January 6, 2020
Sometime in the last year I saw a Roz Chast cartoon in The New Yorker that made me not only smile but actually laugh out loud. It was an annotation of bumps, bites and bruises on a woman’s shins. Little noticings connected to each marred spot. Comments like ‘Where did that come from?’ and ‘When did that happen?’ connected them to the marks on each shin. The comments humored me as I have a bunch of bug bites and bruises from my varied travels all over my shins and calves. I have had to learn to befriend these red blotches. Someone once commented I should mark the country from which each one came. My life in pictures on my legs. #followthebruises
Bruising more easily comes with aging. So does, at least for me, contemplation and reflection on the idea of becoming an elder. With my parents gone and the recognition that I am the next in line and need to be the elder stateswoman in my immediate family, I feel a strong responsibility to grow up. There is many a book to read about the topic, a conference to attend, a discussion to have. It’s a never-ending study. Yet I am not so sure all of us start the journey. Getting older is different than growing up.
This idea of being one’s best adult self has intrigued me for many years and has been featured in my consulting work on collaboration, leadership, and being a professional. I have created workshops pieces around the topic and the work is met with respectful self-reflection and, at times, a bit of sighing. “What if my colleagues need to do this work ? I can’t be the only one who is striving to do this. How can my colleagues grow up too?”
For the upcoming year, I am immersing myself in work of writing my next book – how we can be our best adult selves at work (and in life)? What skills do we need to acquire, what mindsets might we have, what capabilities could we develop? It is an inside-outside job. We need to learn self-awareness, other-awareness and so much more. The list is long. And so so important.
I anticipate this work will take me both into the education sphere and beyond it to many other sectors – health care, non-profits, companies, small businesses and more.
Why am I transitioning into something so big conceptually and broader sector-wise? Because it’s time. In the world today globally, regardless of field, we all need to grow up. Environmentally, socially, politically, culturally, spiritually. The whole of the world needs us to take responsibility for our language, our choices, our actions and our impact.
When I went to graduate school I received a credential in how to teach English to secondary school students, I didn’t get a credential in how to communicate and work effectively with other adults. I am guessing that others (MBAs, MDs, RNs, JDs, LSWs and others) might have had more coursework and practicums on the adult-to-adult world of communication, and yet we are always works in progress in this realm. The world in which we live in now is asking us (begging us) to develop and mature.
I read a quote the other day that put the work of being our best adult selves in a bigger context and highlighted the essentialness of my professional work ahead.
“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.” – Jonas Salk
The world needs us to develop, to mature, and to grow for the sake of the planet and for those who follow behind us. I welcome your ideas and your support as I write and I develop workshops, programs, talks, a book and more. Invite me to your school or district or organization to explore this essential work with you. Join me on this journey of growth. Happy 2020.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Annie Mahon says on her site, “Hi, I’m Annie and Raw Mindfulness is about sharing the work I love − helping people transform and heal for their personal and the collective good.” Check it out for meditations, her blog, and more.
Among the books I read this winter break, I devoured Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Wonderful writing. Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
“Jennifer has so squarely hit the mark with our teacher-leaders that she is one of the few presenters that they are always requesting when professional development is the question. Here at the University of Chicago, this acclaim and recognition does not come easily! Jennifer has a way of presenting information that gets quickly to the heart of the matter. Her ability to read the true needs of the group, regardless of the original focus, has made her a favorite among the faculty here at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.”