The chorus of Darius Rucker’s song For the First Time poured out of the speakers as I drove to work.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Yeah, let yourself go, follow that feeling Maybe something new is what you're needing Like a real life, let your hair down, feel alive When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I heard the words but my mind was preoccupied with the tasks needing my attention when I got to school. It wasn’t until I heard the line, “Maybe something new is what you’re needing,” when my brain kicked into the present moment and my ears actually listened to the words.
When he sang again, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I actually had an answer!
A Little History
After two decades as a classroom teacher, work-related responsibilities had increased to such an extent there was not enough time to do everything that needed to be done for school. (Even with spending weeknights and weekends trying to keep up.)
At the beginning of my last year as a classroom teacher, I discovered a poster with the words:
Struggling to keep up with the never-ending demands of a classroom teacher, this slogan became my mantra for the changes I wanted to make in my life.
Feeling Like a Failure
Overwhelmed with work responsibilities, one of the things that suffered was my home. Cleaning was never at the top of my list of priorities, so it was easy to overlook the dust, dog hair, and clutter that covered most surfaces of my home. Over time, the house being in a constant state of disarray became the norm and I didn’t even notice the clutter and dirt anymore.
In addition to normal household responsibilities, there were many things I thought about doing but never did because I lacked time and energy. However, that didn’t stop me from collecting furniture pieces, fabric and other resources for projects I would do “someday”.
Every room in my house had visible evidence of sewing projects just waiting to be done, such as quilting, furniture upholstery, clothes, and a variety of small projects.
Just like the everyday household responsibilities, the furniture, fabric, and resources for “someday” sewing projects disappeared into my home’s surroundings and no longer caught my eye.
Feeling like a failure at work and home and unable to achieve my goal of less to do and more time to do it, I realized I was no longer willing to sacrifice living for my career. I made the difficult decision to resign from teaching at the end of that school year.
A Big Change
Happily, this decision resulted in a new career opportunity as an instructional coach a few months later. This position fed my love of teaching and learning without a workload that spilled over to nights and weekends.
It was almost like a vacation…coming home and not having to do any work-related tasks; enjoying the weekends without lesson planning and paper grading.
I relished this gift of time and, as is frequently the case with change, new habits developed.
Sadly, with my new found freedom, I fell into a routine of doing nothing productive. Watching TV, reading, and losing myself in social media had become my go-to activities when I was home.
To survive as a classroom teacher I had learned to suppress my desire to do any sewing related projects because there wasn’t enough time. In addition, my senses had become dulled to the reality of my home in regards to cleanliness and clutter. The blinders I had developed for my home to help me manage a demanding career didn’t disappear quickly.
It took almost two years of basically doing nothing after work and on weekends before I actually started SEEING all that was waiting to be done and was ready to do something about it.
With school work no longer being the focus after the work day and years of unproductive sitting around the house, I slowly started thinking about doing all the things I told myself I wanted to do.
“Someday” had arrived!
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
Resigning my classroom position was definitely a FIRST TIME. This decision opened up the opportunity for many more FIRST TIMES!
It took almost two years before any other memorable FIRST TIMES happened, but it was worth the wait.
Once I made the decision to change my unproductive habits, I needed something to motivate me to actually do the home and sewing projects I had been thinking about. I needed accountability.
My answer was to create a challenge for myself. I called it the School Year Challenge. My goal was to complete projects around my home every month that I had thought about doing for years.
To hold myself accountable, I created a personal blog and wrote at the beginning and end of each month, September through May. The first post of the month described what I was going to do and the second post explained what I ended up getting done. There were also details about planning, roadblocks, budget, and how I did things.
In the nine months of the 2017-2018 School Year Challenge*, I completed 23 projects. Many of these projects were FIRST TIME moments.
Every month I learned new skills, discovered what I liked and didn’t, and found ways to overcome obstacles that got in my way.
Every project I completed resulted in a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I was able to do.
Trying new things each month resulted in feeling more alive than I had in a very long time and provided motivation to keep going even after the school year was over!
*Read about the School Year Challenge starting with the first post: The Beginning.
What About You?
Are you overwhelmed with work responsibilities and have no time or energy for yourself?
Have you fallen into unproductive habits that are keeping you from doing things you have thought about but haven’t started?
If so, I encourage you to stop thinking and start doing. Make a decision to try something new or work on a project or task you have been thinking about for a while. Then take action.
Instead of climbing into bed tonight and thinking, “I wish I had _____ today.”
Imagine this: Putting the final touches on a project you’ve been working on and having a warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment as you say to yourself, “Look what I made. I’m awesome!”
Even if it takes days, weeks, or even months to get a project done, getting started and working on it (even a little bit at a time) is the only way it will be completed.
Oh my gosh! I need to tell you about the bridge of Darius Rucker’s song For the First Time:
Now the way you're looking says you're living I hope I ain't reading wrong Cause the way you're shining I think you're thinking It's been way too long
Taking action, trying new things, and completing projects creates a feeling of happiness that not only is inside of you but reaches out and touches the people around you, too.
When you are feeling good, other people can tell by your words, actions, and body language. Your interaction with them has a positive effect on how they feel and act.
There is more to life than working and unproductive relaxing.
When was the last time YOU did something for the FIRST TIME?