When I was a junior in High School, my math teacher Mr.Edwards posted in his classroom, “What Part Of NO don’t you understand.” Mr. Edwards wore a lab coat, loved math, and had bad breath, but he was inspiring. He loved to teach and loved to learn about his students. Over the summer, before I took his class, he read a theater review and interview on me in the local paper. I had no idea. At the end of my junior year, he had me stay after class and he said, “David, your not going to be a math teacher, I think we both know that, God has other plans for you, your here to act, and thank goodness, you passed the final by a slim margin, please stick to entertaining, and congrats on passing my class.” He smiled and gave me a hug.
It was the hardest year of my life at that time. Numbers, numbers, numbers. But Mr. Edwards would use acting as a way of helping me understand geometry. He was old school but loved his students. When they succeeded in class, a tear would roll down his eye in happiness. Then he would cover it up, by raising his voice and saying, “Okay everyone lets focus.” We all knew that he wanted us to succeed. There was no failure in his eyes, every time we made a mistake he was happy. He said, “Your getting closer.” One time after school with Mr. Edwards saw I wasn’t getting it, I started to cry, and he let me, he didn’t judge me, and he shared with me his life of not getting things all the time, that it took lots of trying, and he would end with, “David there is no such thing as failure, failure means your trying, so how can we fail when we are going for it. I would rather die doing math, then not doing it. Just like your acting, your doing it.”
One day in class he reminded us of the sign, which read, “Which part of NO don’t you understand.” He taught us, “Look when you say NO, mean it. Math is the same way, it is affirmative.” That stuck with me, and I was reminded of it the other day, I told someone “No”. I meant it. But they continued to persist. As they persisted, I realized they didn’t respect me. They weren’t hearing me fully. Rather than going through a whole thing, I said, “What part of No don’t you understand.” They stopped, and I realized that in life, we have a choice, to use our word wisely, or to use it against ourselves. I realized that when we play games, judge, criticize, blame, complain, seek approval, prove to others, that we are not using our word correctly. We are here to use our word from a place of respect for ourselves, and how we would like to be treated. There are some who will call you a failure, demean you, lie about you, call you names behind your back, and all kinds of nonsense, that is okay. Because it is how they feel about themselves, not you. You keep moving, using your word from a affirmative place, and respect yourself. You matter, your word matters, and how others see you, is their business not yours.