On March 6, 2012, the Head of my school was killed on campus during the school day by a disgruntled employee who had been fired earlier that day. The shooter also killed himself. Our community was devastated but thankful the loss in our school’s story was limited to just two. As part of the healing process, students and members of our community painted inspirational messages on river rocks, a favorite natural element of our former Head. The rocks were in baskets at the memorial service, and I, along with the hundreds of others in attendance, grabbed one on the way out and read the message: Perseverance.
We are all glad to say goodbye to 2020 and never look back. I agree with the first sentiment, but not wholly with the second. While none of us need to lament on the adversity of 2020, I challenge us to find ways to celebrate the accomplishments, big and small, of this challenging year. We should be proud of them and use them to fuel us moving into this new year.
These days I find the most common answer we hear to the standard, “How are you?” question is often a deep breath, followed by, “surviving” and perhaps a slumped shoulder or two. I’ll admit this has been my default reply on many days. The visual that comes to mind with this answer is someone hanging from a cliff or perhaps in the jaws of a shark; in either situation, literally fighting for their life.
What if we change that answer to “persevering?” What image comes to mind now? A mountain climber reaching the pinnacle of Mt. Everest. A marathoner crossing the finish line. Rocky. Forrest Gump. Muhammed Ali. The Little Engine That Could. Schools that have found creative ways to operate amid a pandemic. Admission professionals who have recreated every wheel in the book to retain and fill the seats in their schools.
This shift in language does not swing the pendulum all the way to a bubbly, “I’m doing super awesome and loving life!!!” followed by a cartwheel. But by relaying that we’re persevering, we acknowledge that life is hard right now, but we are staying upbeat and overcoming obstacles. When we focus on the positive - on how we continue to solve problems and support one another - we have much to both celebrate and anticipate.
My Perseverance river rock remains on my desk and provides me with comfort and motivation daily. I also find inspiration from the AISAP community to dig deep and forge on. Share your favorite persevering stories, individuals, movies, or books in the comments - I would love to hear what inspires you.
Samantha Hyde Geisler
Executive Director of Admission and EnrollmentEpiscopal School of Jacksonville