I was standing in front of my class, all shaking, watching how some of the boys threw a few chairs out of the window. I felt powerless in front of those 6-graders. Just a few minutes ago I was teaching them the secrets of the world of music but now they were trying to kill each other.
One kid threatened to cut the tires of my car, if I went to the principal. I did go to the principal but the he was powerless too. He said these are the kids I have to teach, and if I’m not OK with this, I should quit and find another job.
My work at this school wasn’t always that bad. We had some nice moments with kids who actually wanted to learn something. We prepared songs for school events, I played the piano while some of the more sensitive children were singing in a choir.
Oh, I even tried to get them to sing the polyphony and canons. They liked it but it was probably too much for them. They still were eager to learn. They were curious.
But this one class of 6-graders was something else. I had not met so many bullies in one place before. The girls of this class were completely overrun by these 3 or 4 boys who dictated how things are going to be done around here. Years later I heard that a girl killed herself in this school by jumping from the roof.
Have you been in a situation where the best you could do was actually walk away or you eventually would go crazy and become resentful, angry and helpless towards your own life?
I did. But not at first. I endured 3 semesters with them.
I didn’t know at the time that you could choose who you want to work with, that you could choose whom you want to help. I thought I had to suck it all up. Because everybody around me did. Because the life was full of inertia.
But life doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, 5 and a half years ago I chose to empower myself and start working with people who actually need my help. Blogging allowed me to do this.
CAN YOU WRITE POETRY WHILE DROWNING?
How do you explain to a friend that life isn’t over when the doctors tell you you will no longer be able to do the things that were the entire point of your life?
It seems impossible. Because the other person doesn’t see the life I see. He believes he’s drowning.
Can I write poetry while drowning? Can I be generous and hopeful towards my future while all I see around myself is blackness?
Of course I can’t. At this point all my creative powers of the brain are powerless against the most ancient part, called Amygdala. Its entire function is survival and reproduction.
So when I feel imminent danger, my entire body is paralyzed into a defensive or offensive mechanism which no longer can produce any creative ideas. I felt this way many times.
This one time I remember being audited by a senior colleague in the art school. After the class she spent 20 minutes pinning me to the ground, criticizing the way I taught, basically saying, I shouldn’t be teaching at all.
I thought, now it’s all over. She will write this report about me and I will have a permanent record. I will get expelled, I will get blacklisted, I’ll not be able to find another job, my wife will leave me, I’ll have nothing to eat, and I will die.
All I could think was how unfair life and how pointless all this is.
Again, I felt powerless because I’ve given the power to my life and happiness to somebody else. To this senior colleague who was just a grown up version of those 6-graders who bullied everyone around them.
Look at Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds and astrophysicists of our time. The man is in a wheelchair paralyzed for decades. All he can move is his tongue. With its help he operates and communicates through his computer, writes amazing theories about how our Universe began and basically changes the world. He doesn’t believe he’s drowning although it would be natural, even highly probable to do so for anyone in his shoes.
I felt powerless because I believed I was drowning even though there wasn’t any proof of this. It was all in my mind.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE PERSON IS LYING TO YOUR FACE?
“Write a job application”, said the rector of the Music Academy while we both knew he was lying. He didn’t want any change in his school, he didn’t want the new perspectives Ausra and I brought from the US.
We thought if we won’t get a job at the Music Academy, our professional lives will be over. Every organist who ever graduated from this institution wanted to stay there for as long as possible. Everybody thought (and many still think) that this is the organization which holds the power over their careers.
Actually it’s not the case anymore. Those gatekeepers lost their power long time ago and some of them aren’t even aware of it. They are whining about why the attendance of classes is diminishing, why many talented students are leaving the country, why the quality of education is going down? I’m not talking about just this institution but just about every major organization in the world.
Since the new millennium the power has been given to an individual who is eager to do something that matters. The tools are there and today has never been easier to combine creativity, innovation and technology, even for a non-tech person like me.
As I’m sharing these ideas with you, I could be sitting anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection. I can help more people and influence a larger audience worldwide than a local TV show. Just some 20 years ago it was impossible.
So the feeling of hopelessness Ausra and I got in this rector’s office was just an illusion. Actually, it was a good thing he lied to us and we were not accepted to the Music Academy to teach and become a part of the sinking system.
Now we were free to change the world. Yes, we had to figure out how to pay the bills and find at least a temporary solution of earning a living but the seed of living the dream was already in place. I didn’t know that at the time but the plan was already in motion.
HOLDING HANDS AROUND THE FIGURE OF MARY
“You should hold your hands around a figure of Mary”, said my mom to me a few months before I graduated from the art school. She believed this will provide some warm energy which could help me write better essay which was due the next day and prepare for the Lithuanian language exam at the end of the year.
I felt hopeless about my writing so I gave it a try. I didn’t feel any warm energy or anything but I did write that essay. It turned out about a thousand words too short, though.
I don’t know how I graduated with my writing skills. I got a 6 out of 10 at this exam which made me hope I will never have to write again. To my dismay we had to write some papers at the Academy of Music and even more for my studies in the US.
I realized that writing is the process of sharing ideas. And the way we get ideas is by noticing things. Sometimes these ideas are written in books, sometimes you just have to look around with open eyes to see how a certain idea is manifested in a daily behavior of any person.
So to learn how to write I first had to read a lot. And reading wasn’t my favorite activity in school. Maybe because the assigned books were not always of the best quality, maybe the teacher didn’t communicate well the benefits of reading, maybe I was just too lazy.
I also lived in my head a lot. I walked through school daydreaming, talking in my mind to the smartest person in the room which I thought was me. I couldn’t notice many interesting ideas around me this way. That’s why it was so frustrating to me to write.
Now I write every day and actually take pleasure in this activity. I can watch how my ideas are helping other people and spreading in the world around them.
And no, I don’t have to hold my hands around the figure of Mary to do this.
HOW TO UPSET YOUR BOSS’S WIFE
“Vidas, you’ll make me get cancer”, said to me the wife of the conductor in the ensemble where I was working with the choir group. She thought I wasn’t strict enough with my singers.
When somebody tells you things like this for a long period of time, you start hating them, hating the situation and hating yourself. I don’t think I did a bad job there but the way I ignored her toxic critique became my strongest weapon and her weakest link.
We got along with the choir very well. They were amateur musicians who actually chose law, medicine, physics, linguistics and other professions for their future career. They came to enjoy making music and not to be bullied by their choir director.
I worked with this group for about two years. Before leaving them, we had a big student dance and song festival “Gaudeamus” which the Baltic countries are famous for in the world. I prepared the choir parts with our singers and now it was the time to enjoy ourselves.
At the closing night of the festival I stayed with them until after midnight and came back home when it was almost dawn. It was fun but this upset Ausra because my mom was visiting us and I left her alone. I got bronchitis afterwards because I sat on the cold grass with these students all night. This is how Ausra got her revenge.
So working with the choir was rather nice but dealing with my boss and his wife, not so much. I guess they suffered when they saw the power slip from their hands.
I thought I was a loser when his wife said those nasty things to me. Only later did I understood to never ever give the power to lower or raise my self-esteem to somebody else.
MAKE YOUR DAD PROUD
I brought my dad National Geographic magazine to the hospital to cheer him up.
I’m holding one issue of this magazine right now. Such vivid photos and colorful stories. It’s like watching a documentary about nature.
My dad loved films about nature. He was an artist and artists constantly find inspiration from the natural world. Of course this time he was too weak to enjoy it.
I never cancel my organ recitals but this time I was glad I did. Ausra recommended I cancel it and go visit my dad because this might be the last chance for us to meet while he’s conscious.
He died of cancer some years ago. He was very kind to me. He would read me books out loud when I was a kid.
One Japanese children book, translated into Lithuanian about a boy who went to kindergarten made all kinds of troubles to the teacher, other boys and girls was the most entertaining to listen to him read. To the point that I still like to page through this book after decades.
I liked my dad’s voice when he read. It was at the same time both calm and entertaining. When he found out he had cancer it was already probably too late. He kept going to his workshop to paint until about 2 months before he died. He did it for more than 40 years. Almost without missing a day.
So the last months when he was alive were very hard for all of us to watch him. To know that the time is passing fast and the day is drawing near when he’ll leave us. It’s very painful to watch your loved one fade away.
Nothing can compare to the pain I experienced that time when my dad said, “I love you.” With tears I said, “I love you too.” I knew this might have been one of the last times my dad was conscious.
But deep inside I know to this day that things I do would make my dad insanely proud.
Go live your life to the fullest. Make your dad proud.
Dr. Vidas Pinkevicius is the creator of Vidas Blog Academy where he helps people empower themselves one post at a time. If you want to become a successful blogger, download his free PDF report "Overcoming 12 Challenges Beginner Bloggers Face".