One of the silver linings of the dark and stormy flu clouds that hung over our household this holiday season was time to organize. Being stuck in the house for days on end gave me some free time to work on little projects, one of which was organizing a bookshelf. As I straightened some photo albums, a piece of paper caught my eye. I took a closer look and found it was a letter of recommendation my former high school teacher wrote for me when I was applying for a Toyota Community Scholarship back in 1997. I did not win that scholarship, but 23 years later, rereading this letter filled my soul.
After a professional blow of not getting a position I applied for, I've been feeling a bit lost until I recently decided to focus more on PURPOSE (my #onelittleword) than position. Rereading this letter of recommendation affirmed my truest self- the traits and skills my teacher saw in me at 17 years old are the ones I still hold most dear. He wrote, "She is the best leader for both getting things done and motivating students that I have seen in my thirty years as an educator." What an amazing sentence.
This teacher, who stands out in my mind always as one of my most memorable influences, said I was intelligent, articulate and committed. He said I had remarkable personal attributes, such as being self-motivated, a "doer", and that I care about people and want to help others improve themselves. He said I am a learner who craves knowledge. What he saw in me at 17 connects so much to what I've aligned my purpose to be and how I try to show up in the world.
I often feel so inept. Like a failure in so many ways. I can't bake well or cook well, I haven't been able to consistently keep weight off, I am an awful parker. I'm having trouble feeling like I fit in with the other parents at my kids' school. I'm not great at crafting or making my house look especially pretty. I don't know how to make mixed drinks. I struggle with neatness and organization. There are people younger than me who are far more successful, wealthier, accomplished.
But reading this letter, this long letter my teacher took the time to write, it has reminded me of who I am. Those traits he saw are still there. I am a learner. I am do-er. I am self-motivated. I do care about others. Those are the foundation of which I built my life. My teacher really saw me. He saw my potential and understood what I could offer the world. His example makes me realize how my words can have meaning for my students too- that one day a student might be feeling like she's a failure and inept, but might remember how much I believed in her. How much potential and good I saw. And she might take a deep breath, like I did, and resolve to think of herself more as the person in the letter than the one she has told herself she is.
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski