Reschooling Tool #8: Tackle Intimidating Challenges One Step at a Time

After a quick trip to the Midwest for a board meeting and a visit with friends, I’m spending the next few weeks in the south. I’ll be catching up on writing about my K-12 reschooling experience before completing the school phase with a few days in college in early December.

I’m not sure if it’s jet-lag, or lack of sleep, or feeling bulldozed by my three intense months of reschooling so far, but my head has felt foggy for the last couple of days. These are the big challenges dragging down my energy, and the little steps I’m taking to cope:

1. Some days, the Information Age sucks my soul.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep up with all my emails, or the news. I feel constantly bombarded by information: interesting articles from my news junkie friends; holiday plans; details for my sister’s bachelorette party; research on one website that leads me to another….and another…until I forget what I had been searching for in the first place. No wonder my brain feels full all the time, without space for anything new to enter.

What I’m doing about it:

  • Clearing off my computer desktop and closing browser windows at least once per week.
  • Setting up Gmail filters and tags, and moving mail from my Inbox to the Archives where at least I don’t have to look at it.
  • Finishing one task without getting distracted by another.

2. I used to think I knew what career would suit me, but now I’m not so sure.

During the time Chris and I were starting Spark, some of my friends had serious angst about what they wanted to do with their careers. I never quite empathized then, since I had committed so fully to building an organization that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Now that I’ve moved on, I find myself lost in the confusion that most people felt after college graduation. After my own graduation, I took on one intense experience after another in rapid succession — Spain, Public Allies, and Spark — so this is the first time I’ve really stepped back to consider what kind of work will make me happy. Call me a late bloomer.

Yesterday I went with Darren to visit one of his Graphic Design professors, Daniela, at Loyola University. While I very much enjoyed meeting Daniela and seeing Darren’s old stomping ground, I spent most of the visit quietly freaking out. Hearing Darren and Daniela talk passionately about their design careers made it even more apparent to me that I’m not yet sure exactly what I want to do with my life — or even the next few years. I know that I feel about education and psychology and writing the way Darren and his professor feel about design, but I’m still figuring out how I want to blend these into a career.

What I’m doing about it:

  • Brainstorming the possibilities and sitting with the uncertainty. Maybe I’ll get a Master’s degree in writing….or education, or psychology. Maybe I’ll become a counselor focused on schooling issues, or an education writer. As intimidating as it is not to know what I want to do, I’m grateful to have options and at least know what fields inspire me.
  • Focusing on short-term action. I have plenty to do in just the next few months: clear out my clutter in Sonoma, set up my spring learning opportunities, and draft a book proposal, to name a few. Instead of trying to figure out my entire future today, I can envision possibilities for the long-term future while taking action right now.

3. When I’m not tightly scheduled, inertia and anxiety quickly settle in.

Yesterday I spent hours in a coffee shop with Gill and Darren, and I felt blocked from jumping back into writing or moving Reschool Yourself forward. I felt as if my fingers were typing through the same molasses that had coated my brain.

What I’m doing about it:

  • Aborting mission and trying again the next day. Last night, given the late hour, I decided to put the blogging to rest and do something at which I knew I could succeed: drinking wine and eating loads of salsa with melted cheese. In the past, I would have kept pushing myself to no avail, so I felt pleased that I could enjoy the company of my friends even though I hadn’t accomplished all I’d wanted to.
  • Figuring out what manageable accomplishment will ease my anxiety and making that a priority. If archiving emails will clear my head, I want to start the day by getting it out of the way. If making that dreaded phone call and paying bills tie my stomach in knots, I’ll knock them off the list first so that doing anything else that day will feel like a bonus.

As the image of the fog suggests, even though I can’t see the entire road ahead, I can focus for now on figuring out my immediate next steps. As I do that over the next few weeks, I will continue to update the blog regularly, so keep reading.

Comments (3)

  1. Mr. Hsu

    Whew! Thank you for the post. I was about to go into RSY withdrawals pretty soon. Those are three big challenges to be facing all at once. Remember your SMART goals…


    I wish I could give you some groundbreaking advice, something you haven’t heard a million times over, but I don’t believe there is anything new. So I’ll just stick with something that I’m certain will hit the spot: I love being your friend and I’m proud to know you, Doogie. Whatever it is you decide to do, be confident that the world is a better place just because you’re in it. And that’s the truth. 🙂

  2. Mom

    I’ve found that if you actively search for intangibles like love, wisdom, and fulfillment, they elude you. If you simply do things that make you happy, one day the fog will clear, and you’ll unexpectedly stumble upon the right path.

    I have the greatest confidence in you. You’re smart, funny, talented, and beautiful, and you’ll find your way. XXXOOO

  3. Melia

    Thank you both for the encouragement. One of my only certainties right now is that I have a supportive community to see me through this period of transition. I’m grateful for that every day.

    Stephen, you were the one who introduced me to SMART goals, and I am working on using them — instead of “Figure out what I’m doing with my life,” I can “Look up the Master’s in Education programs of three grad schools by Friday.”

    Mom, you’re right – in the past, I’ve found those intangibles when I’m least needing or expecting them. On the days where I’m not concerned about time running out, I seem to have a lot of it. I stumbled upon my guitar class and started playing without ever intending to. I’ve heard that a successful approach tends to be clearing your mind enough to be attuned to opportunities as they present themselves. For the moment, I’m taking a breath, and another, and then another.


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