so caught up in trying to get him to a destination, that I had lost focus on where we actually were.
Having backpacked and hiked as a young girl in scouts, I can tell you right now that this is a sure plan for getting lost. It is important to stop, assess your surroundings, look at things from other perspectives and glimps the trail from where you stand, looking back. That way, if for some reason you find yourself off the trail or uncertain of the trail, you won’t truly be lost. You can always backtrack if you know what the path back looks like or enjoy the feelings of having come as far as you have. On the other hand, if you only look forward the entire time and find yourself heading the wrong way or uncertain of the trail, when you turn around and see nothing familiar, you will feel fear and despair – perhaps even panic.
All I could see in my exhaustion was forward, and I was spinning. So there I was, panicked that I had not gone anywhere for months, only having traveled in circles and uncertain as to how I could carry him forward without knowing for sure which way forward was. The second SST meeting was imminent, and I could not see behind me. Luckily, I have remembered to never hike alone. When the specialists on the team came to observe and debrief, they were amazed at the progress of our journey. They were excited and celebratory. They brought out the map that reminded me where we started. Despite having looked at it myself, I had not been able revel in our success because I was using one distance scale to measure our progress and another to measure how far we still have to go. They rescued us.
What broke my heart about this was that because I had been so focused on the distance ahead, I hadn’t celebrated how far we’d come. I had NO IDEA how far we had come. Sadly, what that translates to is that I hadn’t shared joy with my student or his concerned family. I hadn’t been a good leader. I got us lost. Luckily, we had the meeting which provided me an opportunity to be honest about the mistake I had made and give his mother a chance to turn around and see how beautiful the forest looked from this new vantage point. I could point out rivers we’d crossed, steep climbs we had made and sit with her, sipping water from the cool creek running past to quench our thirst.
We do have many miles to go, but we are not travelling alone. And going forward, I am going to remember to keep looking back and celebrating our journey along the way instead of waiting until we get to the peak to raise our arms in triumph. My little guy deserves as much, and if I am going to stay in this profession, so do I.