Chosen Reactions

I thought it was a waste of time. I didn’t say that with my mouth, but I said it just as clearly with my face and posture. It was a school-wide program and I was apparently the only one that hadn’t been properly initiated through a two-day-download of information. And so, with a very reluctant set of sub plans set on my desk, I drove the 20 minutes to another school for a student leadership conference. 

I expected hours of someone telling me how to be a better teacher, why I should use their curriculum, or something equally frustrating. However, not 5 minutes in, the speaker told me I was wrong. Then she proved it. Not only was this not about teaching, it wasn’t even about my students. It was two days focused on me, my personal development, and my personal growth. I still didn’t uncross my arms or sit up straight–can’t be too careful with these things–but I thought I might enjoy these two days. Maybe. 

As we passed through workbook pages, I found it nice but like…not quite for me. Not quite what I needed. 

Then we came to this idea that I’d heard my teenage students chant in childish songs learned years before: be proactive. 

I don’t like that word. It sounds cliché as soon as it leaves your mouth.  I bristled even as it was said, but still listened. 

For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. Was it a video? Something the speaker said? A quote in the book? I haven’t the slightest. But somehow during this section, the truth overwhelmed me with clarity and faded everything else out. 

The truth? Reactivity is wrecking my life. 

Now listen here, reader, I consider myself very self aware, exceptionally skilled in introspection. Still, I was pouting about a meeting I didn’t want to go to, students who don’t listen, adults I can’t control. I would’ve rather phrased it as wasting my time at an irrelevant event when I could pour my time and energy in students who need the extra attention and I’m frustrated by lack of competency and care of some people that I know. But uh…that’s a feel-good-rephrase of what I was actually doing. 

What if I let go of what I can not control (namely, all of the above) and focus on what I could? Now, please don’t leave yet, because I am SO CRAZY aware of how BASIC and DUH this sounds, but honestly, how often do we blame our circumstances and others for our emotions? You made me mad? You made me upset? Traffic put me in a bad mood? They just don’t get me? It’s their fault? They never listen? It’s not fair?

I reaped no benefit from the idea of being proactive because I dismissed it as shallow, silly, elementary, dumb. 

But how much would our lives improve if we just owned our decisions, our emotions, our reactions? I tremble as I write this and the detailed mind that I possess pushes me to add the disclaimer that yes, of course, there are circumstances of trauma and abuse and the like that require more complexity than this simplicity. But the vast majority of the time? It’s just a lack of personal responsibility, a lack of ownership. Immaturity dressed up in pretentious maturity. A taking of 25% of the blame max and blaming the rest on the nearest target. 

I’m typing this at the end of a wonderful meeting with colleagues. I went to the wrong location and was 20 minutes late. I hate being late as much as most people hate the idea of going to prison. I detest it. Very few things can frustrate me faster. Whose fault was that? 100% mine. As I rerouted and headed to the right direction, familiar irritation and frustration rose up. But like….why though? What happened already happened. My reaction was unwarranted and I needed to chill. I noticed myself and did exactly that. I chose my reaction. I relaxed. And I surrendered the residual irritation to the Hands of my King and walked in and had an amazing meeting with my friends. 

My point? Check your reactions. Then choose them.