When I tell people I teach middle school, I often get horrified looks and comments like, “I could never do that.” People want to hear the horror stories or they are curious about what today’s adolescent is really like.
Yes, middle school students are totally in that awkward stage between budding future leader and self absorbed child, but I think what might surprise most is how often these kids teach me things.
The other day my 6th grade students and I were were going over this short, but super powerful poem by Langston Hughes titled ‘Harlem’. Get educated and read the poem for yourself, mama! It’s a good one:
It’s a pretty powerful little piece of literature, right!? That Langston Hughes… he sure knew what he was talking about.
So, after reading the poem aloud a few times and finding the rhyme scheme and all that jazz, part of the lesson was for my students to engage in a discussion based off of a few questions that accompanied the poem.
The first question my students were asked to ponder was, “Why do you think people put off going after their dreams?” I looked at them and I said, “Guys we live in the best country in the WORLD. We have free will. We can do whateverrrr we want in our lives, right? So WHY do so many people out there putt off their hopes and their dreams?”
Those little sixth graders did not miss a BEAT, you guys. Hands were flying in the air:
“People just get so distracted you know? By everything else that they HAVE to do versus what they really want to do. Like with their job and their kids and their life.”
“Mrs. Roberts, people are SCARED of following their dreams. Sometimes they think their dream is too big and they think they just won’t be able to do it. They are afraid they will fail.”
“Sometimes, ya know, people can be embarrassed by their dream or they think someone might make fun of them. People can be so mean.”
Mamas. I. Was. Shook. I just stared at this group of 11 and 12 year olds with my mouth agape and I almost whispered, “Yea. Yea, you guys are so so right. All of that. All of that is so, so true.” It was like these kids were speaking directly to my HEART.
Every SINGLE thing my students mentioned about why people postpone their dreams, I had felt times 1,000. Actually going after what you really want is freaking terrifying, am I RIGHT?
But the whole thing just gets better you guys. Back to my class. (I hope you have your tea, sis.) So after my initial shock over how simplistic, yet profound my students’ first response was, I hit em with the second discussion question: “What do you think Langston Hughes would say to someone that was planning on putting off their dreams?”
The responses immediately started pouring in:
“He would say you only get one life!”
“He would tell you just go for it!”
“He would say even though it’s scary YOU CAN DO IT!”
And then this one kid, that never really has anything too special to say just blurted out, “He would tell you to GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.”
You guys, I know it sounds dramatic, but I almost couldn’t speak. I was practically in tears. It was like these children spoke directly to my fears, and then told me, You can do it. Just go for your dreams, Mrs. Roberts.
Most of them haven’t been kicked in the teeth by life yet. Most of them haven’t yet experienced the aching pain of true failure. But that’s the exact reason why I was so moved by their words.
They are children. And I get that. Most of them haven’t been kicked in the teeth by life yet. Most of them haven’t yet experienced the aching pain of true failure. But that’s the exact reason why I was so moved by their words. What they had to say came from a place of true honesty and sincerity.
Don’t you just wish you could see the world through the eyes of a child just one more day? Don’t you wish you could hang on to the confidence and assurance that the universe will deliver you everything you want and need?
So, I did a thing. I left work that day with my students’ and Hughes’ voices rattling around in my heart and my head, and I went home, and you know what I did, guys? I started going after one of my dreams. I just did it before I could even really think about what I was doing to stop myself.
I had been keeping this dream quiet for awhile. It just seemed like too much. I could hear people I love telling me I already have too much on my plate. It just seemed silly. I was afraid that no one would like the idea. I was afraid people would think it was stupid. But I did it any way.
For awhile now I’ve had the dream of taking my blog and my ideas from the screen… and into the REAL world. Yep. I wanted to start something where I could meet with women face to face and work towards building an in-person community where women could come together, discuss their own fears, hopes and dreams, and just empower the hell out of one another.
So I created a Meet Up Group to do just that! For those of you not familiar with Meetup.com first of all, welcome to an awesome resource for finding cool events and people around you. You should SERIOUSLY take a look. Even if you’re not interested in my event, there are SO many ideas for you to check out! Seriously anything. Dogs, cooking, religion, crafts, cars, hiking, money… there a trillion different groups of people out there that want to meet YOU.
Truly, when I say I did it before I couldn’t stop myself, I’m not lying. At one point while I was setting up my group online, I had this idea that I needed to take a break and really think about the descriptions I wanted to include and blah blah blah.
But I decided to push through because I knew I NEEDED to get it done right then and there. And I was worried that if I took a break, I would never return to the site, finish the process of setting up the group, and my dream would still be sitting there, now in a server somewhere far, far away. Have you ever done that? Started in on something and then abandoned it because you were just too busy, or too afraid to actually go for it?
You guys, when I finally pressed submit to make my group live, I was a mess. Those thoughts of self-doubt and fear were raging. I busied myself with tasks around the house and pushed the whole thing from my mind.
I didn’t advertise my group on any other social media platform. I didn’t tell ANYONE that I had created a group. Instead I just kept quiet about it and I truly thought that no one would sign up to attend my event, the date would come and go, and I could at least say I tried to a certain extent.
But then the craziest thing happened, you guys. Women, started to JOIN my GROUP. And THEN… women RSVP’d that they would ACTUALLY ATTEND MY EVENT. And these are like real life people from the world.
It’s not like I called my mom and was like, Mom please join this group so I have at least one member and I don’t look like a complete loser. God only knows I have done that before though. Aint no shame in that game, either. (And thanks, for all the times you have done that for me, Mom.)
So it’s happening. Next week I’m actualizing my dream. I’m facilitating an event that will feature journaling, discussion, and fitness. I’m going to have the cucumber strawberry infused water, (I’ve mentioned the cucumber-strawberry infused water like 46,000 times already to anyone that will listen. I just feel that it will really set the mood.)
You guys, I am scared to DEATH. I still have those fears like, who am I to set up this group? Why would someone want to listen to me? But you know what? That voice is an effing liar. I’m doing this, you guys. This blog has empowered me and so many of you out there and now… I’m bringing it to the real world. I do have important things to say, so I’m going to say them.
And you know WHAT? YOU have important things to say. YOU have a bad ass story to tell. So what are your dreams?? Do you want to become certified to teach a class? Do you want to take up a new creative hobby that will serve as a well deserved outlet? Do you want to go back to school? Do you want to switch you career? Is your dream so freaking big that you don’t even WANT to tell anyone about it? That’s when you KNOW you’ve got a good one, girl.
Check out Meetup.com and if you are interested, I would LOVE for you to join my event. If you do attend, it will be our little secret that while I am smiling and leading and empowering you, I’ll also be nervous and terrified expecting everyone to pack up and leave 5 minutes in because they think I suck…
But know that I’m gonna show tf up any way. I’m going to be scared as hell, but I’m going to do this. And I’m going to kick some serious ass. I’m going after this dream, you guys.
So in the spirit of my 6th graders, remember, you only get one life, you can do it, and just GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY. Don’t let those dreams die. Dream it and make it happen, girl. You are worth it.
Have a great week friends. I’m right there with ya in them trenches. We got this.