I am sipping iced tea and eating molasses bread, sitting across from a friend who is in their first year of teaching. We are sharing stories and I am delighted by the way their eyes light up as they talk about their classroom—both the triumphs and the tribulations. They tell me about a particular practice that they and their co-teacher do at the end of each day. They ask four questions.
Who did something nice for you today?
What mistakes did you make today?
What challenging work did you do today?
Who did you cooperate with today?
As I listened to my friend go over what they’ve learned from asking these questions and how it impacts the students in their classroom, I found myself realizing everyone could benefit from this reflection.
Later that night, I first went through the questions for myself. I was at home after an eventful day of work and socializing. There felt like endless answers for each of them. It felt wholesome to reflect on all the niceties I had found myself on the receiving end of. It felt humbling to think of all the mistakes I had made in the brief 17 or so hour period that I’d been awake. It felt motivating to think of the challenging work I’d partaken in and it felt beautiful to think of the people I was able to cooperate with.
Let’s break these down further. Who did something nice for you today? I have been working remotely since before the pandemic and I know how easy it can be to accidentally isolate. I also know that even digitally, there are so many opportunities for kindness. I love this question because it invites us to acknowledge all the everyday miracles we might otherwise pass up. And it silently encourages us to be someone else’s answer to that question.
What mistakes did you make today? I’m reminded of a note I wrote, dated September 10, 2019, 8:26 PM: I’m dancing through my life, making a daily series of mistakes. And what beautiful mistakes. I take great pride in knowing that if there were frequent flier miles for mistakes, I’d travel the world for free. It’s admittedly taken some time to shake the dust off a teenage perfectionist. But to live in the ways I do now, to jump boldly (sometimes too boldly) into whatever comes next and wholly know that no mistake is permanent, is one of the best gifts I’ve given myself.
What challenging work did you do today? The other morning a friend sent me a riddle. We went back and forth on it and even after we both had the correct answer, I felt my brain still pulling at the puzzle. I hadn’t used my mind in that logic teasing way in some time. It was almost ecstasy… to tap into a part of my brain like that, to think differently than I do in my day-to-day. This question makes me want to incorporate that kind of work in a new and deliberate way.
Who did you cooperate with today? This one has so many obvious answers. It could be my peers at work who I frequently collaborate with on projects. It could be my roommate as we settle into our new apartment and organize the space. Or, perhaps most importantly, it could be myself. It could be trusting my inner voice when it asks for a moment of quiet or, conversely, a moment of movement. Learning to listen to my body and what it needs and learning to cooperate with every part of my psyche is perhaps one of the greatest things I have cultivated for myself over these past 2 and a half years.
In working through this reflection, I feel a lot of gratitude for the person I have become… and I feel an incredible opportunity for growth and further study. I hope you will take some time today, this week, maybe nightly to reflect on each of these questions. Dig deep. You won’t have to share with the class. But be honest with yourself. And when you find an area when you need to course correct? Don’t be afraid of what that means. You’re already doing the heavy lifting. You’re closer than you think.