Ghosts in the Cheap Seats

I think I’ve written before about ghosts of bosses past. Those bosses who told you over and over again that you weren’t pulling your weight, not doing the right things, not giving the job everything you had, or weren’t invested enough in the work. Those bosses who, bit by bit, took away the privileges or responsibilities you’d earned the right to have because of your hard work, dedication, and expertise. Those bosses who ensured that you were no longer invited to the meeting, the get-together, or not given the memos that others were…left out of the loop.

Those people and their residual voices often live rent-free in our heads, sometimes for fleeting moments and sometimes for much longer. Evicting them is complicated.

I’m teaching full-time this year. And trying to do all the other things too–all the things I’ve been doing the last six years and was finally feeling reasonably confident about doing. I felt like I was in the loop. Funny, when I left the classroom I was about nine years in…and I finally felt reasonably confident in my job.

I got an email today about “new processes” and immediately felt the pain of left-out-ed-ness. Another thing I missed. When the hell did this new process start and why didn’t I know anything about it? How will the new process impact the kids we serve and our ability to make sure they’re actually SEEN and not just a set of scores? How could I have missed something so important? I have questions and no time to ask them that won’t make me look like I’m slacking…or just not able to do my job.

I can’t go to meetings during the school day because I am teaching so I’m out of the loop unless I happen to catch the one out of 9000 emails that happens to mention the thing I need to know. I have to be selective about email and constantly feel behind because there are only 24 hours in a day and emails aplenty for far more hours. I’ve already been chastised once because I was expected to attend a meeting (that could have been an email or a video greeting) with the comment along the lines of if you can’t make the meeting you damn well better find someone who is more capable of coming and doing the job.

More capable. More capable of being in more than one place at a time. More capable of doing my job..and all the jobs that fall beneath it..and all those that become mine because it’s the most logical place to file them. More capable of handling multiple roles at once without anyone feeling as though I’m not completely present–their needs are the most important in that moment. Nothing else exists. More capable of juggling 10 balls…and sixteen plates, four knives, and a Katana sword or two for good measure…while wearing roller skates in an ice skating rink and hula-hooping while dodging flying hockey pucks launched by the best NHL players on earth….and dodgeballs chucked at my head by the dodgeball team from Average Joe’s Gym live on ESPN The Ocho, complete with play-by-play commentary from Pepper Brooks and Cotton McKnight.

The ghosts in the cheap seats make me second guess every email, every on-the-fly response, every gut feeling, every piece of documentation, every hat change, every single decision. What seems logical to me may not be logical to those who matter. And when I’m not asked to a meeting, or have a task removed from my plate (even if the intent is good), or have to ask for help…the ghosts tell me that I’m not capable. Maybe I’m not cut out for this after all because I’m not managing it all well…without complete transparency, perfection, and with all of the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.

I know that this isn’t just a gifted thing. There are others out there doing exactly the same thing every day, trying to keep the balls in the air, the plates spinning, the positions filled. But sometimes, you do feel awfully alone and the weight of the work is heavy.

I know that my own intensities make the critics louder. My own perfectionism clouds the way I see everything, the way I plan, the way I present, the way I reflect. They all determine which critics are yelling from the cheap seats….and which I hear loudest in a given moment.

I am lucky to have good people around me though…to check on me and make sure I found what I needed, to bring coffee, hallway hugs, food, more tissues, and allergy medicine…to read me when I’m trying so hard to keep my book shut and hold it together…and to be able to see beyond the box for solutions…and to catch the ball, plate, or sword before it hits the ground.

Be these people for your gifted kids. Be the ones who check in, grant grace, offer solutions instead of punishment or consequences, shine a light outside of the box so they can see possibilities. And the ones to launch a dodgeball at their ghosts in the cheap seats.

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