• Kristen Miller

Twists and Turns of Fate


It's amazing how quickly things can change when life throws curveball after curveball your way. For me, curveball number one happened in January - a matter of months ago. I had an encounter with someone that completely rocked my world, and I didn't know it at the time, but it was the first of many massive life changes to come in a very short window of time.


Given my background in education, I have been extremely well versed on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs since before I even stepped foot in the classroom as a teacher (see below). For those who are unfamiliar, this pyramid shows that each individual exists to achieve a state of "self-actualization," in which we fulfill parts of ourselves that make us the "most we can be." However, in order to get to this state internally and in life, we need to have a variety of needs met before even coming close to this stage. If we don't have these needs met from our environment or life circumstance, we will never achieve self-actualization.



Various religious and spiritual groups have ideas/beliefs that line up with Maslow. The concept of "fate," or "destiny," or the idea that there is a path that each of us is supposed to walk and a specific purpose we are to fulfill while we are here on earth, is written among almost every religion and/or exists within spiritual ideologies. Whether or not there is actual proof of this (I am very much a science-based individual who looks for proof of things to confirm my suspicions) remains to be seen.


That said, so many situations have occurred in my life that, when added together, lead me to believe that the Universe has set me up to fulfill my exact purpose, to become self-actualized. Situations that have utterly devastated me, CRUSHED me in the moment, have led me to different situations and circumstances in life that now, looking back, I can say, "Oh, I understand why that happened. It was really hard going through it, and at the time made no sense at all, but now I understand."



Case in point.


My pathway.


I was hired at a high school in Sacramento to design a STEAM pathway to replace the engineering pathway that had declining student enrollment. I was in love. I poured my heart, my soul, into this pathway, all for my students. 150 pages of single-spaced course descriptions that had to be UC a-g approved, along with $150,000 worth of equipment to support the curriculum, along with a lot of heart, soul, and genuine love and care for my students was taken away from me abruptly in 2016 in a show of solidarity to the family of a student who was injured in my class.


I was crushed.


I allowed myself time, space, and grace to mourn the loss of a life I envisioned, then picked myself up and got back to work. I went back to school, getting my Master of Science in Educational Leadership, along with an Administrative Services Credential, applied for a few Assistant Principal jobs, and was hired during the 2017-18 school year as a middle school vice-principal. After settling into that school and that role, I fell in love all over again. This was my new home, my new path to retirement. Then a series of circumstances were thrown at me and my path changed very abruptly yet again.


I had a choice to make: continue on in traditional public education roles, or roll the dice and do something new, something different.


I rolled the dice.



In 2018 I started my organization, and so many things have fallen in line to help support the work in this organization. A part-time position became available during the 2018-19 school year that allowed me to build my organization while also spending one final year in the classroom with students. Then during the 2019-20 school year, many opportunities opened up that allowed me to work with a variety of schools and districts on the things I'm most passionate about in the world: empowering youth to be the best versions of themselves they can. Things have been building momentum since August 2019, until a little thing called COVID-19 showed up and shut down all school activities as we have come to know them today.



The world has been quarantined for the last 3 months; all schools and districts have had to scramble to shift to online (aka distance) learning. And parents have been left to figure out how to be teachers to their own children, while also managing their own jobs and/or unemployment along with mounting financial responsibilities.


Some days, it's just felt like too much.


Then on May 25th, George Floyd was murdered when two policemen pinned him to the ground, ultimately asphyxiating him to death. This has started what feels like the next civil war in America, and it's no wonder. While elements of racism have improved over the last 100 years, we still have so much work to do. During the last 5-6 years in the world of K-12 education, we've been doing a lot of learning, professional development, and training on equity and a little concept called "white privilege." If you're unfamiliar with this concept, I encourage you to look into it and maybe even take some implicit bias tests created by Harvard University.



So here we are, a global pandemic that has shifted education to be strictly online, combined with another pandemic essentially forcing us to take a good look at the systems, structures, processes, and procedures in place that have passively upheld racism for all these years. It's a scary time, but a very hopeful time as well.


I've long said that I feel as though I was put on this earth to do something monumental - something that will truly incite massive, positive change for our education system. And this is it. The Universe is throwing these events our way to help us course-correct because we haven't been able to on our own. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped environmental impacts and global warming that have been building for years. The George Floyd murder has incited a string of riots, protests, and possibly the next big wave of massive civil rights laws since the1960s.


It is truly a remarkable time.



And my small little piece, my small little contribution, I hope, is to ignite a firestorm in public education that forces us to really look at the systems, structures, processes, and procedures we've been shackled to for the last 100 years, and decide how effective they truly are. Having lived in this education world for the last 14 years, I can wholeheartedly say that we are not meeting our students' needs.


We are not meeting society's needs.


We're not meeting educators' needs.


We are failing as an educational system, and it's time for massive change.


The personal and professional catastrophes I've experienced over the last five years have set me up perfectly to be an agent of change in this system, and I'm sure each of you reading this can find some way that this recent string of events has launched you into action, allowing you to be the best version of you, the most self-actualized version of you, you can be. We're all in this together, and if there's anything to remember from these trying situations, it's that we need to lean on each other and connect as we trudge through. Life is going to throw curveballs our way, but one thing that has never wavered throughout all of this change is the important people in my life who have been there each step of the way. I'm sure you each have those people as well, and I'm happy to be one of them as you trudge through.



In the meantime, I challenge you to really think about this - what is your part? How have these two trying pandemics, these most recent twists and turns of fate, helped you see your own fate?


We each have a story, and I want to hear yours.


Shoot me an email: kristenmiller@withheartproject.com - I'd love to hear from you!