|where I belong |
December 7, 2017
Had she lived, today would have been my maternal grandmother's 95th birthday. She died some time ago after developing Lou Gehrig's Disease. It affected her speech first, then slowly, the paralysis spread. Damn stubborn woman wouldn't learn sign; she wrote a ton of notes...to everyone. She taught me to sew and bake. Well, both grandmothers did. Both of them were tough women. My mom...not so much. I think about the lives they all lived; how they got by, their daily lives, and the things which brought them joy. I now wish I had known them all better.
Yesterday, was the last day of classes for this semester. As always, it was bittersweet. Holy ha-le-fuckin-lu-ya it's over, and wow, after the final, I won't ever see some of these people again coupled with the ones I will see should be safe on the break so they come back to me. Somehow, it makes me think of Noah releasing a dove from the ark and awaiting its return. And I have to admit, there are some I hope I don't see again, as they were thorns in my side, they just do not belong in college.
Some kids don't. They aren't ready, or their calling lies elsewhere and as an empath, I usually sense that. Sometimes I say so, other times, it's not my place.
I develop my favorites along the way. Kids who can take a joke, are on the margins, the sarcastic-out-of-the-box thinkers: who chooses Quentin Tarantino for a profile essay? Who writes haiku about mosh pits, or a love letter to pasta, turns Sam Elliot into a meme, or carefully outlines how Hamlet was the original fuck boi?
Picked up from my old pal, Dr. Ham, I call my students scholars. I loved that he did so, it made me feel more than the average Schmo. I also make my entrance with "Greetings, Homies!"
There's this hokey thing going around about teachers touching the future, but OMG is it true. In some tiny way, I impact the outcome of this person presented to me some by the luck of the draw and some by choice. They grow up around me, in front of me, because of and in spite of me. It's an honor I do not take lightly, and I've written about it before. I know I've been chosen as a transitional guide.
In true fashion, I did the 'nice card' exchange. I came up with the idea years ago, but here's the gist. Each person gets an index card and writes their name on it. In a circle, we pass the cards and each person writes a nice comment to the owner. It can be as simple as 'I like your smile' to 'You're a chill MFer' (yes, this happened!) But here's why I do it. I say as I hold up the cards from years past:
"See these? (drops them one by one on table) You can do whatever you want to with your card, but here's why I keep mine. Ever have a suck-shit day where you feel like nothing you do or say matters? Where you feel like the world is out to get you, you're not good enough, and you don't belong? I do. I do, and I know you do too. When I feel like that, I pull out these cards, and I read them. I read these comments that my students/friends have made about me, and I know I am so much more than how I am feeling. I belong. I am enough. I matter, and you do too. Do what you want with yours, but I have what you said about me, and you have what I said about you." Then I usually say, "Good luck with your finals!" Before the mood gets too heavy and deep.
I know it makes a lasting impression when you get photos sent to you by students who still have their cards: one from a kid, still in Afghanistan, Scuba Steve, who keeps his taped inside his footlocker. I wrote on his card, 'I love your go-get-'em attitude.' (see aforementioned note about the Sam Elliot meme)
From and for the class president, editor of the uni's newspaper, the uni's mascot, all of the sports ball players, cheerleaders, artists, scientists, activists, poets, musicians, the freaks, the geeks, the mommies, daddies, the kids struggling to figure out who and what they are, thank you.