Tuesday, 22 December 2015

I own the moment!

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Yes! I own the moment! 

This is how I feel now. The results are in and I have passed all my subjects of my Bachelor of Education Honours degree for Teaching and Learning. Believe me, this feeling is extremely good! 

Needless to say, this is not how I felt in October 2013 when I started this long journey to self-discovery. 

It was on this specific journey where I discovered how I felt about accumulating knowledge. I discovered that under pressure, I could stretch my levels of endurance to new boundaries. I also discovered that studying again for the first time in 26 years was a daunting task. Life around me continued normally and it was expected of me to be normal and stay the same.

Nothing stayed the same.

Relationships became tentered like milled cloth on a wooden frame. Time was personified in all my experiences, inflicting pressure for me to perform at my best as a wife, mother, daughter, teacher, friend, colleague ... Even my emotions were shape-shifting into different creatures inside me. I was constantly dueling for dominance trying to triumph over every single one of them: fear, anger, self-pity, jealousy, hatred, joy (the list goes on). Yes, even the positive emotions at times seemed to be my worst adversaries.

The most important thing that I learned on this journey is that I have changed. My perspectives have changed. I see life and teaching and education differently now.

Here, at last, I stand with the Bachelor of Education Honours degree for Teaching and Learning. It was a three-year course that I completed in two years, not by choice; I was never informed that I could complete it in three years. Nevertheless, it's done. 

I own the moment!

The saying that we reap what we sow is true. Hard work and commitment do pay off. But, to be fair, in the future, if I have to choose between writing a novel and studying for a degree, I will choose writing a novel. 

Let that be the next challenge!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Let your light shine

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Let your light shine!

This is what many of us were taught by our parents and teachers. At Sunday school, many of us had the opportunity to sing the song:

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine ...
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

As 2015, the International Year of Light, draws to an end, we may find - in full retrospect of the year - that we didn't "shine" as much as we initially wanted to. Then again, maybe we did. Maybe we excelled in doing so. Whatever the case may be, whether we're living the annual theme or striving to "shine" as Christians, it's not about what we did or how we did it. It's more about how much we grew in process. It's all about improvement.

I found this picture and just loved the message. 

Everything has a crack in it. That's how the light gets in.

Had we been perfect, there would be no cracks. And that's just it. We're not perfect. Our imperfection has made us weak. Our minds are filled with ego, fear and desire. In this state, we need His light for strength to carry on with purpose.

We don't have to be perfect to walk in His light.

It's a choice really! We choose to shine and we choose to allow His light in. It's all about moving forward and becoming better (change, growth, development)!

Everything is transfixed, only the light moves. ~ Leonora Carrington

Monday, 9 November 2015

The power of words!

The world is filled with all kinds of people. Let’s place them in three categories: optimistic, pessimistic and realistic. It’s not that difficult to determine in which category you are. Optimists see a glass half full and pessimists see it half empty. The realist drinks it. That’s me, but only if I’m responsible for pouring and leaving the water in the glass. There’s absolutely no way that I’m drinking a random glass of “water”.

Yes, I’m a realist. I have the easy task in life to see things the way they really are. My greatest challenge in life is to see things as I would like them to be. I don’t like anything that is vague, so I can’t dream of a future. To me, the future is empty and serves absolutely no purpose until I get there. My best endeavour is to plan ahead and make sure that I’m prepared for the future, but that’s it. I leave it untouched!

The past is a different story. I hold on to it because it bears knowledge. I know where I’ve been and I know what I’ve done. I know what I’ve experienced. I have enough memories to cherish and that’s okay because I don’t obsess over them. What’s done is done! There’s no use in going back in mental pursuit of happiness, peace or answers. I see everything done as stepping stones of learning experiences. I have developed and I have survived to the present day.

The present is probably the most disturbing phase of my life. I don’t want to wait for tomorrow to have my every day questions answered. I want to control certain things and find solutions now. While I prefer to think of it as my “planning” and “preparing” phases for what needs to be done in the future, other people may call it “fear for the unknown”, “unnecessary worrying” or “impatience”. The thing about being like this tends to rob me of present-day peace. I’m always contemplating solutions rather than enjoying the here and now.

My compass through life has always been my natural instinct or my senses. They have always directed and guided me along the way. If something didn’t feel right, I avoided it. Whenever I stumbled over too many obstacles to achieve something only to fail gaining whatever it was I was seeking, I would accept that “it just wasn’t meant to be”. On the other hand, if things were sailing smoothly towards a resolution, it would be obvious that “it was meant to be”. Yes! These are life signs to me. I believe in these signs. Relying on instinct and my senses can be rather precarious, though, because I tend to be sensitive. Often, I interpret things inaccurately because I allow my emotions to control my better judgement.

I’ve always been able to find a sense of calmness through my passion for writing. I love words and beautiful sentences, reading motivational and inspirational quotations, and poems! I simply love Dr. Seuss and I spent most of my teen years reading the beautiful poems of Helen Steiner-Rice. I still remember wanting to write just like her.

Words have the power to make a difference. Over the years, I’ve discovered many nuggets of wisdom hidden in the pages of stories that were written by extraordinary people. Today I’ve decided to write down and share with you 50 of the best sentences I’ve ever read. These chosen lines inspired me at some point in my life. When I first read them, they were moments of epiphany because the very words touched me and made a difference to how I perceived things at that time. These words are from books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I used to keep a diary every year since 1980 and wrote all the beautiful sentences down so that I would always remember them.

I hope you enjoy these quotes as much as I did when I first read them. You may even find me reflected in each one.

50. Opportunities
Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet. — L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

49. Goodness
Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. ― Anne Frank, The Diary Of Anne Frank.

48. Laziness
There are people, who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves. ― Jane Austen, Emma.

47. Procrastination
My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. ― Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.

46. Loyalty
For me you are only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you, I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me and I’ll be the only fox in the world for you.  Antoine De Saint Exupery, The Little Prince.

45. Waiting
Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments line up, waiting. ― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife.

44. Love
But love is this really powerful thing that everyone's got if they'd just learn how to accept it ... If it's something we all have to give, and if it's something we all want, doesn't that mean there's exactly enough to go around? ― Philip Beard, Dear Zoe.

43. Perfection
If you look for perfection, you'll never be content. ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

42. Sadness
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.  Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

41. Bewilderment
I'll be all right in a minute. I'm just bewildered – by life ... ― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie.

40. Loneliness
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way. – Janet Fitch, White Oleander.

39. Memories
We can never go back again, that much is certain. The past is still close to us. The things we have tried to forget and put behind us would stir again, and that sense of fear, of furtive unrest, struggling at length to blind unreasoning panic – now mercifully stilled, thank God – might in some manner unforeseen become a living companion as it had before. ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.

38. Pessimism
Men who look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. ― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist.

37. Desire
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserve and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists ... it is real ... it is possible ... it's yours.  Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.

36. Heartbreak
The broken heart. You think you will die, but you just keep living day after day after terrible day.  Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

35. Experiences
Something did happen to me somewhere that robbed me of confidence and courage and left me with a fear of discovery and change and a positive dread of everything unknown that may occur. ― Joseph Heller, Something Happened.

34. Planning
The future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don't plan for it! ― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie.

33. Work
I don't like work – no man does – but I like what is in the work – the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself not for others – what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means. ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

32. Life
Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. — Henry James, The Ambassadors.

31. Difficulties
You're trying to escape from your difficulties, and there never is any escape from difficulties, never. They have to be faced and fought.  Enid Blyton, Six Cousins at Mistletoe Farm.

30. Ambition
Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living. — Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close.

29. Reality
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.  Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland.

28. Optimism
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.  Jack Kerouac, On The Road.

27. Departure
It is so hard to leave – until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world. ― John Green, Paper Towns.

26. Possessions
For what are your possessions, but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?  Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

25. Acceptance
Love covers a multitude of sins … ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.

24. Simplicity
Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat.

23. Friendships
Friendships, even the best of them, are frail things. One drifts apart.  Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.

22. Truths
Unwelcome truths are not popular. ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear.

21. Excitement
I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice. ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.

20. Suffering
I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire. ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.

19. Change
‎I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then …  Lewis Caroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

18. Clarity
I like breakfast-time better than any other moment in the day … No dust has settled on one's mind then, and it presents a clear mirror to the rays of things.  George Eliot, Adam Bede.

17. Religion
There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham. — Anna Sewell, Black Beauty.

16. Living
Just breathing isn't living! — Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna.

15. Power
The mind of man is capable of anything. ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

14. Fear
You wouldn’t be normal if you were never afraid. Even the bravest men experience fear. One of the biggest jobs we all face in combat is to overcome fear. ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22.

13. Peace
'If you love me as you say you do,' she whispered, 'make it so that I am at peace.' ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

12. Instinct
Remember, everything is right until it's wrong. You'll know when it's wrong. 
― Ernest Hemingway, The Garden of Eden.

11. Thinking
Everything seems simple until you think about it. ― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife.

10. Ego
… you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head. — Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why.

9. Hope
I always think incipient miracles surround us, waiting only to see if our faith is strong enough. We won't have to understand it; it will just work, like a beating heart, like love. Really, no matter how frightened and discouraged I may become about the future, I look forward to it. In spite of everything I see all around me every day, I have a shaky assurance that everything will turn out fine. I don't think I'm the only one. Why else would the phrase "everything's all right" ease a deep and troubled place in so many of us? We just don't know, we never know so much, yet we have such faith. We hold our hands over our hurts and lean forward, full of yearning and forgiveness. It is how we keep on, this kind of hope. ― Elizabeth Berg, Talk Before Sleep.

8. Parting
It's hard being left behind. ... It's hard to be the one who stays. ― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife.

7. Honesty
And that's the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too. … There is only one sin and that is theft ... when you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. ― Khaled Hosseini,  The Kite Runner.

6. Thoughts
Human minds are more full of mysteries than any written book and more changeable than the cloud shapes in the air. ― Louisa May Alcott, The Abbot's Ghost: A Christmas Story.

5. Vulnerability
… there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only that time that we see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face to face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade, but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out. ― John Green, Paper Towns.

4. Happiness
Happiness is not a possession to be prized; it is a quality of thought, a state of mind. ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca.

3. Beauty
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched; they are felt with the heart. — Antoine De Saint Exupery, The Little Prince.

2. Emptiness
Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky. We fell them down and turn them into paper that we may record our emptiness. ― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam. 

1. Influence
One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us. — Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices.

This is a list of some of the books that I have read. Each book contains beautiful messages that have made a difference in my life. My personal choice of a book rich in wisdom is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. A book that really intrigued me and kept me wondering for years was The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca are also all time favourites.

We all have our own perspectives and interpretations. “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars. The art is to value diversity in taste rather than conformity and to share our experiences with people who also love to read.

Friday, 4 September 2015

At a crossroad ...

For the past two years, I have thrown myself into a pool of information. Every part of the journey to become an effective teacher has been insightful and educational. 

When I reflect on the journey, I realise just how much I have changed, and learnt and grown from the experience. Having come this far, I know that I can make a difference in my classroom and at the school where I teach. Sadly, I have exhausted myself in the process. There have been times where I have reached levels of mental satiety and I just couldn’t carry on. It made me reflect on my life as a teacher.

My life as a teacher has been one of great dedication. At every school I have ever taught, I sacrificed all my energy to be committed in my endeavours for the children. In November, I will be finalising this educational journey. I will be completing my last two exams and my research assignment, and then I will receive my Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) Honours degree in Teaching and Learning. So far I have passed five of the eight completed modules with distinction. I gave my best and I have achieved what I set out to do. 

As October approaches, I consider how I have spent my years in self-sacrificial workaholism. I’m turning 50 this year and more than ever the question lingers: Is this really what I plan to do for the next fifteen years until retirement? 

Surely there is more to life than working myself into a stupor? There’s joy and satisfaction in what I do, but at the expense of my family and my health. I’ve never travelled anywhere and holidays away from home are a luxury I cannot afford. So, I spend the school holidays preparing for the next term. Do I rest? No. Does it matter? It never did. 

Suddenly I find myself contemplating all the adventures of life on which I am missing out. I’m at a crossroad. 

Where to from here? 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

An Ambiguous Journey

At the end of 2013, I embarked on an ambiguous journey of self-study: I was set to study my honours degree in General Teaching and Learning and in the process, I discovered more about myself and life in general.

Initially, I was engulfed with despondency because my personal view of studying at my “particular age” meant suffering. I could already see how Time and I would constantly be at each other’s throats. And I hate conflict.

I took the assignments in my stride. I gave each one my best and had very little concern about the results. I kept telling myself that at my “particular age” and with my efforts of putting my best teaching foot forward each day, there would be no pressure to achieve the ultimate. And so I was satisfied with each outcome. Except one. I remember getting 66% for one assignment and was totally gobsmacked. What was up with the double 6? But I built a bridge and got over it!

My first exam paper in decades was an epiphany. I realised studying had nothing to do with a “particular age”! The identity was clear: I was a student. I walked into the hall, late! I sat down trying to be as discreet in my movement as possible. But the table groaned and the chair creaked, and the supervisor who was reading out the rules suddenly kept quiet. I was the centre of attention. When I received my answer sheet, I had to fill in more details than I thought – at that point – were necessary. I didn’t know the name of the exam centre; I forgot my student number and couldn’t remember the date. My stunned brain cells and fixed eyes focused on the answer sheet, but nothing came to mind other than my name. The supervisor asked us to put down our pens. I hadn’t filled in a thing. Not even my name. The exam papers were handed out and we were told to read through them for ten minutes prior to starting. My only concern was that I hadn’t filled in my details.

I was a nervous wreck throughout that paper. I wrote slowly, neatly and deliberately. I stressed about the time. I couldn’t even see the clock in the front and had to stretch to the length of an ostrich-neck to see whether or not I was managing my time effectively. I feared someone would think I was craning to crib. The invigilators that passed me kept stopping to read what I had written. So it seemed. At the end of the session, when I handed in my paper, two of the invigilators complimented me on having such beautiful handwriting. I smiled feebly and walked out of the hall on jelly legs. Needless to say, the second exam session for the year was much better.

My first year has finally come to an end and I have passed all my subjects. During the school holiday, I managed to complete 4 of the 6 assignments that are due in March 2015. I’m on a roll, here. And the initial fear and nervousness has panned out into something more exhilarating. Soon, I’ll be done and then what? I turn 50 in October. What do I do when this roller-coaster ride stops?

What I’ve learned on this incredible journey is that we’re never too old to do something, especially learn. At first, it may seem to be an enormous sacrifice. After all, who wants to suffer the discomfort of stretching their mind to the point of no return? And that is exactly what it is. Once stretched, the mind cannot return to its original dimensions. Once you know something, you can never “not know it” again.

An educable mind keeps us growing. I think an idle mind may be the most dangerous one of all. If it doesn’t get us into trouble, it certainly gets us into trouble. Redundant? But effective! Is there a difference? Perhaps not – because there are no degrees of comparison: trouble is trouble. It just emphasizes the concern we should have for an idle mind. It certainly has more time to think. 

And what exactly does an idle mind think about if its horizons aren’t broadened?

When I look at myself ...

  The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that yo...