I wouldn't dream of calling this post a piece of writing with intention, but it is a piece of writing nonetheless and it is mine. Even if it's unintentional. It's just going to blurt out however it comes. I have a random mess of jumbled thoughts in my brain that can only start with that very word: intentional.
Intentional is the favorite label that Christian-college-students use to describe everything. An intentional spiritual life. An intentional dating relationship. An intentional dorm life culture. Once, after I was out of college, I came into contact with this kind of thinking. I went on a few dates with a guy who said he wanted to "date me intentionally." I thought, "Well, that's nice! I'm not sure what that means. I would hope that you're dating me on purpose, but it sounds very respectful!" It turns out, in that case, that it was a weird reason to make dating kind of like what I would imagine "courting" to be and it was all too Duggar for my tastes. (No diss to the Duggars. I just can't weather the floor-length denim skirts. I like wearing pants! And tank tops! And I don't want 26 children!) All in all, "dating intentionally" felt a little weird...sort of like I was supposed to never cut my hair again and get really into quilting. It was over pretty quickly. Six months later, a guy named Brian asked me out. I suppose he did call me intentionally, but it wasn't all weird, and I liked how that worked out much better.
|Unintentional food bliss at Dimo's in Wicker|
I am trying, though, in my life, to be more intentional about things, so that stuff doesn't just happen for no reason, or by default, but rather by choice. My teaching, when I first started out, was not intentional. It was haphazard. Things just happened because they happened and there wasn't a lot of design going into the interworkings of my day. Now, my classroom is a place I absolutely love to be. My kids love it and I love it. I think through most of where I want everyone to be and how I want things to go. I'm clear with my kids about those intentions and we work hard on it together to follow through. This third year in the classroom has been like a breath of fresh air for me: I've realized that with just a few explicitly agreed upon intentions, my entire classroom culture can be successful both in academic growth and in the ways we treat each other.
Here's the two problems I'm finding, though, about being intentional. First, a lot of unintentional things are so fun! (See: random pizza place we tried in Wicker Park last weekend. Not in the plan, but definitely the best thing that could've happened.) Although I don't think that living with intention means that you can't embrace spontaneity. The second, and biggest problem? It takes so much work! I'm finding that this year's intentions with my teaching have been a success. Of course I have a million things yet to learn about teaching, but I feel really good about what I've put together and what I'm trying to do every day at work. Now ask me about my devotional life this year. Or the pile of unfolded laundry that's been growing into different shapes over the past few weeks. There are tons of great intentions for those areas of my life, too, but I just don't have the mental real estate available to manage them right now. I've been wanting to write more often, but the intentions there can't happen when my mind is swirling with guided reading plans, our solar system unit, and how to teach prepositional phrases to seven-year-olds. I'm in the middle of all of that and my overwhelmed mind just can't take the freaking 15 minutes or whatever it takes to fold the dumb laundry.
I don't think it's a surprise that so many wandering souls and hipster English majors are drawn to Thoreau's concept of living deliberately. There is something so captivating about the concept of knowing that you lived a life, and that the life didn't live you.
I'm hoping, that with time, God can start to work through my intentions to expand that mental real estate so that every movement of my day, from the laundry to the lessons to the letters I type, can be on purpose. Can be deliberate. Can be intentional. Maybe a big part of being in your twenties means excavating different spheres of life to make them closer and closer to being intentional. I'd like everything I do, my relationships, my work, my joy, my movements, my words, my breathing, to all be deliberate. Maybe that's not something I'll master by the time I'm out of my twenties, either. Perhaps it's more of a lifelong kind of thing.
I think it is a worthy endeavor.