Monday, August 11, 2014

Catalyst Brave Challenge 1: Reflection

As outlined in the Birth of the Brave Project post, I'm undertaking a series of challenges this year to practice personal and professional bravery. 

Original challenges identified in the Catalyst plan regarding the Nebraska Star Party adventure:
  • Professional:  Miss the beginning of the annual statewide administrator conference.  I truly value being a team player and don’t like to miss anything that supports the work of my team, ESUs and our schools.
  • Personal:  Interact with strangers to learn as much as possible about astronomy as viewed from the Sandhills.  I hate inconveniencing others, but I would need to use the telescopes and other equipment from other people since I don’t have any. Camp and learn in late July heat/humidity/bugs by myself. In a campground with pit toilets.  And nowhere to charge my phone.  ;)

Reflection on the Experience

Professional:  The NSP lasts a full week, but by staying for just over half of it, I was still able to attend all but one day of the administrator conference in Kearney.  I felt as though I was still supporting our schools and my team, yet also was able to go to the NSP and get the benefits of being fully present there too. I know many of you are probably scratching your head wondering why it would take any bravery whatsoever to miss a couple of days of a summer administrator conference in Kearney.

If you know me well at all, you know that I take work seriously. (Yes, all of you who just rolled your eyes, I take everything seriously.  I'm working on that, too!) I am passionate about, and dedicated to, my work - which includes several volunteer roles in addition to my formal position, and I do always try to go above and beyond expectations whenever possible. It's just how I'm wired. It's even possible that I'm a teeny, tiny bit of an overcahiever perfectionist. The same holds true for my life as a student. I am probably the first grad student who cried half the way home after receiving my Ph.D. because I was sad I couldn't really keep showing up for classes any more.  

Like most educators, I don't really have nicely compartmentalized "work" and "home" parts to life as the content of my work just weaves itself into and out of all of the aspects of my time. Last year, each of us at ESU 6 were asked to choose a word to define our coming year.  I chose "balance," and I worked hard last year to pursue better balance. I do think I achieved that, and choosing to take on this project and request flexibility to my work schedule this year also reinforces my efforts toward balance.

As I planned for the Brave Project, I realized that so often I create rules for myself that nobody else is even aware of, so I end up stressing myself out over following them when I am the only person who knows they exist.  For example, no one has ever told me I am required to be at all days of the administrator conference every year, and my colleagues have even missed it for other obligations without penalty.  I have always attended the whole conference, and will likely continue to do so in the future.  This was just one year, missing one day. Yet, my self-imposed rules delayed seeing those stars for at least 10 years.

What rules do you impose on yourself of which others aren't even aware?

Personal:  Unlike most challenges included in my Catalyst proposal, I have wanted to go to the NSP since I first heard of it years ago.  But, I didn't expect it to stretch me as much as it did.  I included it on the list as an entry-level challenge project that would get the Brave Project off to a solid start. Yet, everything on the original list of potential personal challenges for this certainly rang true, and presented challenges as expected. Even with the challenges of primitive camping, I can't imagine what I would have missed if I was in an air-conditioned hotel room in Valentine instead of waking up to those sunrises. Temporary discomfort can lead to amazing rewards.

Without the Brave Project, I would not have pushed my boundaries to do things like carry my lawn chair up to the "Lincoln Hill" to sit down on a cloudy night and talk with a circle full of strangers. (Again, this is probably something only introverts would understand. Have I mentioned that my mom says I used to stand behind her in social situations until I could see over the top of her head?  Which was probably when I was about 9.) I would not have asked for help with my telescope, nor even accepted the battery that Dave H. gave me when I found I had purchased the wrong size. (This is an imposition on others, and I don't like to impose on others. I always prefer to be the helper to being the helpee.) I would not have asked other imposing questions like: Do you mind if I use some of your insect repellent to see if it keeps these mosquitos away from my head since mine doesn't seem to be working? May I look at the cigar galaxy through your scope?  What brings you to the Star Party?  I also would not have asked questions that were clearly on a level well below amateur:  What is Mars 450?  Is my telescope mounted on this tripod backward? What was the name of that first star we see each night? Where is the teapot of Sagittarius again? I am not used to being the slow one in the class.

While all of those things seem fairly routine to life, if the questions are never articulated, the experience is diminished.  The learning is smaller.  The reflection is more shallow. 

And More: I would be remiss not to mention the impact of starting this blog as I embark on the Brave Project.  I really enjoy writing, and I always have.  However, I do not write for an audience unless I am preparing a grant proposal.  So, throughout this whole process, writing the blog will always be scary. Every time I press "publish" or "share" on anything to do with this project is scary.  It's just so public. Everything I know about writing and blogging says that you need to transparent and vulnerable for writing to matter to people.  Neither of those aspects is comfortable to me. But I know that the best blogs I read come from the heart.  So that's what you'll get here. Even when it's scary for me to do so. (But if you could keep this in mind while you're reading, that would be awesome too.  This whole brave thing is scarier than it looks!)

What words stay inside your head due to limitations you impose on yourself?  What would encourage you to, as the lyrics of Sara Barielles' Brave say, "Let the words fall out.  Honestly.  I want to see you be brave."

Up next:  What other things that promise to keep me up at night adventures are planned for the Brave Project this year?


  1. Keep writing the blog, it's fantastic!


  2. ditto, Sue...keep writing Lynne, we love it!

  3. Your blog is many things to me, Lynne: inspirational, reflection-inducing, and surprising (the picture of you standing behind your mother doesn't fit with the Lynne I know now). Of course, it is always written with perfect grammar and punctuation and I appreciate that! :-)
    The concept of self-imposed rules limiting our lives is so true and one that I struggle with daily. It is hard to break out of that pattern but with your example, I am emboldened to try.

  4. Wow! You have the gift of writing and I love how raw and vulnerable you are. I can relate to so much you have written. Especially the making of rules that others are unaware of. You are truly inspiring! Keep it up!

  5. I am so enjoying your blog. I know what you mean by "self imposed rules," but would guess they've made you the person you are. So, they are not all bad!!

  6. I look forward to reading your blog--you have a gift for writing. I am so glad you are sharing it with all of us! Stay Brave!