The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “gratitude”

Visiting My Past

They say you can never go back.  But you totally can.  I just returned from a trip to my Past.  Well, okay, it was really just a trip to Washington, DC.  But since I lived there off and on for 20 years, it feels like the Past.  And the Present.  And some little bits of it are like the Future.

Stepping off the plane at National Airport (it wasn’t named after Ronald Reagan when I first lived there–he was just in his second term at the time–so it’s always going to just be National or DCA to me), I felt that immediate stressful hunch return to my shoulders.  My face dropped its smile and my feet moved purposefully.  It’s the city.  I immediately and subconsciously adopted the City Attitude.

My travel companion, P. Monkey, loves sleeping in hotels.

My travel companion, P. Monkey, loves sleeping in hotels.

When I’m in D.C., I truly struggle to maintain my identity as Present Tyra.  I shift in and out of dimension like someone caught in a time-space continuum anomaly in Star Trek.  I get on the Metro train and have to consciously force myself to stay seated as the train passes the Pentagon Metro stop (from which I commuted for several years) and the Foggy Bottom stop (yes, it’s a real neighborhood name–go ahead and smirk, I still do) where I worked for several years.

The memories flood back–college (not so good), working at the Key Bridge Marriott (awesome), various restaurants and points of interest that are tied to good (and bad) memories.  And yet I’m there on business.  I’m Present Tyra.  Phase shift.

There are some wonderful things about the city.  I love “city walking.”  Block after block of concrete, interesting characters (who I pretend not to notice as I adopt the disinterested blank face of a city dweller), the fabulous and diverse restaurants (disregard that I ate in the hotel two out of three nights of my trip).  I love the way the city landscapes its tiny green places.  And the street musicians who play and to whom I always give money because in my mind, they are providing a service to the community.  I do not, however, miss the traffic, the noise, and the sadness I feel when I see all the homeless and panhandlers.  And I don’t enjoy the pace–the frenetic hurry-hurry self-important attitude of everyone except the tourists.

Colorful green spaces in the midst of concrete.  Beautiful in their contrast.

Colorful green spaces in the midst of concrete. Beautiful in their contrast.

Being in the Past reminds me of how far I’ve come in my life.  From an insecure small town girl heading off to the Big City for college to…well, to the small town woman who recently returned home after 20+ years to the only place I’ve ever loved.  It’s nice to visit the Past, in part because it makes me appreciate my Present.  It also makes me appreciate the Past and all its players who played a part in getting me to where I am, Home at last.

Carpe the Present.

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Today I am Grateful…

I’m selfish.  And self-centered.  And I have (as Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy would say) a dark and twisty side that sometimes takes over.

And boy, do I complain.  I complain at work.  I complain at home.  I complain on social media.  I complain about my kid, my family, my work, the weather, how hot my office is, my weight.  I complain.

But today I am grateful.  Today I am thinking about two friends roughly my age who have recently had serious health crises.  One had a double mastectomy after getting breast cancer for the second time.  She’s a single mother of two girls in and barely out of high school.  The other is a man I know professionally, but now feel like I know personally after following his journey through stomach pains that turned out to be a plum-sized tumor that now has surrounding blueberries, which is scary.  It is being taken out today (“fruit extraction”) and my thoughts are with him.

Today I am thinking about my mother, who died at 69 of cancer, six months before I got my son, the grandson she’ll never know.  (Although I’m convinced she does know him from wherever she is because I swear I hear her laughing when he does something that makes me crazy.  She loved the “payback” concept of her kids having kids.)

Today I am thinking about friends who have been through divorces–or worse–in their marriages.

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

Today I am thinking about people who have lost children, truly the most horrible experience I can think of.

And today I am grateful for things that I complained about yesterday.  Today I am grateful for:

  • Having so many opportunities to do work I love that I’m overwhelmed.
  • Having an energetic (and healthy) kid who runs me ragged.
  • Having a sweet and loving husband who doesn’t mind being portrayed as either “robotic” or “stable.”
  • Having students to teach (some of whom actually want to learn!).
  • Having the opportunity to live my dream when I get to move back “home” in six months to raise my son and be a multipreneur.
  • Having no answer (because there are so many possible answers) to the question, “What will you do as an entrepreneur?”
  • Having so many kind friends and family members that sent my son birthday presents and cards that I can’t find the time to write all the thank you notes.

Sure, I’m still hurt that my own father said “No, thanks” when I suggested my husband, son, and I come visit after Christmas visit (after 1,000 “Come visit us” comments from him).  But today I’m trying hard to remember to be grateful that between us, my husband and I still have one parent left.  Our son has one grandparent left.

And I’m impatient to move home to the beach.  But today I’m trying to be grateful that I have a job that gives me the chance to help (when I can) college students figure out their careers.  Because I totally dig that.

And I get frustrated at students who go through the motions and give me snarly faces in class.  But today I’m trying to be grateful for the ones who “get it” and who are making the most of their time in college.

So dark and twisty or not, today I am grateful.

Carpe gratitude.

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

I just got back from (brrrr…) Minneapolis where I facilitated three educational programs at the Religious Conference Managers Association (RCMA) Annual Conference, Emerge 2013.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’d never spoken for this particular group before.   It was a fantastic experience!  top_banner2

They (the planners of religious conferences and the supplier-partners who provide the facilities and services they need) were so engaged and participatory in the sessions (well, 2 out of 3, anyway…the session that lasted until 5:30 had a quiet audience.  I’m still not sure whether it was the topic:  “Understanding Difficult Contract Clauses” or the time or some other factor.  It happens.).  Two of the topics were legal and one was crisis management.  I know, some of you out there are going “Zzzzzzz….” but this is important stuff in the hospitality and meetings industry. (So important that I’m thinking of resurrecting my Dr. Tyra’s R.I.S.K. Review blog – what do you think?)

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit with my real job lately – teaching at a university – and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  I’ve always loved the challenge of “nuggetizing” information about this industry that I love (the meetings industry) and providing it to college students to give them a leg up on their competition when they get out there looking for a job.  Yet lately it has felt a bit like just going through the motions.  And I haven’t been able to figure out why.

Now, I think I know!  Gratitude is the key.  It’s energizing to work with a grateful group.  On the flip side, it’s de-motivating to work with an ungrateful (or perhaps more aptly, an apathetic) group. As we all remember from college, not every class is scintillating.  Not every class makes you want to run up to the professor and say “Wow, that was so helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to provide this information to us!”  In fact, few do.  But when I speak to industry groups, I often (but not always) have a few people who come up and say just that.  What I often get in class are bored looks (if not outright napping), “is this going to be on the test?” and some bold folks who confess they are neither interested nor plan to use any of this when they grow up.  It’s deflating.

I’ve taught at three universities.  I still hear and keep in touch with graduate from University 1.  They still rock my world regularly.  

Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!
Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!

I never hear from graduates of University 2.  And I’m just beginning (after 3 years) to hear (though very rarely) from students and graduates of my current university, University 3.  But usually just to provide them “professional contacts”…which I’m happy to do, but it’s not quite the same as hearing “Thanks.”

Maybe I just haven’t been here long enough for the students to realize and share with me and others the value in what they’ve learned in our classes.

I don’t want to be one of those “needy” people who needs ego stroking to feel good about what I do.  But, hey, a little positive feedback goes a long way in maintaining motivation in any job.  So say Kouzes & Posner, godfathers of leadership, anyway.

So show your gratitude today – to a teacher, a spouse, a neighbor, anyone.  A little gratitude truly goes a long way.

Carpe gratitude.

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