I’ve learned that a smile can mean the world to a student, while one stern word to another can cause their world to come crashing down. I’ve learned that lunch duty is precious time for you to see your students in a different light, and that the conversations and laughter you experience there outweighs any headache you may get from the rest of the din. I’ve learned that knowing your students by name is powerful. But recently, I learned one of the toughest lessons of all: You can’t please everyone.
I’ve gone through a lot of my counseling journey relying on compromise. Two students are arguing? We do our best to resolve the argument, then find ways for everyone to part ways with a more civil attitude towards each other. A student is not getting along with a parent? The student and I work together to find a way we can address the problem with the adult.
Throughout all of these conversations, we discuss compromise. We talk about what would make each person happy. We ask people to reach a little and give a little. When I talk to parents who are unhappy with something, we usually can work out some sort of compromise, so that I am meeting their needs, even if I am unable to meet all of their demands. For the most part, everyone goes away happy.
Last week, however, I was encountered with a situation where I was unable to find a compromise. I won’t go too much into what happened (in retrospect, it wasn’t as big of a deal as I made it out to be at the time), but let’s just say that the day ended with me going home, kicking off my shoes, and crying my eyes out. I felt like I had failed as a counselor. I felt completely defeated and exhausted, both physically and mentally.
Despite the assurances from some coworkers and my husband that I had done what I could, I still felt like I was a horrible counselor. I hadn’t done my job. People had lost faith in me. And then, my (overly dramatic) emotional side kicked in. My mind went into overdrive, telling me that I was a bad counselor, that I should never have gone into this field, that everyone was going to think I was an awful person.
It took a little bit for me to sort things out in my mind, but eventually I did. I calmed down enough to see that this was not a huge deal, that everyone has off days, that not every problem can be solved in a way that leaves everyone happy.
Is that hard to accept? Yes. Unbelievably so. I am one of those people who believes that there is always a “perfect” solution to every problem. And if there is not, I darn well am going to try to find one. For some reason, it is harder for me to accept that there are no “perfect” solutions.
Interestingly enough, one of my friends shared with me this little twist: Maybe there is a perfect solution for every problem. However, the “perfect” solution may not always be evident right away. Sometimes, not finding the perfect compromise is the perfect solution. Sometimes, there needs to be fights and arguments and angry words flung around, because that is what is going to lead to that ultimate perfect solution to the problem. It’s not easy, it’s not pleasant, but sometimes, that’s what needs to happen in order for the problem to be solved.
It’s reassuring to know that even I will never stop learning!