I was thinking the other day about my first time being a supervisor.
I was 23, and the closest experiences I had to draw on for supervision were one of three things: being the oldest sibling, group work in school, or being the director of a play. As the oldest sibling, my entire childhood prepared me to direct, instruct, and orchestrate my mostly compliant sisters. Group work, on the other hand, taught me to distrust my partners and ultimately do or re-do all the work myself. And theatre direction taught me to expect a creative and collaborative process (instead of deliverables and a chain of command). None of these were all that great analogies to the supervision of other adults, who were, in most cases, much older and more experienced than I was.
This is all to say my first experience of supervising others was a total disaster. Unless, of course, you gauge success as a matter of how much you learned, in which case, as a first-time supervisor, I won all the prizes.
I only wish that someone would’ve told me that this was completely normal. First times are often total disasters! …Unless learning is our measure – which, of course, it should be. Because first times are awkward, messy, disorienting, slow, and often embarrassing. And also, they are the best opportunity we have to really learn something we didn’t know before. They are the best chance we have for growth and for change.
On the other hand, once you hit middle age, you start to realize that, in a lot of cases, you aren’t a newbie anymore. You know some things and have some skills, comfort, and ease. What a relief! Until suddenly, you realize you’re not a newbie in a lot of things, but you are a newbie in being exactly “here.”
For me, that “here” is things like having a child who is also somehow, incredibly, technically, an adult. Or, having very real conversations with my parents about their end-of-life plans. Or contemplated empty nest realities. These are all complete first times for me. And just like being a supervisor for the first time, sometimes I feel like a total disaster. But also, just like then, I am constantly learning so much. I am trying to hold on with intention to my values. And I am trying, most of all, to keep my sense of humor and a lot of self-compassion.
Brené Brown calls this experience of “firsts” TFTs, or Terrible First Times. Because first times are usually not at all what we were expecting. Especially when we spent a lot of time looking forward to the first time! Whether we’re talking the first time we say our truth, the first time we leap into justice work, the first time we fall in love, or the first time we do something without someone we love. First times can make us feel insecure, incompetent, and out-of-sorts. We start to doubt ourselves globally. When really, it’s just a TFT!
As we prepare to move into our new sanctuary for the very first time, join us for a series exploring all of our first times. We’ll share strategies to help you stay present to the joy and the wonder of the first time and to help us reconnect with our bigger why that inevitably and beautifully fills our life with TFTs. Rev. Elaine will bravely go first, Sunday, September 24th – see you then!