Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
How many times have you pestered little people, or been pestered by big people, with that age-old inquiry? I am guilty, as charged...until recently. Having the privilege to work with teens in Circle, I learned that question is their least favorite. [This 13-year-old agrees: http://www.upworthy.com/this-really-happy-13-year-old-hacks-his-education-and-now-i-regret-i-didnt-do-the-same-with-mine?c=upw1]. Surely, there are better questions we can all be asking.
My 17-year-old is spending her holiday break contemplating life's BIG questions. From where I sit, this is the juiciest part of the entire, albeit stressful, college application process. Fresh off of finals, she must now shift to consider responding to:
What makes you happy?
What does YOLO mean?
What story is central to your identity?
How do you plan to serve others in your future endeavors?
Who are you beyond your grades, classes and test scores? (substitute "children, house and salary"...)
When is the last time you reflected on any of those BIG topics? How would you respond to these prompts creatively crafted by Amherst, Tufts and BC:
"Literature is the best way to overcome death."
"One can have all the facts and miss the truth." Tell about a time when you had all the facts but missed the meaning.
"Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat."
Keep in mind, you are being invited to write deeply personal answers for an anonymous reader who professes wanting to get to know the real you. "Think outside of the box! Take a risk!" They plead. (Can you imagine reading thousands of these apps?)
I love that my teen is pondering Life's largeness....when else does she get this opportunity? (To be fair, she's at a great private school that includes monthly values days and annual retreats, so she actually does spend more time reflecting than her public school peers, or so I am told.) Truth be told, this precocious child tumbled out of my womb talking. I swear her first sentence was a question: "Where was I before I was in there?" (pointing to my belly). And that level of conversation has continued for 17 years as we've explored variations on the theme of "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"
Although Katie Malachuk strongly urges teens NOT to include their parents in writing essays for college apps (You’re Accepted: a great read!), this collaboration has been the very best part of the process so far for us. Last night, as we reviewed dozens of essay prompts required to be explored, essayed, and edited by January 1, she literally screamed "I don't know who I am yet! How can I possibly answer all these BIG questions about identity?!"
I smiled. And began layering more and more and more questions upon questions. Eventually, I saw a spark in her eyes as she involuntarily turned on her iPad and began typing. Before we knew it, she was smack dab in that river in Frenchville PA on her service trip, loving life, and another essay had written itself. To pause and be prompted. That's all she needed.
Just as I think we should all move every 5-10 years to shed some stuff, I also think we should "assist a teen in applying for college" every so often. This once-in-a-lifetime process necessitates time for a deep dive into identity, needs, values, and imagining one's future: Meaning-making of our experiences that we give so little energy to in everyday life.
Who are you? Who are you... really?
Why are you here, now? What is your reason for being?
Growing up in Cincinnati, I remember my very Catholic grandmother's Christmas Card stamp: "Jesus is the reason for the season." (Yup, she even made a birthday cake for the baby Jesus.) There are no doubt many reasons for this season, one of which I think is the opportunity to slow and savor. This is also a great time to pause and ponder. Today is the darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. Pause. Grab a pen and paper. Ponder one of the 20 prompts in this Spark, or create your own.
What unique gifts do you bring to the world?
What conversations do you want to be part of?
January was named after the Roman god, Janus, who had two faces: one for looking back at the past and the other for gazing forward to the future. Here comes your Deep Dive Opportunity: looking back on 2013, consider:
What worked? What didn't?
What did you learn? What did you teach someone?
Who do you want to become as you grow more into yourself?
As Tony Robbins says "Quality questions create a quality life." My chief role in Circle - beyond creating safe space - is posing juicy questions. As I see it, we evolve in the direction of the questions we ask. Looking forward to 2014,
What questions are you asking?
What questions are you living?
Feel free to choose any of the 20 prompts listed above; just start writing/typing. You have 650 words to go. I'm listening....