What Motivates Me: My Relationship with Being Weird
It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? We ought to know what motivates us. We ought to be aware of why we do things. We ought to have full awareness all the time, because we KNOW WHAT WE WANT. Right?
But what about those times when we think we know what we want, and then the reality of it is just so uncomfortable? Or we say we want to do something, and then the process of getting there just... well... sucks?
I've been in a "weird" place for a while now. And this is funny, because I have a really nice relationship with the word "weird."
You see, there was never a time when "weird" was not in the vocabulary of adjectives that described me.
I've always been "Weird." My family was "weird;" more often than I care to get into, my parents' bravery resulted in the impossible becoming possible. My clothes were "weird;" I was definitely seen wearing, paisley, tie die, courdorouy and plaid in the same outfit, and somehow, I made it work. But man, it looked weird. My education was "weird;" I attended the entire spectrum of educational institutions from public to private, to experiential to technical to fancy pants preparatory and beyond. Everything I did, and everything about me has been deemed "weird" by someone at some point. But to me, I was just "being."
This cracks me up, because the definition of the word weird has three primary definitions: 1) suggesting something supernatural or uncanny 2) a soothsayer, and more often than not, historically, there is a negative connotation assigned to it.
I never associated with the negative side of being "weird."
My point is, for me to say I am in a weird place, is, well... weird. Weird because "weird" is my baseline.
For the past 25 years I've been having a conversation with myself about my motivation. This conversation has been about what motivates me.
For a long time, I felt weird about even asking the question, "Why do I teach?" I felt weird, because my answer made me cringe.
My answer was, "because I need money."
This answer sucked. This answer is what made my life uncomfortable and... "weird" in a not-so-very-nice way.
For many people, we find our jobs, because "we need money."
I was lucky. I love what I do, and I just so happen to get paid for it, but there was a grey area, and area that made my stomach ache and my throat stick to itself, and my jaw lock when I thought of teaching someone- anyone. It always boiled down to, "because I need money."
Teaching was never something I chose to do, because I was so excited to watch my students light up in learning. I discovered I loved teaching when I started teaching, but my original motivation to get to that place was financially motivated, because I needed money.
I have to be honest.
What I notice about this honesty, is that it makes me sad. I feel sorrow and disappointment in myself for being motivated to teach people, because I need money. This felt awful, because it did not feel genuine, or real. It did not feel like the true reason I teach, but it was the reason that showed itself, again and again.
Then my conversation with myself shifted to, "Well, what happens if I try on a new motivation, just for a second, because needing money feels weird?"
So I tried one on. I tried on being motivated by my student's and the joy I feel when I watch their hearts and minds light up in awareness.
For a hot minute, this felt great. Until I started to feel "weird," but in a different way.
Then the weird got sad, because I couldn't stop myself from caring. I cared so much; I went home at night thinking about my students, talking to Corey, my fiance, about them. Worrying about what would happen to them; musing about how they were doing decades after they had me as their teacher. I called my friends on the phone, sobbing into the phone, because I was so angry at my students' parents for not listening or for being so scared they couldn't help their children or disappointed that the school system didn't make space for each student to be themselves. I got overwhelmed, and again, the weird feeling returned.
It's not like I was suddenly back to my regular old "weird" self. I was in the epitome of "gross weird," the type of weird that was all doom and gloom. I had become the "weird soothsayer of education," predicting terrible emotional outcomes of my students when they didn't do their homework or came to school high or struggled. I had become, the "Weird" I never thought I would become.
And I hated it. And I hated who I was. Now, I needed money and I cared about my students in a way that made me feel powerless.
So then, I gave up teaching. I thought, "I can't be involved. Either I care so much, I am useless, or I care about the wrong things. I can't align myself with this teaching thing. It just feels so weird."
That's when I became a healer. HAH. HAH. HAH.
So, because I felt "weird," I stopped teaching, so I could actually become "weird."
And wouldn't you know it, I learned a whole bunch of skills to help me deal with all these feelings, emotions, and such, and before I knew it, I was, yup...you got it, teaching again.
This time I was teaching healing. But then I started teaching academic subjects again too, and it was not long before I found myself in the familiar conversation of, "what am I motivated by as a teacher?"
Again, the answer came, "I need money."
UGH. Not you again.
And the more I looked at this, the weirder things got. And that "gross weird" showed up again.
Every time I attempt to say, "I'm done teaching. I just feel so weird." The universe comes back by giving me a class to teach, or a student to work with, or a curriculum to develop.
I'm tired of this game, universe. Let's make some new rules.
I attempted to assuage the "weirdness" I felt about my motivation by ignoring it, by changing my motivation, only to discover that all my training and skills did not squash the truth that I really do care about my students.
Only now, as I pause to reflect on this tonight, I notice a dramatic shift in the way I care.
I do think about them after work, and come up with ideas for them while I am walking my dog, or solve a problem about how to help them while I am digging in the dirt in my garden. My amazing students feed me as much- if not more- than I hope I offer them in class and sessions.
More often than not, insights about my students come to me while I am in the shower.
Now... that's WEIRD.
Most of the time, I never tell my students these insights, because I am afraid. Yeah... I'm afraid of being "weird." I'm afraid of over-stepping a boundary, or being perceived in a way that will get me "fired from the job."
Well, here is the truth you need to know about me.
My humanity comes into play in these teaching relationships, because I care, but it is because I care the way I do that I attract my students to me.
I have always been this way. I have always cared. For so many years, this part of my personality was shunned. My caring was "weird," and not in the good way I felt growing up. My caring was perceived as odd, bizarre, and scary to people, a sign that I had no boundaries and got too close to people.
This happened enough that I started to think this part of me was weird. I was so used to judging myself, I lost touch with my original motivation for being: caring. Because I was afraid.
I mean, COME ON! My name is Amy! My name means beloved. Derived from the latin word, "to love;" how weird am I to deny my very own purpose given to me in my name!
Well, it's weird, you see, because I've spent so much of my life telling this part of me to "go away," because it was "weird" to care this deeply about anyone.
Well, screw that.
I care. And tonight, I had an epiphany while I sat on my sofa looking at my dog. I'm going to care the way I do best. When my motivation is to care about my students, a funny thing happens, I make more money. Funny thing about trust in your purpose, it always pans out.
Funny other thing: The "J" in my name: Jayalakshmi. Victorious Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance, often depicted with coins pouring from her hands. So basically, if I trust my names, I'm all set.
This time, instead of judging myself for caring so deeply, I'm going to accept that I care with respect and discernment. I am going to allow the part of me that is special and "weird-" the part of me that cares so honestly for my students' success- to shine.
I can't wait to see what happens next, I so look forward to the next chapter of "weird" in my life. There is one other definition of "weird," I saved- the best- for last.
Weird: 3) having to do with fate or destiny.
All right, destiny. Let's do this thing.