Bravely Listening to a Whisper
It’s always the brave ones. The hearts full of courage and strength. Those that stand up for others and themselves. The ones who risk it all, take the leap, and trust even when it’s hard. These are the stories that get to me. They inspire me. Move me. Make my heart ache to follow and rise to the challenge.
At the start of 2016, I began to acknowledge a whispering in my heart that had been growing for sometime. But acknowledging it was crazy. I wanted to start a school. “Crazy!” I told myself. And yet, acknowledging it gave it power and it began to hum louder in my heart. In March 2016, I reached out to a school I had been researching in another state to see if I could schedule a tour and learn more. And that snowballed into several school tours, many books read, securing a business name and more discussion about turning this hum from my heart into a reality. In April 2017, I announced my idea with support from my incredible board of directors (which includes my even more supportive husband) and launched The Innovation School.
All from a whisper. A subtle whisper that needed acknowledgement to grow. I could have missed it. Every day I’m grateful that I listened. And leapt.
This leap felt incredibly scary. When I announced the school, I put everything out on social media, sent out press releases and email blasts to my contacts and then went to take a shower and almost threw up. I am blessed that I don’t often feel anxious or nervous, but this was next level nervousness. But I often share this from Game of Thrones with our students: “Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.” And when I think back to that feeling of nervousness and fear, I look at the arc that bravery gave my life and I am incredibly grateful to have had the courage to listen to that whisper.
My life is immeasurably different than it was since the beginning of 2016. I have glittery, sparkly silver threads in my hair… many more than were there when I started. I am markedly more present, less reactive and more responsive and mindful. I am more intentional with my words and actions. I have learned and practiced being vulnerable. I am also better at having hard conversations and making space for others. I am more patient and kind. I set better boundaries with others to help them and me feel safe. I have become more attuned to others and this has helped me become a better wife, mother, daughter, colleague, leader and friend. I have become more collaborative and more decisive. I have had to learn, unlearn, and relearn many times over. This all has helped me become, well, more “me”. The “me” within that was ready to step up and shine.
What a gift to have gained all this growth in my life. And yet it’s nothing compared to the gifts of people and community I have been blessed with from listening and acting upon that whisper.
Sometimes I’m in awe of the people that this has brought into my life. People with innovative spirits and trusting hearts. Children who have bloomed and blossomed into wonderful, courageous young people, becoming their beautiful selves with every day that passes. (Some of those children are my own and I revel in their company as they become warm, kind, thoughtful, confident and articulate men.) Dedicated colleagues who work hard, love themselves and children well, and have become my friends and confidants - strong women who teach me how to do this thing called life and who help inspire me into becoming myself even more. And the families that are connected to our school - they are deeply connected to my heart. I have been honored to be trusted with parents most precious gifts and have been changed along the way by my relationships with them all. Many parents have become my friends, my mentors and advisors, and I’m humbled by their support and trust.
And now, once again, it’s time to trust. To be brave. At the end of this school year, I will be moving out of state and will be handing over leadership of our school community. And it’s scary. But I don’t feel like throwing up. This time I’m not alone sending an idea out into the world. I’m surrounded by a community of people committed to success. I feel a sense of hope because I’ve learned to trust that fear is an opportunity to show courage and strength. And there is a deep well of strength and love in this thing I created. The whisper has taken a new shape and has a life of its own now. I am praying for the person that hears this whisper and bravely and courageously leaps into this place of transformation and beauty that we all lovingly refer to as TIS. All the wonderful people in our community are ready to love them well and help them continue their journey into becoming their true selves. I hope they become still and listen for the whisper, and I hope they are brave enough to leap into the comforting embrace of this shining little community.
Maggie Barth - Director and Founder of The Innovation School