. I've had a really hard few weeks of self-reflection and future thinking swirled in with health issues and personalities. This weekend I've been at Blackberry Farm outside of Maryville, TN. I've been here several times over the years but this year I feel being here has both grown me and allowed me to see myself for who I am. Bear with me, to get to this point you must withstand some rambling.
Sam Beall was such an iconic visionary for Blackberry Farm. While I never met him, I sometimes saw him walking across the smoky mountain rolling hills, a dog frolicking along in his path and often one or two of his beautiful children in tow. As we have been coming here for a while, we have seen the results of his visionary leadership over the years. It amazes me that basically in the middle of nowhere exists a place that can pull politicians, movie stars, executives, and so many others from all over the world down a winding country road to spend time here. Granted it's not that it isn't worth it- It's a beautifully crafted experience but still, one must be beyond "good" to have a vision that creates the environment that causes people to want to be a part of the middle of nowhere Tennessee experience.
Sam Beall tragically died three months ago in an accident leaving behind a beautiful wife, five children and Blackberry Farm that was in the midst of growing his vision. I don't pretend to know how the visions came about at Blackberry nor do I know who will carry out the family's plans for the future of this establishment but I want to share how his story got my mental juices flowing.
We tend to always walk some of the farm while we are here. One of my favorite places to go is the little church nestled in a picturesque cove tucked away from things. Yesterday as I went there I noticed something I had never seen before- a lone understated headstone inside the picket fence beside the chapel. As I gazed out the window I realized it belonged to the 39 year old Sam Beall who was taken early in life last February. It stood all alone in what I assume will become a future family cemetery and on it was a simple epitaph that included the words "our visionary"...how poignant.
All weekend I've struggled with the fact that I often feel like a non-empowered visionary. This isn't an indictment on anyone. I was never hired to be an educational visionary. I was hired to be a technology integrationist. I'm 47 years old and I'm just learning this about myself. In almost every job I've had my frustrations come from me seeing better ways to do things (from my viewpoint) and not being able to speak into it or be valued enough to share my viewpoint. Once again, that's no indictment on people who have employed me, it's basically because there would have been no reason to ask a part time computer teacher in an elementary school what she thought, or a staff accountant at one of the largest companies in the United States.
So I've come to this point where I'm trying to figure out why I was able to balance for 10 years and now every year is a struggle to find my self value. I think it's because as a classroom teacher of technology I had some semblance of control and ability to map the path I felt best met my students needs. Now I'm dependent on others seeing the vision I have and they don't always see it nor should they be expected to see it.
I don't pretend to be a Sam Beall, Steve Jobs, or Sir Ken Robinson but I believe a visionary personality just exists in some people. The road my life has taken hasn't allowed me to follow that career path because of choices I have made to fulfill the role of support staff as a wife of an entrepreneur and a parent of two girls.
But here I am at 47 years old with a semi-administrative role in a school, with much achieved over the past three years in leading, creating, and supporting educators in a way that integrates technology to help meet learning goals for our students. There is no shame in the tech integrationist game thus far. But I strive for more. And that's where the balance causes me emotional and physical unrest. This weekend I was able to see the first step... I'm a visionary personality that either must bloom where I'm planted, resign to internal angst at times, or just keep my head down.
As I read back over this post I can see where it seems a bit vain from a reader's standpoint- declaring yourself a visionary. But bear with me, I'm 47 and just realizing this about myself in this weekend. I won't bore you with all the details but I realized others have seen this angst in me for a long time but I've been too bullheaded to realize the stress I often take on is not mine to own. I'm thankful for a weekend of the scales falling off my eyes but I am uncertain what that means for me forward.