Wala, You’re Cured

Sometimes I wish that I could map out my own life. Sit down with a piece of paper and chart out when and where main events of my life will take place, where I’ll live, all the people I’ll love. People say that they can choose their own fate, make their own decisions, choose where they’ll end up, but that’s only partly true. Sometimes, even the most organized people can’t plan for life.

I haven’t really been sleeping lately, I just keep thinking about the things I’ve done and all the things I haven’t. The items on my mental list of dreams that have always been pushed away because maybe I’ll have more money later, or be in a better place, or have the guy and the house and the perfect school, and everything will just magically fall into place.

I’ve recently lost an friend in an unfortunate accident, and shortly after my father had a stroke. Not surprisingly it’s made me think a lot about my own life, and I’ve been looking at things a little more closely. I don’t want to be that person who has all of these amazing hopes and dreams and never ever achieves them because I’m always thinking that I’ll have time when maybe I won’t. I don’t want to be known as the girl who could have done great things, who always wanted to move south but never did, who talked big but never made it out. I want to be taken seriously and do great things. I want great things and more than anything I want to have the time to be able to do them.

I hate it when people say, “I’m sorry.” They’re not sorry, they’re not. They don’t know, they don’t get it. It’s just a filler when someone doesn’t know what to say, and I know this because I’ve done it. I think that more than anything people are only asking you how you’re doing because they’re hoping that you’ll say that you’re fine and they’ll never have to ask it again. Wala, you’re cured.

I feel selfish for being upset. For hurting. This shouldn’t be about me, but it feels like it is anyways. I don’t want my Dad to be sick and I don’t want him to hurt. I don’t want to push him through stores in a wheelchair or help him take a shower and I don’t want to not be able to give him a hug and feel him hug me right back. I don’t want that. I don’t want his life to be cut short but it will be and that makes me mad too, but I don’t really know what to do about it. So, I’ve just been eating a lot of fruit loops and not grading any papers. Sometimes I feel myself about to cry and I don’t even know why, I just can’t keep it together all the time and it’s hard to try to.

Maybe what scares me more than anything is that feeling of uncertainty. I’m seeing all of this absolute love and kindness pour in from everywhere for my parents and it just makes me think about what an enormous impact they’ve had on everyone. Especially me. What if I don’t impact people? If my time comes and I’ve lived the kind of life that doesn’t make them proud? What if I never get to live my road map, make someone happy? What if something happens and nobody has ever even loved me before and I’m just one of those people who leaves and is never mentioned again? The thought hurts. I’d never want my students to hear about me and think, “ugh, that teacher? She was mean. She never cared about me at all.”

I’ve always heard to live in the moment, to never take life for granted, to live each day to the fullest. To be honest it didn’t mean anything to me and those are just words. They don’t mean anything until it’s personal, until it’s right in front of your face because of some tragedy and you wish you could go back and follow the quotes you’ve seen plastered everywhere since infancy. I don’t want to climb mountains that are exceptionally high. I don’t want to eat weird foods in Japan, sleep with mountain lions, hitchhike across the country. I just want to live a life where I’m more happy than not, in a place I love, surrounded by people I love, doing what I love.

I guess I just want to be achieve some kind of greatness, even if it’s just to someone, or even myself. I want people to feel like I’ve made some kind of impact on their life, and I want them to know they had an impact on mine. I want to look at all the the things I want to do and make them happen because I don’t want anything to ever be too late.

I’ve grown up listening to my grandparents tell me stories of their childhood. About their best friends and their family, heartbreaking fires, The Great Depression, about college roommates, siblings, remarkable people they’ve met over the years. I don’t know, I guess I just keep thinking that I hope that someday, in hundreds of years someone sits down with their own grandparents and some of their stories are about me.

Atelophobia

I don’t understand people who willingly choose to live a life of constant misery. “This guy is horrible to me, he makes me feel like I’m nothing.” But yet they don’t leave, they let it happen, day after day they stay. “I hate my job,” your friend tells you every time you see them. But yet they stay, they keep their voice small, they don’t pursue other jobs or career choices. They settle. It’s like people become content to whine, to feel powerless and miserable, and they just accept their fate. I know we don’t live in a world where happiness will be all the time, but it should be more often than not. And if that’s not the case, then make a change. Just do it.

I’m not going to pretend to understand addiction, because I absolutely do not. I’ve watched people that I love collapse under the pressure of addiction. Watched them break apart because all they want is that one drop of alcohol, that one pill, that one needle, that one text from the person that they think that they can’t live without, that will surely make all the pain go away. I’ve seen it, but I’ve never felt it, never experienced it personally. I joke that I’m addicted to books, watermelon, clothes. But when push comes to shove I can resist. They cannot.

From the outside looking in I can tell you that watching someone disappear into a sea of addiction is the most helpless feeling. Driving around mountaintops looking for overturned vehicles in the middle of the night, praying you find them before the cops do. “Are you walking on tar or dirt?” I asked between sobs. And they can’t tell you, because they’re too far gone. I’ve seen dirty needles, OUI’s, women curled into the fetal position on bathroom floors just absolutely sobbing because they were stripped of that little voice inside of their head telling them how much they matter. I’ve watched people that I love make decisions that they can never take back, break promises, change lives in the worst possible way including their own.

I don’t, and can’t personally relate to addiction. I don’t understand it and I won’t pretend that I do. But I do understand dignity and respect, the power of self worth. I understand the feeling of hating the way I look, avoiding mirrors, counting calories, putting on clothes that I think look good until I look into the mirror. I understand being rejected by men and not wanting to know why, because I fear the truth may crush me. I understand feeling worthless, like I don’t matter, sometimes invisible. I get it, I understand it. That I can relate to. I guess what I’ve learned over the years is that feeling of helplessness, of feeling so unbelievably inadequate and powerless. But I’ve also learned to move through it, to dust myself off and change it, to absolutely immerse myself with people who love me, lift me up, give me strength and then to shake off those people who don’t. I’ve learned independence, dignity, how to respect myself and tell everyone who doesn’t to get lost.

It’s a thing of beauty to have a choice. To be able to say, “yes” or “no.” That’s power, control. Use it.

I’m not saying that these choices won’t hurt people, because inevitably at some point or another they absolutely will. You’ll break someone’s heart, crush somebody’s spirit, hurt someone to the core because of one of those yes or no decisions that you made for you that happened to impact another person. I’ve been there, and it sucks. I’ve said yes and no, and I’ve been on the other end of both. It’s horrible, gut wrenching pain when life doesn’t go your way, but when it comes down to another person’s happiness, it’s hard to not be understanding.

I’m regularly told by people that I’m fiercely independent, optimistic, happy, mature. But I have to tell you that this hasn’t always been the case. In a lot of ways I was forced to grow up fast, a direct result of people that I loved more than air crumbling around me because of addiction. As a child I was stuck like glue to my parents; incredibly shy, unable to make decisions on my own, a fierce homebody. Soon things in our family began to change when both my siblings began to come unglued. I wasn’t starved for attention, but my parents were so consumed with helping both of them that it was at this point when I just kind of drifted through, trying my hardest not to cause any more ripples in the glassy Higgins lake. I went to school, work, dance, did my homework, visited my boyfriend, went to bed every single night at 10pm. I still do. From the outside looking in we looked perfect, but I promise on the inside we were not.

What I wish that I could stress to every single person is how enough you are. How all of those tiny little things that you are so hard on yourself and mean so much to you are just so fucking insignificant. You’re enough and you matter and you have this absolutely amazing gift of a voice and of choices. You have this amazing gift of a daily clean slate, of being a light to other people and especially yourself. Like I said, I won’t pretend to over analyze addiction and have any clue as to when it starts or why. But I think that if I could guess, it stems back to the feeling of not being enough, no matter what, every single time. Of feeling too fat or too skinny, too vocal or too quiet, too stupid or maybe even too smart. You didn’t go to college and as a result you feel stupid, you’re not in a relationship, you’re unhappy in your career, you’re not where you thought you’d be ten years ago. You’re just too something.

I think it’s important to do something every single day that strengthens you. Whether it’s something drastic like jumping out of an airplane, or something small like going for a walk outside when you’d rather stay in and hide from the world. Find something to have faith in, find a way to be independent, to challenge yourself, to step outside of your very clear lines of your comfort zone. Unfortunately, you’re never going to be the absolute best. Someone will always be better, smarter, prettier, richer. So, you might as well put your best effort into yourself.

You are enough, you are so enough. It’s insane how absolutely enough you are. Maybe that’s what people need to be hearing more often, even if it’s just to themselves.

Wishes In The Wind

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time admiring dandelions. I remember people telling me over and over that they were just weeds, nothing special, but I loved them just the same. They’re a sign – winter is over, spring is here. And suddenly, the cold and the grey is gone and is replaced with this over abundance of yellow that’s just everywhere. I can remember sitting in class in June, antsy and absentminded, daydreaming of sunshine with flip flops on my feet as I listened to the lawn mowers outside on the baseball fields. The smell of grass.

Some people eat them, most people hate them, I would make flower crowns out of them. I can remember laying in fields of them. One of my favorite places to hang out as a child were hay fields because the grass was tall enough to hide in, the perfect place to escape. My friends and I would sneak out, carefully crafting flower crowns and sashes with our sticky dandelion fingers, only to watch them wilt two hours later. But it didn’t matter, I loved those yellow halos.

My father was always a little bit OCD about his lawns. We weren’t allowed to ride our bikes, four wheelers, little red wagons, or Tonka Trucks across the grass, the lines ruined his perfectly manicured masterpiece. If he was desperate enough that he needed someone to mow the lawn for him then he would draw us careful maps of the front yard, arrows marking where the tires needed to go – when to mow right, and when we needed to switch to the left. He would arrive home, give us a tight reassuring smile, and shortly after we’d hear the lawn mower fire up only to see him bobbing across the lawn, fixing what we mistakenly messed up. But I didn’t mind, it was his thing and we all knew it.

He would always groan about the dandelions, swearing that just by mowing over them it would cause them to multiply, almost like a game. Secretly, I think he liked them, because it meant that he could be outside, that we were no longer cooped up inside like prisoners of the winter. We have a lot in common; when the sun is out, so are we. Every summer we compare our brown eyes and matching tans, always competing to see who is darker. He always wins. If I miss a call in the summer, he always explains to people that it’s probably because I’m outside; tanning or swimming, walking or exploring the ocean, drinking iced coffee or walking through the grass in my bare feet. He’s always right.

I remember being really small and holding bright yellow bunches of dandelions up to my chin, my siblings deciding whether or not I liked butter. We’d run around the yard with bright yellow painted on our bodies like spring warriors, pop off the tops while we chanted out rhymes, blowing our wishes out into the wind.

I don’t know if there will ever be a time when I won’t see that part of spring and immediately think of Dad. Of him planting bulbs on his hands and knees, bringing tractor loads of mulch over to the front yard, putting shovelfuls around the house, trees and bushes strewn throughout the yard. Starting in February he would begin creating his gardens for the spring, random assortments of lists and seeds, sketches and rows of vegetables, roses, daisy’s, lilacs sure to bloom in May. He’d inevitably lose it, and start a new one. By May you’d never know what to expect. By April we would be raking the yard, picking up rocks and sticks on bribes and $5 bills hidden from our mother, the promise of penny candy from the store down the road.

I don’t know if a single spring will ever go by where I don’t smile when I see them, appreciate the vibrance after such a colorless winter, grin when I try desperately to rid them from the front yard.

I think that the best thing about dandelions is that they’re a symbol of hope. Of happiness and warmth, a bright light. You pick one up and a thousand more seeds go all around, in every single direction before you’ve even had a chance to make a wish. They’re stubborn, they refuse to leave.

They will never, ever be forgotten, it’s demanded.

Keep Spinning, Spinning Around

Sometimes I meet people and within seconds I’m like, “you! I met you for a reason, you’re amazing!” You can just tell when someone makes you better, you get that feeling of immediate connection and are blessed just to be in their presence, hear their voice. I have a lot of people like that in my life. Friends, ed techs in and out of my classroom, strangers at a club as your throw your hands up when a song comes on and scream that this is your favorite song of all time. A random woman at a mutual friends birthday party; “You have an abnormal love of Brussel Sprouts!? Me too!”

Sometimes I never see these people again, but that doesn’t mean that I stop thinking about them. Once in a while I will be scrolling through old photographs in the gallery of my phone and come across a picture with a stranger in the background and it reminds me of my brief encounter with them. Who are they? Where’d they go?  How many people have photographs of me randomly in the background as well? People’s stories fascinate me, history captivates me. I want to know everyone’s stories.

Some people in this world just cannot be trusted. People who don’t like coffee, say that jeans are “uncomfortable”, and like to run in marathons. If you don’t like music, I don’t want to talk to you, you must not be human. If you willingly watch The Kardashians, say the word “bae”, or don’t like the outdoors then just go away, I don’t trust you. People who talk only of their failures, obsess over their weight, diet all year round, talk about themselves all the time or cry every time they drink aren’t people I want to surround myself with, they’re just not. And not because they’re not beautiful people because I’m sure they are, but conversation like that is a natural low, and I only want natural highs.

I don’t want to waste my time with things like small talk, I feel like it’s a disservice to life. I don’t want to talk about the weather unless it’s beautiful outside, there’s no point perseverating about being cold. I want to talk about things that matter, that are real, that show me what kind of person I’m spending my time with.

I want to talk about relationships and sunshine, iced coffee all year long, books, music, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movies. I want to talk about dreams, nail polish, starfish, architecture, shipwrecks, the death penalty, monumental mysteries, pearls, bubblebaths, sex, wine, galaxies, and Tim McGraw. I don’t want to spend my whole life talking about work, no matter how much I love it because I don’t want to be one of those people who are consumed by it. I want to change lives, tell stories, dream all day long and not just at night. I want to talk about how the outdoors has to be the greatest smell in the world, how happy shopping for clothes makes me, and how sunsets make me smile and sunrises make me tired. I want to be around people who also believe that watching grass in a field sway back and forth in the middle of the summer is one of the best pastimes, and that wearing anything except sandals is a crime.

To me, these things matter. How you view yourself, challenge yourself, the people you surround yourself with are indicators of who you are, what kind of person that you’ve become

I’ve always been told, encouraged really, to surround myself every single day with people who I admire. People who challenge me, sometimes frustrate me with their intelligence and views of the world, who force me to go to yoga, read books that aren’t part of my go-to genre, listen to me when I’m unreasonable and then tell me to cut it out, bring out the very best in me. People who have depth, emotion, who have tact but still are willing to voice their opinions in a classy way. To me, these people are beautiful because they make me better, they encourage greatness.

Sometimes I sit back and think about how incredibly lucky I am to have people in my life who fit this description. People who make me think for myself, question ridiculousness, challenge me, encourage independence and individuality, strive off of self care and loyalty, who allow me to always see my own value, who push me to be thankful every single day for what I already have are the people I want to keep around. These are the people who can be trusted and who I both adore and admire. When I think of it like this, I instantly become the luckiest.

I Use The Stars To Find You

I always try and reflect upon the arrival of a new year. What went well, what royally sucked, what I can improve, what are those things that I need to keep working on to become better as a person. I take the arrival of the New Year as some kind of symbol, the all mighty “redo” button we’ve all wished that we could push at some time or another. Maybe it’s silly, or maybe it’s just a natural excuse for me to start a clean slate without feeling sorry for myself.

Over this past year I’ve realized that I have a strong love for avacados, campfires, New York City bustle on a warm Saturday night in July and Cotton and Lemonade Bath and Body Works lotion. I love sunsets by the ocean after reading a whole book in one day, two and a half months off for summer vacation and vintage bicycles. I love to laugh, stay out late and look at the stars, be vulnerable when the time is right. And honestly, this year I’ve become the absolute happiest that I’ve ever been.

I’ve decided that I don’t like people who waste my time. I don’t want to live in Maine for forever, drink more than a couple vodka and red bulls in one night, or watch a Star Wars movie. Ever. I don’t want to be around people who insult others as a way to make themselves feel better, give backhand compliments, or count their daily carb intake. I don’t want to compete with anyone besides myself, ever stop laughing at my own jokes, wear sandals every day even it’s just in my mind, read books that challenge me, and push myself to its limits to be the best that I can possibly be.

I’ve made messes, said things that I can’t take back, hurt people who didn’t deserve it, broken bridges that were probably already a little bit rusty. I’ve decided that maybe music and the outdoors are the best things in life and writing people off in life should only be done as a last resort.

I’m a believer of natural magic. That the most beautiful things happen in the middle of the night and are always, always unexpected. In a bar when you’re dizzy from just the right amount of alcohol, on a scorching summer night in an orange sundress, on the Fourth of July when the city you love more than anything is drenched in rain and red, white and blue. In the middle of the woods when everything smells clean, new, like earth.

I think that there is absolutely nothing that yellow and coral tulips cannot fix. When my day feels horrible then iced coffee, country music, and a car wash can always turn it around. Coffee cleanses cause nothing but headaches, baseball games are fun even when I don’t understand baseball, and sometimes my heart surprises me. I’ve learned to trust my gut feeling, walk in heels, and shop at Target without spending $200 on stuff I’ll never actually use.

I think that over this past year I’ve found what I’ve been looking for all along. I’ve always wanted to be truly happy with where I am in my life, and this past year, I’ve found it. I teach a handful of 4th grade monsters every single day who I absolutely adore. I have fabulous colleagues, friends that get me, people who appreciate me, am content both going out and staying in. I’m happiest on warm sunny days in flower sunglasses and flip flops, but I already knew that.

Last year my resolution wasn’t to change my body, make new friends, or be in a relationship. It was to focus on the beauty all around me, to become truly happy, to notice the world’s magic. And honestly I think I’ve done it. I’ve never, ever felt so incredibly content being who I am. Over this past year I’ve decided what is important and what is not, who is worth taking a risk on, and what memories should simply be left in the past.

I do need my family, even if my plan is to move away. I’m learning to appreciate the time that I have left with my father, to go out when I’d rather stay in, to make room in my life for even the most unexpected friendships. I don’t need negativity, anger, to ever be told that I’m not enough. I should never have to grovel after pouring my heart out and apologizing, should never have to prove my worth in any situation other than my career, or ever feel inadequate. I didn’t fully grasp this before, the fact that an order for others to accept me I had to fully accept myself, and I am so glad that I have.

There is so much in this world that I cannot change. So much sickness, so many lies, crime, murders, people sent to jail who don’t even deserve to be there.

But some things I can concentrate on. New York city taxi cabs during a rain storm, the smell of the sea on the warmest days, a variety of flowers and wine at Trader Joes, apple cider and pumpkin coffee, lounging by the pool on some of the hottest days with one of my best friends. Dancing with people I love in a beautiful cobble stone city, movies in yoga pants on $5 night, dresses and jean jackets in the middle of Boston, sitting in a hot tub outside in the middle of the night when it was so cold I could see my breath. I don’t believe that anyone has ever come into my life by accident, that shooting stars make wishes come true, we do.

I really am the happiest that I’ve ever been. Goodbye 2015, you were genuinely wonderful.

Whisper Words of Wisdom

The amount of changes in the education world are slowly but surely making me nutty. I pride myself on being exceptionally patient, in fact, I’m regularly told that I am. Lately I’m not. I’m not sure what it is, maybe my anticipation of the holiday season, the fact that I’m so overtired I’m falling asleep with all the lights on, or maybe it’s that one specific child asking me the same question 963 times in a twenty minute period. All day long.

“Miss Higgins, can I go to the bathroom? The bathroom? Hey, Miss Higgins, can I go to the bathroom? Hey. Hey. Hey. HEY MISS HIGGINS, DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID? HELLO? CAN I GO TO THE BATHROOM? Hey, Miss Hig -”

“NO! WE HAD A BATHROOM BREAK 3 MINUTES AGO AND YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO GO.”

I love my student’s. I do. I promise I do. But sometimes life as a teacher can be frustrating when they ignore you, mock you, bully you, or in my case, say my name more times in one day than my entire weekly step count.

I’m not sure if this has always been the case with children and I’m just now noticing it (honestly it’s possible), but kids are judgy and it makes me  squirmy. No joke, I have a child who keeps a visual log of my wardrobe in a notebook. “Miss Higgins, do you realize that you wore that skirt on September 27th?” Wait, what?

“Miss Higgins, did you mean to make your ‘a’ look more like an ‘o’?”

“Miss Higgins, my little sister has the same sneakers as you!”

If I could, I’d tell them that they have crummy attitudes and that nobody wants to be around someone who acts like a mini Kardashian.

This afternoon I tried to get rid of some of my stress by working out. I was feeling especially motivated after school, and after all of the effort of changing my clothes, finding just the right sports bra, shorts that match my top, putting my hair in the perfect high ponytail and meandering back downstairs I had completely worn myself out. Being exhausted is exhausting. I know realize that I made it sound like I worked out, which is completely misleading because I actually did not.

I really didn’t do anything but sit on the couch in my workout gear and stare at the Christmas tree but I thought really hard about working out and I think that should count for something. I did look at my pedometer on my phone shortly after and realized that I had in fact burned about 34 calories between my hike up the stairs and directly to the couch, so in some sense I was successful. Except that I took a brief break at the pantry for a 90 calorie Fiber One cheesecake square, so I guess I’m in the negative.

I have things on my mind, the list it seems is absolutely never ending. Things like how I might step on my cat in the middle of the night because it’s so dark and she’s she so dark, and it makes me nervous. I actually tried to solve this problem on my own, and after strapping on a reflective collar and a bell onto her neck, I’m one step away from spray painting her hot pink. She’s not a fan of my plan, but I’m ignoring her because she has an attitude and I don’t like it.

There are report cards, new grading systems, bills always, illness always, Christmas presents, family plans, places I wish I could be like Jamaica, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, (not cold and gray Maine) etc.

I’ve always been kind of Christmas obsessed. I love the feeling I get when I see the lights, the trees. I love the music, Christmas flavored coffee, the smell of the world when it’s frozen. I’ve been kind of struggling with this right now, which is strange, because it’s always just been who I am. I don’t know what it is, if it’s the stress, the knowledge that I don’t have a lot of Christmas’s left with everyone I love, or maybe it’s just that it hasn’t snowed yet. Even though I despise snow, it does make it feel more like Christmas.

I know that there are things that I could/should be doing to improve my personal well being and blah blah blah. I should be (actually) working out. I should be visiting the ocean because I love it, reading less murder mysteries because I know that they give me nightmares but I read them anyways. I should be spending less money on coffee, vodka drinks on the weekends and summer clothes even when they’re on sale because you know, it’s winter.

If I were truly motivated, which I’m not, I would attempt some of these things. But the truth is that I like coffee and vodka drinks and murder mysteries. However, I’m thinking that simply crossing my fingers and wishing for change probably won’t be helpful either.

A Thrill of Hope, the Weary World Rejoices

I remember being told as a child that I should always surround myself with people who I admire, who I want to be most like. I struggled with this because I wanted to be friends with everyone, liked by everyone. But I wasn’t, and this hurt me. Nobody ever wants to feel like their not enough, that their inadequate, that their personality horrifies another person.

I always claimed that I was the type of person who didn’t care what other people thought about me, but I did, I still do. I wanted people’s approval, couldn’t stand harsh comments whispered in the hallway, felt my heart breaking when my middle school crush didn’t ask me to dance at the Sadie Hawkins Dance. I wanted to be accepted, liked, appreciated.

I can be ridiculously oversensitive. If someone flips me off while I’m driving it honestly affects my entire day, parents of student’s who openly dislike me and tell the world hurt me to the core, when someone’s actions show just how little they care about me or another person is something that hurts me most of all. I know that this is one of my downfalls, an unattractive trait to people, but I can’t help it.

There are a lot of cruel people in this world. I’m a firm believer that there’s good in everyone, and maybe that gets me into trouble. I want to be the person who lets someone feel wanted, needed, appreciated, loved. I hate when I can’t be, when my message isn’t received, when the hurt isn’t fading and then I feel like it’s my fault. I get attached to people easily, I love easily, I want to see everyone happy.

I’m thankful for the people in my life who understand me, who don’t make me feel horrible when I’ve invested too much, when I cry for no reason at all; because I do. I have plenty of faults, I know I’m oversensitive, hurt too easily, way too vulnerable. But at least I care.

A lot of people say, “ugh, I could never do what you do” when they hear that I’m a teacher. I know that it’s not for everyone, but for me it’s like air. Right down to the smell of school supplies, the light in a child’s eyes when they finally get a concept, the feeling of little arms around me when we’ve returned from a long vacation. These kids, whether they know it or not allow me to completely be myself. I can be oversensitive because they are too, I can care too much because they need someone in their life that does, I can cry for no reason because more often than not I have at least one child having a meltdown at all times. I love them, every one of them, and am so thankful for them. When I’m teaching I don’t have to think about the latest heartbreaking news segment on CNN, Dementia support groups, heartbreak, people who have let me down. I’m just happy.

It makes me laugh when I think about the words that my grandmother said to me over and over about faking it until I make it, about surrounding myself with good, having a circle of friends who I wanted to be like. My circle of friends now is certainly smaller, reduced to people I genuinely love, who I think bring out the very best in me. The people I spend my days with are certainly smaller as well, usually around 9 and 10.

I’m thankful for people, more than anything. Our bodies are constantly changing, our health, thoughts, seasons, relationships; they all have moments that are unsteady, rocky. I love to be alone sometimes, to spend a night in with a bottle of wine, a hot shower, a brand new book and an oversized sweatshirt.

But there are times that I just need another person to be there, to lift up my spirits, to tell me to cut it out, give me a hug, kiss me longer than they should because we’re lonely and the moment is right. I need that sometimes, and I’m so grateful for these people who just get me.

I’ve been trying lately to mend things that I’ve broken, apologize for the things that I’ve destroyed, for the different mistakes that I’ve made and to the people that I’ve hurt. It’s okay if they’ve decided that I’m one of those people in their lives that they don’t need, I need to accept that I can’t be enough for everyone, that not everyone needs to like me. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, said things that I regret, cut people out who I shouldn’t have. I can’t blame people for wanting to forget me, but I won’t lie, it still stings. How hypocritical is that?

The holiday season always forces me to reflect, to reevaluate. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was time that I was able to feel extra connected to my family, especially my father. I guess I just want to be someone that he can be proud of, that my parents respect, a person who has legitimately earned respect for good reasons. In some instances, I don’t think that I have.

I’m trying to turn myself around, to focus on the good, to make amends and do what makes me happy no matter the consequences, no matter what others think of me. I’ve been listening to music way too loud on my way to work, going out for a drink with friends when I’d rather stay in, buying bright yellow tulips every week because they make me the happiest. I’m going to decorate for Christmas even though it reminds me of my father, because I’ve always loved it and that shouldn’t change.

I have so much, I really do, more than a lot of people. I need to remember that, focus on that, think every single day about how lucky I am to have people in my life who both love and respect me.

I’m going to surround myself with people who make me better.

We Got The World in Our Hands

I’ve encountered a lot of heroes in my life; the best one’s are those people who don’t even know it.

In my classroom we talk a lot about acts of kindness. About doing something just because you want to, not because you feel obligated to. That’s really difficult to explain to a 9 year old, because a lot of times at 9 they often haven’t done anything kind just because. There’s always an ulterior motive; a new video game, candy, the extra half an hour to stay up and watch a special show. That warmness in your heart when you’ve made someone’s day isn’t easy to put into words, but I find that when it happens, when it finally happens all on its own, they just get it. The healthiest addiction you could possibly have of making someone’s day.

There’s a young girl who voluntarily sits all alone every single day at lunch. Shy and lonely, she refuses to meet anyone’s eyes unless instructed. She picks at her food on her plate, ignores other children when they ask if they can sit with her, turns bright red at the slightest glance to anyone. The other day in class I pondered a question to my students: “What would happen if you could change someone’s day no matter the cost? What would you do?” I was hoping that with a little bit of probing the students would sort of figure out what I was talking about without having to actually say it. And to my surprise, they did.

“What about that girl at lunch?” One of my students asked.

“She won’t sit with anyone,” another student said. “I’ve asked her before.”

We sat there for a minute and pondered that. Eventually I asked the students if they could come up with a solution. They didn’t have a lot of ideas, but I asked them if they could remember their first day at the middle school. Shy, scared, lonely, nervous. We talked about how for them those feelings eventually went away, but maybe for some people they just didn’t.

“What if a group of us don’t ask her next time?” one of them asked. “We all just get our trays, and we sit down beside her, and we just do it. Without her permission. Maybe she says no because she thinks we just feel bad for her.”

I was thrilled, but didn’t want to give it away. A lot of great ideas are out there, but what really matters is the follow through. And honestly, I’ve seen a lack of follow through from my group since September. I went to lunch with them, sat back, and waited. I wasn’t let down as a group of four students grabbed their trays and sat down. You could tell they were a little nervous, but then one of them looked at her and asked her what her favorite thing to do at recess is, and they were hooked. Ten minutes later, she was speaking back. They looked at me, some kind of silent conversion, and they just beamed. I knew that they had finally gotten that feeling that I was looking for in them. They had changed a life.

The other day I met up with a student who is just learning how to read and write. He struggles with self confidence as a result, but tries harder than many. I met with him alone while the other children were writing so that we could work on his ten sight words of the week. He started off very hesitant as we grouped the words into two piles; “Phrases We Know,” and “Phrases to Practice.” We reviewed these words for a couple of minutes, and mixed them together to make sure we knew them. I told him that I was going to time him, and see how long it took him to complete all ten phrases. He was beyond thrilled to go from five minutes to two in a short amount of time, and he insisted that he could do better. He watched the seconds of the timer go by as we went from two minutes to 58 seconds, and he became happier than I’ve ever seen him.

“I can do better, Miss Higgins!” he exclaimed. I told him that I knew he could, and reset the timer. Soon we went down to 36 seconds, and I told him that we were going to do it just one more time. He created a record for himself at 28 seconds, and was so happy he bounced up and down in his seat and grinned all over. I was caught up in the moment and the excitement, and was honestly caught off guard when my entire class stood to their feet and clapped for this student, who I’m willing to bet has never been given a round of applause in his life. “Great job!” they yelled.

In this time I realized that maybe the students really did know what it was like to be a hero. To care for another person more than something silly like snack time or the latest gadget. Maybe it’s me that has been jaded, that hasn’t given them a chance to prove me wrong. I have never been prouder of my students than I was in that moment, and it took everything in me to not burst into tears right there.

“Do you guys know?” I wanted to ask, “how much you just changed his life?”

In life heroes come in many different forms. In our military, in single parents, the mother working two jobs and taking care of her four children. In nurses, doctors, surgeons, police officers, anyone who dares work at the DMV. In someone standing up to someone, making someone’s whole day, changing someone’s life. In the students in my class who help get their siblings ready for school and on the bus because no one else will help them.

There are people in my own life who I don’t think know how much of an impact they’ve had on me. The random guy on the side of the road who checked to see if I was okay after my car accident, who stayed with me the entire time when he didn’t have to. The teachers in my wing at school who treat me like a daughter, my mother for listening to me vent about things when I’m clearly wrong. In people who sacrifice their own sleep to talk with me, who go out of their way to make me smile. The random lady at Dunkin’ Donuts who paid for my coffee last week and doesn’t even know me; I wish I could tell her that I was having the worst day, and she changed it around entirely.

I just hope that there are some people out there in the world whose lives I’ve changed, was able to brighten up their day at least a little bit like so many have done for me.