“Are We There Yet”

Here I am. It’s 1am in the morning and I can’t sleep. This happens often for me. I think about life and how I can make this world better. I weigh my dreams of doing so against a cynical conscience that repeatedly reminds me that I’m just one person with very little influence tucked into a small community in the middle of North Dakota.

And this battle between my dreams and my cynical thoughts rages on all night long. So I turn to prayer. I ask God to reveal to me what it is that he has planned for me. Then I’m reminded that everything happens on his time. So my impatient self asks God – “are we there yet?”

I can’t help but think He gets annoyed when I ask that, because anybody with children knows exactly how annoying that question can be. But my mind keeps racing.

One in four children suffer from mental illness and I can only imagine that the same can be said for adults. People, this is an issue that we must exhaust ourselves trying to fix. We can’t ignore this. It won’t go away. It’s clearly an epidemic.

Being a school superintendent, one would think that I’m in a great position to do just that. I would agree but I often find myself jumping through political hoops, filling out paper work, and racing to meet deadlines to prove that we are indeed in compliance. With that, I answer questions about “School Choice,” analyze data, prove that we looked at the data, and show what we are doing to fix the data. Mind you (what we do) must be researched based and ultimately approved by a higher being in offices that don’t reside in our school and quite often not even our state. I could keep going, but the bottom line is this; my teachers know what is best for their students – not somebody thousands of miles away.

So, my mind just continues to race, and I know if I even try to fall asleep right now it will be fifteen minutes and one of my four young children will wake up and then of course wake their mom and I up. Instead of sending them back to bed, it’s just easier to let them sleep with us. I know I’m an enabler, but I know I will be a better parent tomorrow if I just get some sleep. But my mind continues to race.

Some of you know that drill all too well; but here is a final thought and maybe I’m answering my own question tonight, or better yet maybe God is telling me “Travis, we have arrived.”

Don’t ever count yourself short. How many of you have said to yourselves “I’m just not sure if I’m ready for that,” or “I’m not sure if I’m capable?” We often ask ourselves these questions just before taking a new job, or we reach that point where we want to dive out of our comfort zones. My answer to you and realistically myself is this. The only thing that you need in order to be “ready” is a passion.

It’s my passion that has allowed me to write like I am tonight. It’s passion that has allowed me to speak in front of students, staff, and communities all over North Dakota. It’s my passion that will eventually lead me to realize that yes indeed, even I, (from small town North Dakota) can change the world. I don’t care who you are; don’t soften your voice based on where you are, what you know, or who you don’t know. Don’t soften your voice based on your wealth, your looks, or your perceived influence or lack thereof. Don’t allow your dreams to be crushed by your cynical conscience. Don’t allow your hopes to be hindered by anything or anyone. You, yes you, can make a difference in the world.

And that’s all I have for you tonight (or let’s be honest – myself). I’ll try not to be back in fifteen minutes.

Okay, I’m back. You knew I would be. However, it’s morning now and I’ve just gotten to work. I’m now reading my 1am thoughts while sipping on some caffeine. My thoughts haven’t changed, but often when I write in the middle of the night I wake up and wonder if I should even share what I wrote with the rest of the world.

And I think to myself; If I don’t share my passion how can I expect my students and teachers to do the same?  I can’t.  We can’t.  We must model the change we wish to see.  We must stand even if we are standing alone.

It’s about passion. It’s not money. It’s not looks. It’s not location. It’s not who you know or what you know. You have a passion, and don’t you dare deny it. It’s real and it burns inside of you. This is all you need to change the world for the better. You are ready.  And by the way, if we want schools and students and the world to be better we need to love more and hate less.  We need to praise more and reject less.  We need to empower each other.  We need to lift each-other up.  We need to find the gold in every human instead of  the dirt.  We need to allow everyone to share their gifts with the world.  And get this – none of what I just stated needed any research – just effort and confidence.

Join me in changing the world will you?. It’s time.

PS. Let’s start by allowing sentences and paragraphs to begin with “And” and “But.” 🙂

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