31 Approaches

" I am so excited to see you," she whispered, vulnerably.

" I wish I could say the same," he shot back with a smirk.

She could only look away as she tried to hide her cracking heart.


When I was in college, I learned that I could be Type A. Before this point, I had no idea how to organize, plan, predict, or get anything done. Once I got a taste of the control this brought into my life, I was hooked. Getting shit done was my drug. 

This trait has only deepened as I've grown older. With little exception, every area of my life is tainted by a very stern need to control outcomes with high-energy and ambitious attacks of tasks. My personal and professional goals are carefully outlined, the action steps are calculated, and satisfaction comes when things are accomplished before deadlines and above expectations.  

But thirty has been a different kind of year for me. It wasn't the most transformational year, or the hardest year, or the most exciting year. It was, though, a year that was wholly unexpected. Nothing about my life ended up as I predicted or planned. I did a lot of things that took me aback, both positively and negatively. It was the first year of my adult life I wasn't in love. I took risks but not with the kind of enthusiasm I have experienced in the past (more with daunting, dragging-myself-forward motion). I cried more as a thirty-year-old woman than any other year of my life. Yet, felt the most content in my skin than any other year of my life.

Thanks for totally fucking with me, 30. 

Sometimes life is like that. You learn truths about yourself and they don't really shock or scare you, even if you're blindsided by them. You just accept them and keep moving, albeit little changed. I think that's called growing up.

As I exit the first year of my 30's, I find myself approaching this human existence in a few new ways:

  1. Giving words, hugs, gifts, time, and love in small, unexpected moments is a disarming act that I am dedicated to practicing, even if it is uncomfortable. It feels so much better to give than to take.
  2. Being okay with falling apart, a little, sometimes, and without judgment of myself.
  3. Allowing others to take care of me, even when every thread of my existence wants to resist.
  4. Reaching out instead of pulling back. Holding hands. Kissing. Crying into someone's neck. Rubbing a shoulder or back. Pain is soothed by touch. Sensory experiences connect us.

In all the grace I can muster, I will slide into 31 as it arrives. This time, without plans.

All the Noise

"You're just free," he kept reminding her.

"Does that make you nervous?" she would ask.

"I haven't decided, yet," he answered. Until he had. And it did.


Almost two years ago, I decided to get rid of my television. Sort of. Really, I moved and didn't take a television with me. I made a home on the third level of a beautifully historical rowhome, in a space that I fell deeply in love with, and a TV didn't seem to fit the space or my new life. 

At night, I would lay on the couch, or sit in my window seat, and listen to the city. The urban soundtrack, I called it. Sometimes I would have music playing; sometimes I would dance. Other times I would turn on a podcast, doing work at my desk or just sitting quietly to listen. Lots of evenings I would read. All with this urban soundtrack softly humming in the background. It became reliable and nurturing.

For the first time in most of my life, I controlled the noise. When I sat down, it was with great purpose: to work; to read; to write; to listen. That thing people refer to as "being present." I controlled the way my home sounded and felt by eliminating a television and it drastically changed the way I interacted with everything else in my space.

Every day we are surrounded by noise we can't control. Some of it is damaging. Some of it is crushing. A lot of it happens without our permission. Noise from people, media, co-workers, family, lovers. A lot of us live with a ton of static noise within our own heads. It distracts. It creates anxiety. It blunts our senses. In a lot of ways, it is a subtle build, and we don't even realize it is happening.

The noise isn't always bad. There can be beauty in noise. But even beauty can be overwhelming when we can't manage it. Or worse, the background static becomes comfortable, making it impossible for us to understand how anyone could live without it.

I have no resolutions this year. Nothing major I want to make resolute, and I am steadfast in that decision. But I have some particular ways of living I want to invest in and tend to this year. Some are small, a few larger, but most extremely personal. To be open and free, to accept what I want for my life without judgment of myself. To be unwavering in my conviction to certain needs and beliefs, while flexible enough to change my mind and pivot.

And when I can't control it, to move through the noise with a grace.

Press Pause

“I won’t be here long,” she said softly.
His eyes gently smiled, “Quick dip. I know your style.”

There is value in balance. Not bending too much one way or the other. Finding a space that blends important areas of life. Pacing yourself. Working hard and taking breaks.

I don’t live this way.

I work at full capacity. Constantly moving. No transition time, just efficiently shifting from one thing to another. I don’t like to stand still. I’m more comfortable moving, preferably quickly and in a forward direction.

In past eight months, I’ve been sick more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. In a life I have created around moving, I have been forced to stand still on more occasions than I would like to admit. I haven’t slowed easily, and the result was unfortunate illness after illness that never really went away and that I never tended to long enough to allow full healing.

This is ironic, given that I have dedicated the last eight months of my life building a company that strives to help educators find happier, healthier life balances. 

Excruciatingly, taking the advice (not my own) of one caring friend and one firm doctor, I pressed pause. I slept. I drank lots of water. And tea. I slept some more. I left the country and slept in the sun and let the humidity drain my body of all that extra hydration. I moved slowly and with purpose. I healed a little more. 

Then I admitted, mainly to myself, that I might desire a slower life. A pace different from what I have built. A world where mornings start a little later and dinners last a little longer. Where transitions might not always be so fast and sometimes I get to hold a hand while I’m getting used to standing still. 

Maybe it is in the moments of pause that we see what has always been there, but in a still frame that finally makes sense

Earning or Sacrificing?

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"Because I'm lonely," he answered.   

And she knew that forever he would be the boy and she would be the tree.  


Recently, it was asked of me (and many others, apparently) what I want to be know for: Would I rather be known for what I earned or what I sacrificed?

Although I am not convinced that this is an either/or question for me, I do believe the struggle to earn and the pain of sacrificing are not all that different. Yes, the feelings and details around each may not appear similar, but each deals in value. Are you working to gain value? Or are you giving something of value up in exchange for something more worthy?

Earning is hard work to see more immediate results.

Sacrificing is a longer, more confusing game.

I don't think I would care to be know for either what I earned or what I sacrificed. That seems too limiting.

I want to be known for a different kind of value. Not one I chased and caught. And not a value that came at the price of exchange. 

I want to be known for what I build and grow and create. I want to be known for what I feel and how I act. I want to be known for what I give. I want to be known for being softer and kinder than was deserved or expected. I want to be known for being harder and faster at just the right moment. I want to be known for creating seconds of delight that are remembered for a lifetime. I want to be known for how I nurture that which has been both earned and sacrificed by others. I want to be known for holding so close and so gently what is in another's bones, even if I haven't quite figured out what is in mine.

I want to be known for being a person that is just really good at being human.

Despite the mess and tears and grind of earning, and despite the pain and turmoil and gripping uncertainty of sacrifice, what lives deep in the core of me is how I hope to be known. 

So maybe this is the bigger question for me: 

What will I have to earn, and what will I have to sacrifice, to be truly known?

The Whole Story

It was just cold enough for the rain to turn to ice. The slushy, wet thing meteorologists call a "wintery-mix." The kind of weather January in Baltimore is known to produce. The kind of weather no one really enjoys.

It was the morning I knew my marriage was over.

I had no idea what to do next, so I drove along the wet roads in a daze and went to work. I sat at my desk, student voices echoing up the hallway and carrying through the building. As I waited for my assistant principal to arrive in my room, I was at an absolute loss. A loss for words. A loss for emotions. A loss of heart and soul.

As she sat in front of me, I took a deep breath and said, "I am getting a divorce," and then I whispered, "and I don't think I can teach today."

In seven years of teaching, I had never let my personal life interfere with my profession. I had compartmentalized for eight to twelve hours each day, no matter what. I thrived at work when my own emotions and health weren't in balance. Throwing myself into teaching when I felt sad or angry or overwhelmed. I found great comfort and reward in pushing my own needs aside to focus on my student and my school and my work.

But not today. This was too big to leave outside in the cold. If I couldn't leave it out there, then I had to ask to not come inside with it. I had to ask to leave and deal with it somewhere else.


Over the next four months, my assistant principal remained the only person in my school that knew what was unfolding in my life. I took two days off and then returned, with no explanation, jumping right back into teaching.

And everyday, for the next four months, at 2:45pm, I closed my classroom door, pulled down the window shade, and cried. I would sit at my desk and become absolutely unhinged. 

Things got easier, or rather, a new normal emerged, slowly but surely. But it was hard every, single day. Over those four months, I knew I needed to care for myself in ways I had never expected would be vital to my wellbeing. I decided I needed to seek therapy. Sorting through the enormous shift that was taking place in my life would not be able to happen otherwise. 

It was four months before I told anyone I worked with what was going on in my life. Another twelve months before I finally started therapy. And even longer before I began to understand how to take care of myself. 

Through that time, I sought hard to figure out how to use my mental health benefits. Baltimore City, unbeknownst to me, provides us with incredible mental health coverage. What isn't provided is anything more than that. Great coverage. Zero support for using it. I flipped through pages of therapists. I googled their names but found no real details of who they were or how they could help me. How was I supposed to choose who to tell my story to if I had to randomly select someone out of a book?

Finally, after months of writing, on what felt like a thousand sticky-note-reminders, "FIND THERAPIST," I began to cold call. I started with the closest available providers in my network. I left three messages. Two called me back that week while I was teaching. One never even responded. Once I finally got one on the phone, we chatted briefly and it sounded like a good enough match to make an appointment.

"Great," she said, "Right now I can see new patients on Tuesdays at 9:30 or Wednesdays at 10 o'clock in the morning." 

Well, shit. 

That was never going to work, and what I began to find is that I didn't have a job that allowed for me easily access these services. Over the next few months, I spoke with a handful of other providers that said the same thing. How was I ever going to do this? It seemed impossible.

I finally got brave enough to ask a few teachers I knew if they had ever tried to use our mental health benefits. I knew someone out there had to of figured out this system. Over and over, they told my same story: It was confusing to get information about individuals, hard to connect with them, and impossible to find an appointment time outside of a 7-5pm work day.

I became fascinated with this very obvious problem that was so widespread across so many of the teachers I talked to. Taking care of ourselves was really hard to do as a teacher. Not just mental health, but overall wellness. The average teacher I talked to hadn't been to a dentist in over two years. Teachers wanted to workout more, but adding more thing to their daily agenda seemed impossible most days. Flu shots were pretty much only received if the grocery store was offering them for free while we were there.

The problem was apparent. Teachers find it extremely hard to access their health benefits. But more than this, we find it damn near impossible to find the time or energy to engage in the type of wellness activities we want and need in our lives. I began to imagine what it would be like if I could solve this problem.

A small seed began to grow. An idea of an organization that empowers schools to provide the services needed to foster healthier, happier, and better-balanced teachers. When we talk about what it means to be a teacher, what our teachers need, we aren't addressing the whole story. Our educators need more than just professional development, they need cultures of care, too.

The Whole Teacher is finally starting to take form. 

Although it's a nonprofit in the early stages, it is also a budding movement that I believe will help to transform how we define healthy schools. Together with schools, we will design individualized wellness programming that meets the unique and specific needs of each school we work with. Wellness programs that make services such as preventative care, exercise, and mental health providers more accessible than ever before to some of our most dedicated and selfless public servants- our teachers.

As we begin to grow, I encourage you to think about why schools don't offer the kinds of embedded wellness services that other companies offer. And then, imagine what would change if teacher health was valued as much as professional development or test scores. Would teaching feel different? Would you teach better because you felt better?

I think it's worth finding out.