What I Didn't Know Then
WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW THEN
Some days it feels like I’m just starting and some days I can’t believe I am only at the midpoint for the length of an average career in education. I am in my 15th year in the system but because of the different roles I’ve had the privilege of taking on I have met thousands of students and hundreds of other educators. Some of you I worked with in a classroom every day for an entire year and others I had the privilege to know as a coach or as the principal of the school. I didn't really note the time passing while you progressed from Primary and Junior into the Senior grades or moved on to high-school. I’ve loved these jobs and I’ve hated these job, sometimes for the same reasons. The one thing that has been unwavering is that I have always loved the kids and families I’ve met along the way. For sure some of those relationships took longer to foster but in the end I have genuinely always wanted good things for each of you.
The process of developing Five-Eau has been a completely different experience from my day job and yet some super interesting realizations connected to my school families have occurred to me, things that are not what I expected to learn. What I already knew was that I’m a behind the scenes kind of girl. I can get in front of the crowd, I just don’t love it. There are always others who enjoy the limelight and I am more than happy helping to find ways to let them shine. Sales? Also definitely not something I’ve ever loved BUT the digital world has proved to be much more my style. I don’t have enough hours right now to explore all the things that I want to when it comes to tackling this new challenge. Keiran, with some coaching from Auntie, is learning to do a great job at markets and shows talking about what we are as Five-Eau and sharing our products. I love design and I love creating and being able to do those two things as we develop something that we are proud to share. I am excited about Five-Eau and hope others continue to connect meaning to Five-Eau that make it represent something special to them.
Working with my teenager has been…..a growth opportunity. 😜 All the frustrations that come with trying to get on the same page together regarding what needs to get done and when (do we need popcorn while sewing, like really?) have caused a small amount of stress but I’ve decided I don’t regret it. I've learned just how fleeting this time is and that this opportunity to build something together is incredibly special. The risk, the frustrations, all of it are worth it for the experience and for the future it is creating for us both.
Keiran has always been 'present' for me in my world of work… until this year. Even though she has never attended a school that I worked in I’ve always been fortunate to have connections in her school and known she was well cared for (and I am so grateful to still have this now as she ventures through high-school). What I’ve lost this year is the ability to look around at my students and see kids who were experiencing the same things or the group a year or two older and realizing what lay on our horizon. WHAT I DIDN'T KNOW was how quick everything would move the second she crossed that threshold into secondary school. To all the students I’ve been so blessed to meet over the years – I didn’t know. I DIDN’T KNOW then just how fast your lives would move on after you left our hallways. Social media has proven to be a different and rapidly evolving beast year after year. I could not have possibly imagined what we have today when I was in university (and I’m more than good with the lack of photo evidence). As our business presence has grown through social media, we have connected with more and more students that I've met over the years and I have been awed by the adventures you’ve shared through your pictures. Guys – I don’t know if you remember me when you see me or not, and if you are sporting a beard or a man bun there is a chance I can't connect you to your 12 year old self but I have so memories of the 'back then'. I DIDN’T KNOW then that I would be so proud of you when I learned who you have become all these years later. I mean, I knew I’d always be proud of all of you. Whether I had you in our homeroom, taught you gym, coached your volleyball team or met you on classroom visits you have all had something to teach me about being a kid, growing up and having big dreams. I DIDN’T KNOW then how quickly you would reach new milestones while I was meeting the next group of awesome kids. Seriously, some of you have children of your own already and I can barely handle it. I knew some of you before I had kids, or when I had a toddler sitting on the bench with us during volleyball. Most days I feel like I’m pretty much the same as I was when I started 15 years ago – a little tired looking, but still the same. How have you already grown up?!
I give the speech to the graduates each year and it has evolved over the years but this last time was something special for me because as I was writing it I knew it was for Keiran too. And I knew it was for my younger self, and my current self, and all the people I care about in my every day. I knew it was for everyone who needed to hear it but didn’t know it yet. So as I’ve seen name after name appear on my screen of so many students and friends that were once a part of my every day I wanted to share this and try to reach each and every one of you that have added to my experience as a teacher, an administrator, a mom and a friend. I want to get this to every one of you that I did get to share this with – because I don’t ever want you to forget how fantastic you are. For anyone who has read this far, even if I don’t know you, this is for you too.
I don’t care how cheesy this is (or how cheesy it is to use the word cheesy). I didn’t know I could be so beyond proud of you. I am amazed by your adventures, by the dreams you’ve made come true and the new dreams you are chasing. I am so incredibly grateful for each of you that have chosen to follow and share and invest in Five-Eau so that we can chase some new dreams too. We are beyond honoured by everyone who wears the Five-Eau brand to support our growing venture. I can’t wait to see where we can take this next.
For all my students, colleagues and friends what follows is the 'speech':
Often people don’t realize that as a teacher, educational support staff or administration and someone who spends all of their time at school with students we frequently miss out on Meet the Teacher, Special Trips and Awards assemblies with our own children because we need to be with our students. Students you are all so special to us because we have the absolute privilege of watching you experience school and the many challenges, victories and firsts as you move through your education like our own children, the children we once had, the children we hope to have or the children we once were. If you are inwardly rolling your eyes right now that’s fine – I’d expect nothing less – but my HOPE is that you will hear these words, you will know and remember how much I wanted you to feel that you were part of a school family and you will always be able to draw strength from knowing you are cared for.
Don’t Let Someone Else’s Story Define You
Life is complex. Real life doesn’t have filters and can’t be organized into only the little squares you want the world to see. It is way too easy to judge ourselves and others when there is so much pressure to create and present an ideal image.
We are each on a unique journey from the day we start to explore the world and our surroundings. The most valuable thing that you can realize is that you are absolutely the only person who has experienced your story. Your parents, your siblings, your friends, they may have experienced some of the same events for sure, but we each have a unique experience. It is difficult even as an adult to always keep this in mind. Others will judge you, unfortunately that’s one of the frustrations of life. You will have wonderful, marvelous things happen to you. You will struggle with things you aren’t sure you will overcome (but you will). Others will think they know you because of the tiniest piece of your story – you’ve probably learned this already. Forgive them, it is easy to want to align the world of others based on your own perceptions and experiences. Even you may question your story when you look at the setting, the characters, the plot that has shaped your life so far. The beauty of life’s complexity is that you are the most powerful person in your story. You may not have chosen that setting, you may not be able to determine every circumstance that will come your way but you have the power to write your own character. You choose how you react. You choose what is important to you. You choose your own adventure and your story can be so many amazing things - just be sure YOU choose for yourself.
Whatever you choose to pursue for your future - it does matter how you treat people. Make choices that you can look back on and be proud. Even your smallest actions have the potential to create a ripple effect greater than you might imagine. Pay it forward, pay it back, treat others as you would like to be treated, just work hard to be sure that the ripples you leave as you move through the world are positive ones.
You need to be kind to others but you also need to be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. Everyone does. Learn from them and then move on.
Don’t Make Excuses
This is my last piece of advice and it needs to be looked at in a few different ways.
Likely the obvious one is don’t make excuses for your actions. There is a good chance you will have heard this message from parents or teachers more than once, or are already the one sharing this lesson. Life will throw you curve here and there but much of the small stuff you can plan for. Plan for extra time, let someone know if you are struggling, walk away if you are frustrated. BUT you need to own your actions and reactions and when you know better, do better.
Then there are the tougher lessons – and we all have to learn these over and over. Don’t make excuses for others. You can be sympathetic, you can be empathetic, you can be supportive but don’t make excuses for others that will make it harder for them to own their choices and grow. Don’t make excuses for anyone who does not treat you with basic respect and kindness.
And finally, don’t make excuses for your dreams. It is okay to want life to be big and beautiful and full of amazing adventures. It is pretty easy to look back and wish that you had tried out for something, been kinder to a friend, or taken that risk to get on stage, sing, dance, do that thing that scares you…..just don’t make excuses to put it off any longer. Don’t wait until you are 16, don’t wait until you are 25, don’t wait until you are 40….there will always be excuses you can use to put off your dreams. The truth is that life should not be taken for granted and every day you have is the only day that is guaranteed. Use the day to make memories with your friends and family. Dream big dreams and create great memories. If you haven’t already, write down your goals, send yourself a reminder, whatever it takes, start pursuing your dreams now.
I share all of this in honour of two incredible beings that are desperately missed by so many. I am so blessed to have grown up with Graham Smyth as my godfather and Ilana Smyth as part of our Rizzetto/Smyth/Metcalfe family memories. Both Graham and Ilana are incredible examples of strength, courage and love. Ilana's kind and caring nature, her mischievous grin and straightforward honesty are just the top of the long list of her amazing qualities. And Graham's laugh ❤ Graham's laugh could fill any room. I can still hear the echo when I think about it. Looking at this picture will always remind me of the beauty of being in the moment and making everything out of the day before you. I've spent a lot of time in the last few years processing the loss of these two wonderful people, some of the other challenges life has thrown my way and just the general realization of how fast time can disappear. As a result, this writing and the business of Five-Eau have become my efforts to take a risk, seize the day, and chase a new possibility. I hope that at least one person has made it to the end of these ramblings, and it will be a bonus if it has meant something to you. In the end, it meant something to me to share this and send this hope and love out into the universe, it meant something to me and so do you. Much Love, Lucy