Before my “official commitment” to educational sharing began, I sat in the gym of my new high school listening to our leader give his deeply personal story about his path to leadership, including the decline of personal relationships. In so many words, he made it clear that often as one “rises to the top”, deeply neglecting those that are close, relationships often suffer. I remember saying to myself that his story would not be my story. What I didn’t realize was that his story was in fact already my story.
I’m often asked what drove me into education and as I always say, it was my desire to help build up those within my community. I wanted to make a difference and math gave me a path to do so. What motivated me to go back to school was a different story. I was married to a person who made it his primary focus to remind me every day how worthless I was and how much my life meant nothing. He was a college graduate and would literally place his diploma in my face to prove the point. Eventually, as life progressed and needs changed, I went back to school and completing my degrees was the perfect combination of dreams realized and sweet redemption. What I found was that as I became more educated, I felt that much more empowered. After enduring 13 years, I finally took my “rising in my educational journey” self and moved on. This case was one in which the negative correlation between my professional and personal life worked out positively.
In the last year, I’ve found it quite difficult to maintain the right balance between both parts of my life. As I commit to do more professionally, I seem to have less time to give personally. This is a choice and I get it. My local “friends” have been replaced with educator friends. I will admit that I severely neglected those local relationships while connecting professionally. In hindsight, it was inevitable as our commonalities decreased the more that I grew as an educator.
Even within my “educator circle”, professional growth often forced a drift in those relationships. From a leadership standpoint, it’s difficult having tough conversations with educators who are personal friends…especially when they believe that “friendship” gives them a free pass.
As a connected educator, I’ve encountered a few moments where the “rise of one” resulted in a cup of “hater-aid” for others. We like to paint a picture of connected perfection but it is not. I work very hard to ignore the rumblings of my connected former “friends” but the negative whispers are still there. Thankfully, I am connected to some amazing positive forces of nature who remind me daily to ignore it, move on and do me. It’s just sad that it has come to that.
As I sit here, in essence, married to my job…I’ve realized the importance of finding some balance between my personal and professional self. It’s not easy and I admire so many for being able to do it. It’s not about choosing one over the other. It’s about providing the proper amount of nourishment to both.
As the rapper, Big Sean, stated in Justin Bieber’s As Long As You Love Me…
“But, the grass ain’t always greener on the other side, it’s green where you water it”
Relationships, both personal and professional, are only as good as the time invested. They require a mutual respect and support of each other’s journey. In educational leadership, they require a respect of the job roles themselves. If those in your life prove to be toxic, that is what “unfriend” and “unfollow” are for. It makes things a lot simpler in the long run.
While my experiences have been a struggle, I know of so many whose stories are quite the opposite. As they’ve grown, their support structures have remained solidly in place.
It can and does work for so many.
My PLN teaches me that.