Well...now what? (6/17/22)

Hi Aim family,

Thanks for indulging me on the subject line of this last email of the 2021-2022 school year. Yearly Roundup just wasn't quite enough.

As the dust settled from our amazing last exhibition (it's always so fun to see everyone) and the chaos of the last two weeks and the noise of the day quieted down as our children drifted off to sleep one-by-one, I just said to myself in the dark, "Well....now what?"

The last ten months might just take the cake for the most overwhelming ten months of my life. To have the beautiful burden of building Aim slowly lifting as we speak, I find myself longing already to get back to the road of the Hero's Journey. Heaven knows, as well as all of my managers at my other businesses, as well as my wife, that I have neglected a lot of things this school year. So I know this break is needed for me as much as the eagles. But as I write this email this afternoon, a part of me wishes that August 15th was this upcoming Monday and I was scrambling with the guides to get last minute preparations finished for our next amazing Quest. I know Britney and Serena are shaking their heads right now as they read this going, "hmm...no thanks". And they aren't wrong. Besides, if anyone has earned this break they have! I know I said this in an email not long ago, but they really are the best.

So why might I, and undoubtedly a few of your eagles, be feeling this way? To answer that, I hearken back to the first weekly roundup I wrote this year. 

"There had been moments of very focused work, and other times had been wasted because of an unclear direction of where to go. There had been moments of real stress and chaos, and there had been moments of real leadership. But something in the Studio still just didn't feel right.

"I'm still not entirely sure if I can pinpoint it exactly, but the nearest I can get is that many have not fully committed to the Hero's Journey yet. That to me is the foundation of everything else we do at Aim Academy. If that piece is missing, then anything else, be it the Socratic discussions, hands on learning, self-paced mastery, or real world leadership, will come up short. Two very similar behaviors can be worlds apart if they are coming from an Eagle who has fully committed to the Hero's Journey, and one who hasn't. It takes an immense humility, and a good dose of courage, to really begin a Hero's Journey. It is a fundamentally different approach to learning. An entirely different mindset. WIthout it, freedom becomes freedom to goof off. With it, freedom becomes freedom to prepare yourself for your calling in life. No matter the sacrifice."

I would guess that few of you may have ascertained the deeper meaning in those words at the time. But I was scared to death. Our studio was balancing on the edge of a knife, teetering between success and ruin. I had heard too many stories of Actons shutting down after 1-2 years.  

Later in that first email, after describing a major breakthrough, I said, "Our Tribe is not out of the woods yet. There will be many more challenges to come--not to mention greater challenges." I supposed those words to be true at the time, but experiencing the truth of them over the ensuing months was something very different. 

But...we hung on. We kept fighting. And growing. Quest after quest, failure after failure. Until the life-changing moments of the last several emails began to pile up. 

Until we had moments like yesterday when we said goodbye to the Sohn family with tears all around the room. Before we began the last round of Character Callouts for Neva and Lucy, I said a few words to the eagles. Among them, was this idea that this is naturally what happens when you go on Hero's Journey. When you walk that road side-by-side with someone day after day, you start to occupy some space in your fellow travelers' hearts. Bit by bit. Gradually. Almost imperceptibly. So that you may not even notice. Until suddenly they leave and rip that part of your heart away. Then the void they are leaving becomes unmistakable. And believe it or not, as painful as that experience is, I think that is a good thing. Because it means that you had the courage to open your hearts to complete strangers. And you weren't afraid to love them. And to laugh together and cry together. And play and read and study and grow and work and fight and bleed and correct and teach and guide each other. As real hero's do. 

In Return of the King, Tolkien asked, "How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back?" At the top of Lake Blanche, I told the MS/LP eagles that I believe this year will forever be known as the year that Aim Academy found its heart and soul. Last year, we added all sorts of amazing bones and muscles and brains. But this year your eagles infused it each with a bit of themselves--their hearts and souls. And as a result, Aim will never be the same. 

Neither will they. 

And neither will I.

I hope you all have an amazing summer. I can't wait to hear all about them. In the meantime, good luck on your journey! I will leave you with one picture I took yesterday. Not the most exciting picture to be sure...but I believe it might be the most fitting. If it doesn't make sense...perhaps your eagles can explain it to you. Farewell 8683 Sandy Parkway! And farewell to each of you!

For a time...


Lance Stewart

Hi, I'm Lance Stewart.

I'm the founder and Head of School at Aim Academy.

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