These are feelings about education and moving and there’s nothing in here about weed, but there are mentions of booze
In Modern times, in Much of the World (though not all)
from the day we are born, we are given
a person whose job it is to help us care for our bodies,
later, we pass ourselves to other people whose job it will be
to help us care for our bodies.
In Modern Times, in Much of the World, babies are born into
religious communities and therefore born into
a whole community whose job it is
to help you care for your soul.
You may reject this later.
You may even resent it later.
But in most cases — even the really bad cases like Colorado City —
most intentions of the average religious person — so not the Pope or Jim Jones or the Dalai Lama — are good and pure, especially where it concerns their children.
** I’m not trying to infer that Catholicism or Buddhism are CULTS. Ugh. I hate the way the internet forces us to clarify everything. **
- * But if you want to have a talk about organized religion v. cults, hit me up. I love those kinds of conversations. **
And from the time we’re, like, five — in America — we are given educators to help us learn how we can learn, to give us the basics on reading, writing, art, math, science, history so we can be relatively informed citizens who are fairly decent and literate on a number of subjects. (I mean, ideally, right? This is the point of K — 12?)
And if you go to college (which you don’t have to if you don’t want to AND have another plan that’s better for you, but if you don’t have a plan b to college, might I suggest college . . . ?)
Unlike doctors, dentists, and our families (hopefully) we don’t keep seeing our educators after school.
On the low end, Americans have educators in our life for at least
If we get a four year undergrad: 16 years.
I was privileged enough to get an MFA and had 18 glorious years of educators/education.
Most of those years were good (not always “good” because I was LEARNING SO MUCH CONTENT or DOING REALLY WELL IN ALL MY CLASSES but “good” because I was young and happy and loved my friends. And sometimes I was doing good for the latter reason AND
because I was killing it academically/artistically.
Depended on the year/what was going on
in my life. See? That’s true for adults and young people alike!)
If you’re lucky as a student, your favorite teachers/professors will remain in your life. (If they creepily “remain in your life” you might want to address that with law enforcement. Like this should be a reciprocal thing, not a scary/weird thing.)
Conversely, if you’re lucky as an educator, your favorite students will stay in your life. (Again, not in a creepy way — why am I on this “must. clarify. everything.” kick tonight? I think the last couple of weeks really fucked with my gray matter.)
Anyway. One of my closest friends was once my professor. Freshman year.
Only had her class for a semester — a required humanities course.
She was the head of the Language Department — not even my department.
(I was English/Creative Writing.)
We just hit it off. I liked to write; she liked to write (and knew a TON about it).
I liked poetry; she liked poetry (and knew a TON about it).
I had a sometimes irreverent sense of humor; she had a sometimes irreverent sense of humor.
Sometimes, when you meet students as human beings (which they are)
you discover that they are people whose company,
whose conversation, whose interests, you just really dig.
If it happens, it’s special.
In 2011, when I got my last intravenous chemo,
when I was bald as hell (chemo even makes your eyebrows and leg hair fall out),
it was my former professor who showed up to sit with me and take me to lunch after I was finished. I think I had a tuna sandwich and chips with an iced tea.
She’s one of my best friends to this day.
Chemo has gotten better even in the last ten years.
I take a kind of oral chemo (Ibrance) which doesn’t make my hair fall out, and
I appreciate that because I like having a little hair.
When you have NO HAIR (as was the case for me in 2011, in Milwaukee)
everyone knows you’re a cancer patient and the pitiful stares do get tiresome.
(This is why some go the wig/hat route — I never cared. I was mad
about getting cancer in my early thirties. Felt fucking unfair and I was
a gender ambivalent dyke, so I wasn’t going to wear some wig. On
some level, I wanted everyone to know. But I didn’t want pity.
Same goes for the cancer diagnosis I am living with now.
I want to be honest. I want people to know. But I don’t want pity.)
So thank you, Ibrance.
Despite making me, from time to time, sicker than a shithouse rat
you seem to be doing your job (keeping the cancer away/dead)
and you’re letting me keep my hair so no one stares at me
all sad and disturbed and shit
while wondering about my imminent death.
Seriously. Here are the problems with “pity” as a verb, an emotion, a thing
we, as humans
(probably dolphins, too — aren’t dolphins basically just humans
without opposable thumbs?)
we, humans, can’t help it:
we feel pity, but what pity is:
- Thank god it’s not me.
- That poor bird/woman/child is going to die and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
- I would be so afraid/angry/depressed in his/her/that bird’s position.
BUT here’s the problem with this variety of pity:
- Someday, it will be you. Whether it’s cancer or something cardio or just old age. It WILL be you. So if you have an issue with your own mortality or with the weirdness of living in a body WORK THAT SHIT OUT, just don’t work it out on staring at people — however pitifully — with clear health issues.
- You are going to die. I might die BEFORE you, but you will still die. So again, see above — work out your existential shit with a therapist or your friends, like I do. Not on some stranger.
- I do get scared and angry and depressed sometimes, but it’s not my constant state. And even if I’m scared, angry, and depressed I still, sometimes have to go to Walgreens and I have to teach my classes and write my nonsense and I refuse to live in a constant state of anger/depression/fear because it’s miserable and I won’t be here forever (neither will you) so shouldn’t I just enjoy this spin?
So that’s my problem with pity. That’s what pity connotes for me. Might connote something else for you.
We can agree to disagree on the nature of pity.
False pity is so abundant
people seek it out like a drug
in really fucked up ways. Usually
on Facebook, Insta, and Tumblr and so
it makes it really hard for PEOPLE LIKE ME
to MAKE A FUCKING JOKE about my condition
on the internet because people don’t know
if I’m being “funny” or seeking pity (false or not).
Because, you know, we tell ourselves this big lie
that if we have one big problem (be it a sick parent, a divorce, cancer)
everything sucks. And that’s simply
not true. So people on FB (where us old people put our lives)
are like “Hmm. Allison is talking brusquely about a cancer treatment. Is being funny or is seeking pity?”
Also, if you know me, and if you have to ask “is she seeking pity?”
then you can be fairly certain that I’m trying to be funny.
I don’t ask for pity.
I ask for prayers.
I ask for vibes.
I ask for good energy.
I don’t ask
So I started talking about teachers/educators (and as I mentioned in a previous post, I prefer “educator” but sometimes I still say “teacher” — sue me).
I really hope we can do better as a country.
I really hope we can revamp some of our many broken systems once this crazy man
is back in Florida or wherever he’s going to slink off to. (Even if we revolutionize
education I am afraid there’s little we can do about middle school like
no one ever has thought “Gee, I sure wish I was thirteen again.” Owing
to human development
middle school might just be
a total loss or at best, maybe,
we adults in education
can make adolescence
suck a little less.)
Maybe we can do less damage — as educators, as healthcare workers, as politicians — by being a little more transparent, by telling more truth (in good faith — to help, not to merely hurt, by valuing humanity as much (if not more) than we value
test scores and GPAs. In my life, I’ve found
true listening and true compassion help. Most people
do not intend to be (nor are they)
irredeemable assholes — just a little broken and
banged up. Maybe in education, healthcare, politics we
can operate more like hands
that never hit,
only reach out
to help people up.
(Again, it’s entirely possible the Flagstaff has got to me, but
I don’t think so. I think it was/is staring down the barrel of
my own mortality: things get real clear and real real.)
(and I am a humble person, so my thoughts on education
are not like an “uh-oh egotistic grandpa had one too many Manhattans
and now he’s going on again about
how he could have solved the Vietnam War” moment.
It’s not like that.)
(Also can you be a “humble person” and say/write “I am a humble person”
or is that like when people say “Oh my gosh, I’m such a nerd” — when they are not, in fact, a nerd — or worse “I’m not racist, but . . .”
Am I not humble anymore?
Humility is important. I value humility —
not the phony kind.
It’s like getting a gyro from a franchise in Arizona
versus getting a gyro in a hole-in-the-wall place in Greek Town, Chicago —
you can ALWAYS tell the difference.
False humility and sincere humility bear little resemblance to one another.
False humility always comes across as parody of the real thing.
Now I’m going to worry about my lack of humility or the erosion of my humility and add it to my list of things to work on as if I don’t have enough shit.)
And now back to EDUCATION:
Because most people aren’t quite so fragile
by the time they’ve hit undergrad (I mean, yes,
they’re young and banged up by life a little
or a lot depending on what’s gone down), so
maybe if we all get “hip to reforming education” (I think
I’ve been watching too many films
from the 60s) we should start with K —
12 not just because I’m biased as a high school
educator but because I think this is where
the education system
is most broken.
Like absolutely fuckin busted.
Plus, in college and grad school you’re learning less
from your educators about “how to person” and
more about how to BECOME REALLY KNOWLEDGEABLE
on what you’re into — be it Microbiology or Medieval Literature.
(Shameful admission: I didn’t know how to do a load of laundry
when I arrived at college. Someone in my dorm had to teach me.
I never offered to do laundry at home and was always under the impression
that mom “liked” doing laundry or at least liked being
“in control” of the laundry situation or that’s the story I tell myself
to make myself feel less guilty
about never helping mom
So I’m moving in, like, nine days.
To the desert with snakes and tarantulas
and Javelinas and coyotes and big hawks that
will snatch your little dog from your yard and
be all WHAT YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
But I’m full of nervous and happy and excited energy.
I’m feeling all the feelings. I like those moments in life
when you get to feel some of the best feelings alongside
some of the “difficult-but-not-overwhelming” feelings
that we so often try to avoid.
Ask anyone who’s lived long enough: laughing
after crying (because sorrow, because pain, because grief)
is the best type of laughter. Instant, however momentary,
relief. Morphine for the soul.