This first week of February is National School Counseling Week, so it’s time to celebrate all the professionals who let us cry in their office and let us dream out loud when we dared to hope for a brighter future than high school. It’s also time to celebrate the wisdom of our favorite fictional school counselor, Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights.
As y’all know, there’s a lot of wisdom beneath that head of hair styled with unicorn tears, so I find it useful to ask myself, “What Would Tami Taylor say?” So curl up with a glass of wine on the couch and take a look at some of those timeless, BAMFy Tami-isms that are just as relevant for the adult world as they are for high school.
“Well, you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose. Either way the sun’s gonna still come up the next morning.”
Think about how many times you don’t even try simply because of the idea of failure. I imagine Tami might say that the worst No is the one you tell yourself when a daring idea dances around your brain. The more immune you can become to rejection or failure, the more likely you’ll hear that Yes. So in 2016, what’s your equivalent of a state championship? Is it sending that scary email? Applying for your dream job? Asking your crush out on a date? Until it burns up five billion years from now, the sun will keep coming up, and you’ll be better for trying regardless of the outcome.
“There’s no weakness in forgiveness.”
What is it about the Internet these days where everyone has this tenacity to bring people down? Make one mistake, and you’re DUNZO. Don’t get me wrong—people need to be made aware when they’re being ignored or shortsighted, but I wish we’d practice forgiveness in our own lives with that same determination. Tami Taylor had a knack for recognizing other people’s humanity, and I believe it’s a talent that starts with compassion for ourselves and our own mistakes. Like our heroine, when we move in the direction kindness, other people notice. They’re also more likely to examine their own behaviors and biases.
Listening is your responsibility as a human being.
Tami said this before she got fired for sharing all the options with a pregnant student, which was a bold move in Texas. It’s easy to have opinions, but we should all strive to be someone with skin, someone who’s in the room and is actively attempting to understand and empathize with a person’s experiences, worries, and hopes. And you don’t have to be a counselor to be that person for someone who needs it.
So often we make goals of getting our voice out into the world and having something relevant to say. But the world is full of people who need someone, anyone, to hear their voice. Figure out how to be that person for someone who’s been marginalized or ignored time and time again.
“You never know what’s going on with somebody. You can’t take it personally.”
You only know the inside of your own head, so it’s all too easy to interpret other people’s actions as a response to you. If a friend flakes out via text at the last minute, a grumpy stranger yells at you on the street, or a coworker looks bored at your big presentation, it’s normal to feel upset. But if you base all your actions on others’ reactions, you’ll only live the life of a chameleon. If you let those assumptions latch on to you like permanent post-it notes, you lose sight of who you are and who you could be. Stop being a mind reader, and like Tami, start playing the role you want, regardless of what the world has to say about it.
“You belong anywhere you want.”
A lot of women can suffer from imposter syndrome when it comes to their lives and careers. The truth is that if you’re in the room, then you’ve probably earned the right to be there. Never let that sneaky voice in your head convince you that don’t. And remember, if you’re comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides, you’re always going to fall short. Other people have anxieties that you can’t see. I like to imagine that Tami might quote this Dolly Parton wisdom to one of her students: “Find out who you are and then do it purpose.” Your successes aren’t accidents, so find out where you belong and own the room. Do a power pose. Be the BAMF.
My challenge to you is to take these truths and use them this week. Scribble one on a piece of paper and stick it to your mirror. Chant one as your mantra. Study the ancient wisdom of our unicorn-haired queen. And whether you’re a counselor or not, be the Tami Taylor you wish to see in the world. If you’re skeptical, remember—she’s right 100% of the time. You can ask her husband.
About the Contributor:
Kathleen Smith is a therapist living in DC. When she’s not crying about middle-aged women on television, she helps fangirls with their problems. Despite her passion for dystopian novels, she remains utterly unprepared for the apocalypse.