One of the things I hear most frequently is "I am not (do not know how to be) self-directed" (or "my kid is not self-directed"). I am finally learning to stop brushing this concern off with a breezy "not yet" or something similarly nonchalant.
Another DRC teen told me, "I can't do this - I am not self-directed," a few weeks ago and followed up with the statement - "I am going back to school." This sentence never fails to surprise me, stops me dead in my tracks, and then breaks my heart into tiny pieces - every damn time. And only once I am safely alone, can I cry and scream with frustration into the void.
You see, I know how thoroughly miserable they were in school - which is why they sought us out in the first place. However, at the moment, I was taken aback, ineffectual (wishy-washy) at best - expressing concern for them but not addressing the underlying reason fueling their desire to leave.
We live in a competitive culture that coaxes (coaches) productivity and the ability to fit in ("be normal"). We get there by training (coercing) people to perform to our exacting expectations (curriculum) - with no exemptions or excuses. Sticks and carrots are our chief motivators. This is infused into every aspect of our lives.
Most of us have come to expect external motivation and honestly don't know what our personal intrinsic drive looks or feels like.
When someone comes along and says, "You are now in charge of making decisions for yourself - you get to follow your heart and your interests. I trust you and will not tell you what to do." After a short period of "detox," there are guaranteed to be moments of complete and utter panic. "What!" "Hold on!" "I can't do this!" "I am not doing enough!" "No one told me it would be this hard!" And that, right there, is the exact instant we could lose them.
If I could somehow wave a magic wand and go back to every conversation that started with someone telling me, "I don't know how to be self-directed." I would take them deadly seriously and say something akin to this: Yes, self-direction is scary and challenging, especially when you have never had the opportunity to let your natural learning instincts have free range. But once you get past the pressure to be productive and do school-like stuff - that truly holds no interest or necessity - you will discover a desire and comfort within that newly found freedom to seek out the information pertinent to you as an individual. That moment, right there, is where self-direction (motivation) is reborn.
It takes time and patience within those frustrated, anxiety-ridden moments - but eventually, if you give yourself the gift of space (and grace), you will find your way to allow your curiosity to lead you to freely explore thoughts and ideas, get creative and messy, make mistakes, and discover the authentic you.
Yes, that, right there, is exactly what I will say next time someone confides that they are scared that they aren't doing enough and that they will somehow fail life. That - and I will probably (most definitely) offer them a hug, too.
I'll leave you with something to consider - this just occurred to me - I have never heard a 4, 5, or 6-year-old say they don't know how to be self-directed. No, indeed - they are fiercely themselves and unafraid to imagine all the possibilities and jump right in. Hell! They can even travel to the moon - in a painted cardboard box if they want to (true story).
Just in time for the Holidays - DRC has two merch stores - Bonfire and Printify where you can get all your DRC Swag. What a fun way to support DRC and do your Holiday Shopping.
Our short week - in photos...
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