You probably didn’t expect anything from me this late in the year. But I am full of surprises. And I have some things to say.
It seems my summer of big goals did not turn out the way I’d hoped. And that’s okay. I’ve been conquering more metaphorical mountains lately. Which brings me to what brought me here, to whisper thoughts across my silent blog on a sunny winter’s day.
Yesterday I went hiking for the first time since July. it was a short trek, no more than an hour round trip. I went with my boyfriend. The ground was blanketed with snow. The air was crisp and biting at my bareskin. My breath couldn’t quite keep up with our pace, lagging behind on the trail. I am out of shape it seems (unsurprising). It felt good to move. To surround myself in the trees, to strap on my hiking boots if only briefly, and just be with nature. My footing wasn’t great. I slipped a few times. I paused often to analyze the snow, trying to understand it’s curves and cuts, wondering if I would fall. I was never really and truly sure of my steps. And I carried on.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other. It’s what you do when nothing else makes sense. You keep going. You keep pushing forward into the unknown. Doing the very best you can with what you have.
It’s Thanksgiving break. We are only a few weeks from the end of the semester, and oh how I needed this break. Not just because I’m drowning in grading (which I definitely am), but because 2016 has been a big one. For all of us. And as it comes to a close I find myself wondering…how did we get here?
I just finished a book on mindfulness. Most of it centered around breathing exercises and creating awareness of your body in any given situation. I am in no way even close to being as mindful as I’d like. But I’m learning to forgive myself when I am not, and to quietly acknowledge when I am. It is in the small steps forward that I rejoice, instead of berating myself for all the times I am stuck in the busyness of life.
Because I find it is easier sometimes to be angry. To be sad. To be enraged. To be hurt. To be scared. It is easier to give into those feelings than it is to notice them, acknowledge them and then let them go. It’s definitely easier than fighting them. And I have been fighting for a long time–just within myself. Now it seems the fight is different. Not only am I fighting the same battles inside, but now I am fighting for space, for a voice (whether mine or someone else’s who has been silenced), for understanding.
I have for the most part not said much in light of the election results, especially on social media. I’ve crept gently through the real (and fake) news stories. I have tried to understand how this could have happened and what I can do in the wake.
I don’t know how we got here. I will admit to my own ignorance. My own blind faith. My own belief that people would draw the line, just as I do. I underestimated the anger and grief and pain and those who are left behind in the quest for progress and what they would do to be heard. What they’re willing to give up.
That Wednesday morning I sat in the cafeteria looking at our students. Some unaware of what could possibly happen now. Some rejoicing in their victory. Some terrified of campaign promises becoming a reality. I sat on the edge of sobs for most of the morning, exhausted emotionally and physically.
It’s only my second year teaching. I couldn’t even begin to deal with my own emotions, let alone comfort those of my students. I felt helpless, I still do. But I showed up because they needed me.
That’s the thought that dragged me out of bed for the last three weeks. They need me. Now more than ever I must teach them to be intelligent, critical thinkers who read, write, and argue. Who demand respect and equality. Who demand to be heard. Who not only have opinions, but can support those opinions with hard evidence–not just because they “Read it on the internet.” I must teach them to be good citizens who know their rights and will fight for them through debate and discourse and challenge the system that is now determined to shut them down and dismiss them.
And I know there are people marching the streets. There are people signing petitions. There are people who are calling offices incessantly. There are people getting tear-gassed and water-hosed in the name of justice. I want to be with those people. I want to fight. I want to show Trump and those who support him how wrong they are about so many things. But I’m at my own front line. With 150 students to protect and defend. To educate so that this does not happen again. And that is a terrifying thought…it is probably the scariest thought I’ve ever had. Because so much depends on how we teach our children. And I do not want to fuck that up.
My fight will look different than yours. But we are on the same side.
I acknowledge that we have arrived at this point. But I do not accept it. If I accept that Trump has won then I will have to lay my armor down. And I refuse to stop fighting. I refuse to accept the hatred and bigotry. Yes, I am terrified, but I refuse to give into that fear. I cannot afford to. Too many people depend on me (whether they know or understand that or not). And while I am new to this I am determined to do the best I can for my students. They are the future and I will not let them be raised in a world where Trump and his policies are the “new normal.”
In other news:
I’m learning to listen more. I’m learning to take my time. I’m learning that I don’t know everything I thought I did. I’m learning that even I, with the best of intentions, can still make mistakes.
We are all climbing our own mountains. We all have huge packs to carry. And we will carry on together. I believe we will conquer our mountains. I believe in us. I believe.
And I would like to close with a few quotes from one of my favorite authors, Elie Weisel.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”