Okay, then.

Allison Gruber
6 min readNov 6, 2021


Growing up, my siblings and I loved the film Raising Arizona, and I still love the film Raising Arizona, and there’s a scene in the movie where Hi (the protag.) meets with a parole board and . . . you should just watch it:

It’s absurd. It’s silly. It’s clever.
“Okay, then,” became something of a catchprhase among my siblings and I. We still say it sometimes, when we are together. Same emphasis as in the clip, slightly stupid, slightly exasperated, “Okay, then.

I had no idea, back in the Chicago suburbs, watching this film for the bajillionth time with my brother — I would make him memorize the dialogue of entire movies with me, and I think we got midway through this one. Karate Kid we had on lock. With the right amount of clarity and focus, I could probably still recite the entire film Karate Kid — I never fathomed in my wildest dreams that I would ever live in Arizona. This was not an aspiration of mine. A series of events took place. A series of decisions were made, largely, on “intuition,” and I ended up in Tucson. The city of. Not the ‘burbs, not the foothills. Tucson. Proper.

I took this picture while walking Abe after work. Check out the pidgeon king. I call this “Borderland Birds.”

Yesterday was utter shit. Tedious. Miserable. Brutally, woefully, hideously ordinary American bullshit. And I lived to see another day, and this day was actually pretty damn spectacular.

As most of my readers know, I’m a teacher. Just a “hideously ordinary” American teacher. Except not really because my path to the profession itself was rather circuitous. And I wanted to be an English Professor. And now I teach middle school. And even if I take my health problems out of the equation, teaching middle school is hard during the most blissful of years, and being a middle schooler is hard in the most forgiving of years, and being in American education is hard in the most orderly of years.

And this year is not blissful, forgiving, or orderly.

Today, though, on the heels of a day that had me in every one of my Feels, had me doubting every single choice I’ve made up-to-and-including this point, had me by the neck, on the heels of that day, God gave me this day which was by turns fun and “exciting” (in the way middle school is always “exciting”) and so full of love and connection and learning that all I can say is “thank you” to the universe.

What happened? Nothing. Everything. I sat in a circle with very young people and wrote poems. I sat at a table with very young people and showed them one way to think about editing poetry. I belly laughed at a kid’s remark, counseled a kid who is having a hard time that I kinda-sorta personally understand, and I got to tell a kid, in all sincerity, “You are an amazing writer.” And I got to watch the kid blush, say, “No I’m not,” and though I could not see his face, I know how to read eyes very well now, and his were smiling.

And then I came home and put together a daybed in my “home studio.” (Several friends have inquired, in re: day bed, “why didn’t you just get a futon,” and I say, “because I wanted a daybed.

And now I’m writing a blog post.
I feel energized tonight. Tired, and very clear, very solid. Strong, even.
Today, at work, I felt very much “in the zone” as an educator. There are some days where my classroom gears feel a bit rusty, I don’t know why, and I totally know why, and then there are days, like today, where everything feels natural and makes perfect sense, and I know I am where I belong, where I want to be.

That’s a gift.
No way of living in America, right now, is easy.
Yesterday, I said that all I wanted to do was “teach and make art.” That is what I want, I said to my spouse and my friends and God and everything. What am I doing wrong?

Nothing, as it turns out.
Sometimes we just turn the wrong way down a one way Bullshit Road,
and just like I did back in the early 90s, failing my driver’s test for the third time, all we can do when we find ourselves going the wrong way down a one-way Bullshit Road is say, “Shit. I’m sorry.”
Maybe you’re just sorry to yourself, like I was in the 90s when I got so nervous and failed my driver’s test not once but thrice. Or maybe you’re sorry to your passenger/s, as I so often am to mine.

I’ve been trying to dial back my tendency to apologize. I’ve been trying to undo this habit a bit because I have sometimes found myself apologizing to others for, like, actively dying. Totally true example: I once apologized to a nurse for having “bad veins” as though my veins are something I can do anything about whatsoever. So I try not to apologize too much, and sometimes apologies are still necessary. Sometimes I’m just apologizing to myself these days. Sometimes, I apologize to my students. Sometimes to my spouse and others still. Necessarily so.

“All I want to do is teach and make art,” I said yesterday. Stand by this statement 100%. That’s all I want. Today, that’s all I got. Like, I sat in relatively quiet spaces with middle schoolers and wrote poetry. I sat on a soft couch in a classroom and discussed jazz, genetics, and poetry with my colleagues. Yes, in the context of teaching these subjects to children, but if those aren’t great subjects to traffic in for a living then I don’t know what subjects are great to traffic in for a living. And as I write this, I’m getting little dinging noises on my phone alerting me that a student is working on the edits I gave them today. It’s nearly 8 pm on a Friday, in Tucson, and this kid is working on their poetry edits. It’s not that I’m delighted to see a student doing homework on a Friday night, it’s that I’m delighted to know this kid is a young writer just like I once was. Couldn’t get me to do a lick of Algebra, but man was I clackin’ away on that typewriter all night long when it came to an opportunity to work on something I had made.

This is All Souls’ weekend in Tucson. I’m very much looking forward to exploring the activities ahead of the procession on Sunday. This is not to be confused with “Halloween Part II.” All Souls Day is about grief, about loss, about mourning. The event is about catharsis, not costumes, though there are plenty of costumes.

I submitted a picture of my Uncle Al to be displayed on the projection wall downtown, and I will be looking for his face over the night sky this weekend. This is something, I imagine, he would have gotten a kick out of. His shit-eating-grin writ large on a building. He’d also dig the lights on display during the All Souls Procession. I will be thinking of him this weekend, especially.

And mostly, tonight, I’m just grateful. Grateful that all I wanted, yesterday, was to teach and make art and today, God delivered: I taught. I made art.

Okay, then.



Allison Gruber

Educator, essayist, feminist, human.