We Blaze Trails for Each Other

   “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – JFK

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – JFK

This morning, I woke up with a whisper in my ear:

You can be a leader. You can stand up and serve people, and it’s okay.

It’s a strange thought to wake up with, but it’s one that gives me hope. It calms me and fills me with zeal all at the same time.

***

When I was younger, probably in fourth grade, we started doing group projects.

Oh my gosh, you guys. Talk about testing the patience of a ten-year-old Amy. In those moments, my life story couldn’t have been more tragic than Job’s.

Everything inside me railed when part of my performance was tied to a ragtag group of kids burning with Pixy Stix-fueled energy I couldn’t control. I tried to be a puppet master, a ring leader, tried to channel my Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights as I sized up the project, told everyone what they were going to do, and tried not to blow a gasket when, during team updates, I found out they hadn’t done what I had told them to do.

Because, you know, that’s how teams work. 🤦🏻‍♀️

I moaned to any adult that would listen (i.e. my mom) about how unfair group projects were, how much I hated them with every fiber of my being, and how they weren’t even true to real life because how often am I going to have to work with a group of people where I’m going to be judged by what they do?

Oh, sweet, blissful ignorance. I just want to hug that child.

At some point, I learned that my generalissimo tendencies were not appreciated by my troops. Not that I blame them—I couldn’t read a room to save my life when I was younger (and am very much still learning). So like Napoleon during a Russian winter, I retreated. I gave up my post and started to keep my mouth shut to keep the peace.

And I carried that behavior with me long after fourth grade, pretty much into adulthood.

***

As an adult, I view leaders a little bit differently.

I’m in charge of so many choices: cooking, the laundry detergent I buy, how much money to pour into my Roth IRA, where to put plastic grocery bags in the county recycling bin, how much I’m going to exercise, if I’m going to send that extra email to follow up just one more time, whether I should buy mums now or after I get back from business travel or forego it altogether because I kill every plant I touch, if I’m going to use my savings to get a new-to-me car, to take out my wisdom teeth, or travel across the ocean to see more fun things. (you guess how that one’s going to turn out)

I am responsible for so much, and I am only taking care of myself. I can’t imagine if I had a whole family of needy Amys to keep alive and healthy every day. Shout out to moms everywhere—you have my awe and kudos.

So yes, there’s part of me now that appreciates someone of seemingly sound mind who stands up and says, “This is how I do it. Maybe it could help you, too.”

Oh my gosh, the glory of someone showing me the way, even just a little bit.

When I don’t have to put on a head lamp in the dark, take a machete and hack my own way to blaze a new trail? That is absolutely awesome, and I am 100% here for it.

Never in my life have I wanted to delegate so much. For this control freak, that is a shocking statement, but that is where I am, y’all. Sometimes I am just tired and frozen by the paradox of choice. I have to consciously hand over the reins every once in a while, but when I do, I relax. I smile more. I feel so much more at peace. Whoever wants to drive me like Miss Daisy, here are my car keys, I’m just gonna be over here drinking La Croix and taking a nap—turn on Waze and godspeed to you.

And you know what? I don’t begrudge the person who spoke out, who took those reins—quite the opposite. I thank them.

By that same token, if I see how to go forward on the brushy trail, it’s my responsibility to put on the head lamp and hack away.

Because we’re all doing this for each other, in our own way.

Of course, people are always going to have a different opinion and shout from the back of the pack, “You should’ve gone to the right! There’s less brush there!” But you know what? You’re the one with the big knife in your hands, so you might as well keep swinging and make the way easier for those coming behind anyway.

Some people won’t appreciate your efforts, but some people will. And those people who will? That’s a good enough reason to keep hacking away when you have the vision and energy.

Social compact, y’all. It’s a real thing.