I woke up this morning and it was officially cold, meaning I was going to have to wear something warmer, real shoes, and even socks to school. No big deal for most of the time, but I was having one of those days where I couldn’t even figure out what to wear. This whole paradox of choice thing is real! And we are much more prone to difficulty with decisions when we are experiencing extra stress.
As school counselors, we know what overwhelm can feel like: multiple students outside your door, the phone is ringing, you know you are already running late for that classroom meeting, maybe you can’t even remember if you ate your lunch yet. But the thing is, as Bruce Lee famously said, “'Under duress, we do not rise to our expectations, but fall to our level of training.” In those moments of paradox, of choice, when we start feeling the stress, how can we remember with clarity the most important things? They may be different for each of us: pausing to eat breakfast, a meditation practice, exercise, adding things to our google calendar, meeting with a particular student, preparing a meeting, returning an email from the principal, getting eight hours of sleep – our most important things can vary. But in those moments of overwhelm, we can take a breath, tune in to ourselves, and choose.
And let’s be honest about equity, bias and antiracism work. It is not easy. Nor do I believe that it should be easy. We need to engage in critical dialogue with each other and our administrators, but at the same time be compassionate with each other and ourselves. We did not get here overnight, and it will take time and commitment to break down the barriers of systemic oppression built into our education system, especially those things that we are still learning to see. Not because we don’t think it is important, but actually because we know just how important it is. Lives and futures are impacted daily with the choices we make as school counselors. And in those moments this can feel so overwhelming. The stakes are so much higher than choosing which email to answer first or which pair of shoes to wear.
Decision fatigue is a real thing. Having too many choices and not knowing the best place to start can feel exhausting and even paralyzing, reducing the likelihood that we will even get started. But when it comes to addressing cultural bias, equity and racism, we absolutely have to start somewhere. Maybe start with self-reflection, and even start smaller and slower than you would prefer. You just have to start. Choose one thing that you can do. Read one book, look at one data set, have one brave conversation, attend one professional development session, connect with one student or staff member that shares different views – just one thing to start. Be as honest and as vulnerable as possible. Be authentic and brave.
We don’t have to be perfect. But we do have to start. It is the only way to keep going.
Take care of yourselves. And reach out if you need anything at all!