Labor Day Weekend 2021 I decided to cram in as much adventure as possible. Each of my syllabi states that one of my expectations is that students are adventurous. I created this particular syllabus template in 2019, and since then seeking adventure is more and more how I have decided to live my life, as often as possible. My boys and I met up with my friend Maria and her friend Billy at Patapsco State Park, a place we have hiked several times now. We hiked 5.55 miles on several different trails, following Billy’s lead. Despite the fact that I plan and execute lessons for a living, I am a horrible planner and it was nice to just follow someone else’s lead on this excursion and let my mind wander when I wasn’t engaged in conversations.
At one point in the hike two deer were just off the path eating. My sugar had dropped and I was getting gummy bears out of a bag, making a loud crinkly noise, and one of the deer kept it’s eyes on me but did not get spooked, nor did it run away. I began to think about fear, instincts and anxiety. Returning to the classroom has been such a welcomed experience, it is so refreshing to have everyone in the building again, but anxiety levels are high all around. Students have more anxiety now than ever before, some parents are anxious about COVID, while others are about mask wearing. As I continue on my own path of self-improvement, one of my main focuses has been on my mental health and anxiety. I have deepened my faith in the idea of “the universe,” and my “soul family.” I have moments where I truly feel held and protected by this belief that I can trust something higher than myself and what experiences are meant for me are meant for me. My life coach and other like-minded friends (I have plenty who think I am in the midst of an epic mid-life crisis) have taught me that repeating numbers are a sign, so I googled “555” and found that not only is this a sign that I should take action, and go for it, but that “Like many repeating numbers, 555 is also a sign to deepen your spiritual practices, continue asking the angels and Universe for help, and listen to your intuition. Trust that you are ready to ‘level up’ and that you are being supported and protected by your guides every step of the way.” (source) Ok, faith reaffirmed.
In the middle of the hike we came across the ruins of an old house, with partial walls still standing, but mostly rubble. The kids and I wanted to go look at it, and as we got closer it smelled terrible. Maria noticed that there was fresh, human shit in the rubble, and then we all saw it. Her ability to spot things seems improbable, as Billy and I concurred. Maria often says that she is no one’s guru, yet she is the most spiritually enlightened person I know. She is so in-tune with nature, she can and does spot even the smallest little details. This hike she noticed several very small snails. I held onto one of the shells for a small stretch, wondering if the kids would notice if it came home with us or not (it didn’t and they didn’t remember). The shell was smaller than a dime, brown like the dirt around it and passed by countless people unobserved. According to spiritanimals.com, the snail totem indicates that “more often than not, they prefer to be alone, are not very social, and sometimes very timid as well. They always have to balance protection with trust (not easy). Often, Snail totem people never show their true selves to the world. Also, their feelings are generally at the forefront of most of their decisions and actions.” I have come back to that description several times in the days since we hiked. I don’t think I am a “snail person” but there was a part of me feeling that way during the weekend. I felt very strongly that I needed this weekend to strengthen my relationship with my kids. I often picture a triangle when I think about my kids and I, mainly because we were our own little grouping, even when I was married. Going days at a time without seeing them is hard, and then having days with them with no break is hard and my initial reaction was to crave emotional walls to barrade ourselves in from any potential hurt. “Triangles are the strongest shape there is. Any weight placed on them is evenly distributed on all 3 sides. They represent geometric sturdiness; no matter how much weight you put on any side, it will not break. It’s resilient and we really admire that.” (source) We are not only three strong individuals, but as our own family unit, we are the strongest shape. Taking some time outside in the woods and then the beach was enough to remind myself of that fact, and not to put energy into some imaginary threat.
I keep seeing a meme on social media about not yet being over 2019 and realizing that 2022 is fast approaching and 2019 will soon be three years ago. 2019 was a pivotal year for me. I found myself consistently posing the question “What am I doing with my life?” over and over, particularly as I ventured down a road I am not proud of. There is a reason the personal development industry generates celebrities and is a multimillion dollar industry. It takes a lot of courage to move past that question and actually take action. There are so many different options, which one do you pick, or do you become the personal development junkie trying on everyone else’s ideas? I don’t have an answer to the question, but something I once came across helped me improve my life: never be afraid to reinvent yourself. Giving myself that permission broke me out of a box I never should have tried to fit into in the first place. I began this blog a little under two years ago when I was working at a private school and it has changed several times in that time, as I have. Originally it was “thehotmessteacher” because I was – and remain – a hot mess. Two years ago at the private school, I took the day off to decompress, and someone told me to go take a “nature bath,” and I smiled and nodded, not realizing that few years later I would legitimately be prescribing myself “nature baths” and writing about “spirit animals” and this entire blog would go from teaching, to poetry, to some weird hybrid of a personal/hiking journal. Anyway, here’s where I am today. Because I have more confidence, fun, sense of purpose and wonder my personal relationships are thriving. I do still question what I am doing with my life, but having a ton more fun in the process of continuing to figure out who I am, and how I get to become the person I want to be and more and more often I am able to let go of that nagging question, and know that what I am doing with my life is exactly what I should be doing with it.