Adjust Your Sails

cc photo by J. Delp (taken in a Tempe alleyway)

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails.  – William Arthur Ward

Yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk.

On most weekends, I try to get out to someplace scenic, go for a hike and take a few pictures. I love the adventure in hiking and photography — I’m never quite certain what I will find. But, yesterday’s walk was different. I didn’t head out to a local trail or drive to one of my favorite “hidden” places. Instead, I took a left off of our neighborhood sidewalk and began a trek down the alley behind our house. Yes, I said alley — as in the place where you empty your trash, dump your grass clippings, and try to ditch those old household items you no longer want in the hopes that someone else will carry them off (admit it, you do that).

What initially drew me off of the sidewalk and into the alleyway was a small clump of Globe Camomile — a beautiful little wildflower that looks like small yellow spheres (it also happens to be an invasive species — can’t win them all). But, after a few pics, I took a quick glance down the alley and became intrigued by grasses growing in the middle of the path. And after that, a vine and flowers flowing over a neighbor’s back wall. Fifteen minutes later, I found myself back on the sidewalk at the opposite end of our block. I also found beauty where I would never have imagined, or taken the time to look.

What we are going through as a world has thrown most of our lives off course — at least to some degree. It has been an overwhelming challenge and it is testing our willpower, our patience, and our mental and physical strength. Many people have been personally impacted through physical illness, loss of employment, or even loss of loved ones. We cannot just blink those tragedies away, so I want to be very careful that I acknowledge the pain and suffering that has touched so many.

I work in the field of education, and I have a feeling that after this crisis, my profession will never be the same. This pandemic has upended the way we “do school,” and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This week I shared this tweet on my professional Twitter feed (@principaldelp).

For me, this crisis has been an intense time of reflection. An opportunity to look at my life and consider who I really want to be. Honestly, as chaotic as this change has been (for example, moving 875 junior high kids to online learning in two weeks) it has made it glaringly obvious that I have little control over what is happening. Control is always an illusion. I’ve had to accept this and begin searching for the things I can control — my attitude, my ability to help others, my leadership, etc. In other words, I’ve had to adjust my sails. I can’t control the virus. I can’t just sit and wait it out. I have to do what I can, where I can, for who I can.

Just as I am predicting that this crisis will forever change education, I am optimistic that it will change the world in positive ways. I am hopeful that we will be more patient, more empathetic, and more understanding of others. I am hopeful that we will realize the importance of relationships (and the relative unimportance of smartphones) and that we will connect with others on a personal level. Most of all, I am hopeful that we will slow way down. That we will cut out the things that make us frantic, stressed, and distract us from what is most important in our lives. I hope that we will take walks down the alley and find beauty in unexpected places.

Peace be with you all on this blessed Easter!

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