2015: The Year I Learned to Hug

January 2, 2016

Photo credit: Katika Bele

Photo credit: Katika Bele

You're likely thinking that as a person who sends free painted rocks around the world and actively promotes kind deeds that I am the touchy-feely type. Yes, that would make sense. However, I'm known for my awkwardness with and avoidance of hugging. When the time came to pick a focus for 2015, a New Year's resolution that would propel me to a better self, I decided to work on my hugging skills.

If you're a hugger already, you likely aren't aware of the intricacies and nuances that a hug requires. How long does the hug last? How hard do you squeeze? To pat on the back or not?When is it socially appropriate to hug? I set out into 2015 to find the answers to these questions.  

I'm a teacher, an elementary teacher, so I had at my disposal an abundance of opportunities to really hone my hugging skills. I paid particular attention to the grade primary teachers as they, working with the younger kids (my kids are eleven years old, on average) seem to dispense of hugs on an almost hourly basis. As I observed, I noticed the duration of the hugs lasted for a varying amount of time.  Patting on the back seemed optional and there was no rhyme nor reason to when the patting occurred.

With no patterns to be found, learning to hug was proving to be hard.

I started to tell my coworkers that I was learning to hug. Some of them took me under their wing, pointing out "natural" opportunities to hug. Sometimes coworkers randomly hugged me. Again, this just made my analytical brain confused. Just when is it the right time to hug?  

As the months of 2015 rolled along, I figured it best just to give it a go, to start hugging people. I knew, however, that I didn't have it all down pat, so I would tell the receiver of my hug "I'm learning to hug" as I went in for the encounter. I figured this statement would get me off the hook if I messed up in some way, like squeezing too tight or embracing too long.

Word started to spread about my hugging endeavors. My coworkers posted things like this on my Facebook page...


And this…


Seriously, these are actual screenshots from my Facebook feed!

On the final day of the school year, on June 30, 2015, after the students had dismissed and us teacher folk were packing up for the summer, it hit me: I really needed more practice. I got on the speaker system and broadcast through the whole building that I was at the main entrance, ready to give out hugs.  

As a person learning to hug, this was a huge, monumental move! One by one, my coworkers came to hug me before we departed ways for the summer months. Some hugs were long, some short, some people patted me on the back, others kind of rocked me back and forth a bit. Really, every hug was just a little different.

Then I realized: The length of the hug, the squeezing strength, or any other aspect of a hug really doesn't matter.  

It just matters to remember to hug, any way, shape, or form.

And now, when it comes to hugs, that's the only thing I work on: the remembering.   

Ginger LeBoutillierComment