Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A funny thing happened

At work yesterday, one of the guys greeted me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries. He then shared that he was stressed. I told him that I had reached a point in my life that I have learned to just let go. Everything works out in the end. He told me that I had a rather optimistic outlook. I have always been told that I am pessimistic. And so I realized that I am starting a new chapter in my life. A chapter in which all of the things I have heard and read over the years have actually become a part of my psyche. Because somehow in the middle of all the craziness that has been going on recently, I have finally found a way to see the good and to be happy.

And last night I talked to one of my dad's brothers. He thanked me, just as my father's other siblings had, for "taking care of my dad" that weekend. And I realized my mixed feelings. For years, I toiled to make my father's family approve of me. They probably did but I never felt that they did. And so hearing their thanks over the last week has made me want to cry. After I stopped trying to win their approval, I finally heard the words that I had wanted to hear for so many years. Sorry. I had to pause once more to let a few tears slip just thinking about it all. I guess that's what happens when you are kind of known as the rebel kid. And my perceptions of them is what made me the rebel in the first place. Because they have always said positive things about me to my face. But to everyone else? They say what they really think and it has usually gotten back to me. But if you question them about what they said to someone else, they'll likely lie. As the old saying goes, "I trust them as far as I can thrown them." I, on the other hand, have been an honest person person at all times -- with the exceptions of when I have withheld information from them. Nothing wrong with a little self-preservation in my book. (And sometimes I have felt like they have used my honesty against me. Never tell your enemies how they can wound you.)

If you were to step to me and to question me about something I said, I would quickly admit it if I had actually said it. I would never say anything behind someone's back that I did feel comfortable in saying to his/her face. If I put a spin on it, then there's probably a whole lot of other stuff going on. But I usually only use the spin thing at work. And I can spin the hell out of stuff. Probably why in undergrad I said that I should be someone's campaign manager. I don't want to take the direct hits but I find enjoyment in putting a spin on events. Probably a good thing that I'm not teaching anymore.

Although I did teach one kid the damage control/spin thing my first year teaching. She had failed my class on the first report card. I told all of the kids their grades before the report cards were issued. When I finished up, she was missing. I found her curled up in the fetal position on the floor under her desk. I coaxed her out eventually. Then we talked about why she was upset. I told her what to say to her parents -- that she would be coming to me for extra help at lunch and after school. I also made her promise that she would follow through. (I told her that if she prefaced the grade on the report card with an explanation that she had talked to her teacher and had come up with a plan to improve her grade, they would be less angry. This is exactly what happened.) By the end of the year, she had an A in my class.

Because of my actions that first term, I ended up with a full classroom of kids at lunchtime. I will never forget those kids -- who are due to graduate high school next spring. I'd like to think that they haven't forgotten me. Because those kids filled a void that my own family had left. They taught me to trust and to believe in myself in ways that no one else has ever done in my life. When they thought that I was under attack, they had my back. I had never experienced such a pure love in my life before this point and I know that this is why I stayed in teaching. Even with the more challenging students I have had after that point, I know that there are some who will always remember me -- the same way that I remember some of my former teachers.

I guess that I am thinking of former students because every day on my way home I pass the school at which I taught last year. Last night I passed and saw one of the other teachers getting out of her car. So I stopped to chat. As we were chatting, a parent whom I knew passed. And part of me is kicking myself for not staying around for their arts celebration -- because I know the parent will tell them that she saw me. And part of me is applauding me for being able to let go of the past.

And suddenly last night I realized that this is the happiest I have been in some time. And my evening out with Mommy Zombie? Proof that I am on the right track once more.

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