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Vignette 13/52. Old Men and My “Why.”

“Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY—our driving purpose, cause or belief—never changes.”
― Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

“I think of old white men sitting around in togas.”

“Yes me too!”

“It’s all too complicated and I can’t understand it.”

“And old white men sitting around in university talking about deep things.”

This is what my students shouted out when I asked them what came to my mind when I said the word, “Philosophy.”

First, the old white men thing. Ugh. That’s a post for another day.

Second, how did philosophy become so inaccessible and a subject for an elite group?

For almost a year we have been using my Daily Stoic to copy down quotes and talk about the themes. It comes as a shock to them that this is true philosophy. They also didn’t realize our study on Montaigne’s essays and “How to Live” during our virtual learning time was also philosophy.

I asked them to go home that night and think of all the questions about life that they had. Here are some of them:

Does sorrow and joy come from the same place?
What is consciousness?
What happens after we die?
What is love?
What makes us happy? How do we achieve happiness?
When there are things in life that are hard, how do you overcome challenges?
How do we know what is the right choice?

I told them that I couldn’t answer these questions and maybe none of us will ever find the answers, but asking them was an important first step.

And for that last question? I did have an answer for that one. Start with your WHY. Behind every choice is your WHY whether you are conscious of it or not.

In May, I sat in front of my screen and wanted to give up. There was a deadline for my 10000 word chapter for a book on home education. The first draft of the chapter was 3/4 complete and a mess. Do I finish or quit? I felt I was a little too far along to quit but also not so far that I could feel relaxed. I still had to edit and cite.

I almost didn’t submit the 1000 word proposal back in February. I procrastinated for a month. There are so many things about my homeschooling experience I wanted to share and do further research on. I started to write everything. They overlapped multiple themes and I couldn’t synthesize the message.

I found myself on the Pacific side, about to go to Envision Festival for the first time, with new and old friends the DAY BEFORE THE DEADLINE. I spontaneously told them and they gave me space and more importantly, the permission, to finish. I submitted the proposal with relief. It probably wasn’t going to be accepted but at least I finished.

But they did accept it and in May, 7588 words later, I wanted to quit. I told myself no one would really know about it and people would understand. I was a very busy lady.

But I remembered that my students and my kids knew. Our philosophy talks had included how to overcome obstacles, what true perseverance means, and the value of hard work.

I was screwed. I had to finish.

I finally remembered to focus on my why and not the how.

Why finish? Why write this chapter? Why use my voice? Why show up for this work? Why try to change an education system? Why not do the bare minimum and accept fate? Why risk failure?

I step away from the screen and go paint with my kids. I talk about my challenge with the chapter. They tell me that I need to do it. They tell me they are proud of me. They ask what they can do to help.

As I look at these five faces, these faces that have trusted me and my grand experiments, I see the care and the kindness. I see the slow immersion in the process of painting itself. I see their instinctive need to be of service to someone they love.

I know why I have to do this – I have to share all of this. This different way of being and learning together.

And who am I waiting for? Another old white guy?

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