“Put it in a bubble and blow it away.” My mom says this phrase when something we can’t control gets us fired up. It is usually something said by someone, who I am sure has the potential to be very kind, but in that moment I judge to be a complete dumb dumb. A question from a person who didn’t let me answer, a person who tells me advice for my own good, or something a stranger yelled from a car window. Something that a dumb dumb said in complete ignorance, and I hold onto it, and perseverate, and let it muffle my ears so that every other thing I hear that day comes through an ignorant, dumb dumb filter. My strategy for cleaning out this noise is to remember to put it in a bubble and blow it away, because I can’t control other people or what they do and say. All I can control is myself, practice kindness, and keep on moving, letting the things I can’t control blow away.
There have been times though when I think I have practiced kindness to other people’s benefit when I should I have thought more about myself. Times when people have said something to me and I should have fought for myself, because self preservation is a form of kindness. Instead I wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt another persons feelings, so I let their comment slide.
I don’t want to be bitter, I don’t want to feel like I’ve held grudges, but I have some noise stuck in my ears which I have held onto and I just want to say what I wish I said.
The Time My AP History Teacher Made Me Feel Little
I was sixteen, it was a school day, and AP History was going to start. I didn’t belong in that class. I don’t think I belonged in that school, but I definitely didn’t belong in AP History. I didn’t learn the way the other students did, and academic success was a major factor in social status, so my many failures were my identity. I failed a lot in AP History. I knew that I was supposed to want to be in this class though because all the students with high GPAs were in it and because the teacher, Mr. DumbDumb, was one of those teachers that all the students craved the approval of, as well as many faculty members and parents. He had a cinderella story to his name; came from an impoverished background, worked his tail off until he got into an ivy league school, and now he was working at a highly ranked, affluent, public school. To make his shadow even bigger, he had been named a teen heartthrob. Who knows if I authentically agreed with any of this, but I knew I was supposed to drink the koolaid, so I did.
As students are gathering from lunch, a popular thing to do was to stand around the teacher’s table and tell jokes and personal anecdotes, and laugh and feel approved of. I was standing at the table. Someone said something that triggered a story of my own. It started with, “This morning I had to clean because the cleaning lady is coming today,” which was a situationally ironic pun that we laughed at. Mr. DumbDumb laughed, but not at the pun, he laughed at me and loudly said, “You have a cleaning lady?!”. His classist judgment poured over me, hardening like a sour candy shell, stinging me so I couldn’t think quickly enough to have a retort.
What I wish I said was, “Excuse me? Oh, I am so sorry to have brought up the fact that my hard working, single mother of two daughters has a cleaning lady. I did not realize it was going to offend you and your humble roots, and you know— you’re right! It is shameful for my mother to employ another hard working, independent woman to make sure that our house has some form of maintenance. Even though she is still trying to manage a slew of recent trauma that isn’t any of your business, you’re right. She is not working hard enough, and you know, neither am I. I should be getting a second job to add to my first job I already have, so that when I am a successful adult like you, I can use all of my suffering to judge a child. Thank you for this realization, I could not have gotten here without you, Teach.”
The Time A Woman Told Me My Future
I was twenty-seven, it was a Saturday night, and I was at a family house party. I didn’t know anyone there really, but they all knew me because a our personal business is what family gets to share with people who are strangers to us. I was talking with a couple about my recent employment as an art teacher. They are both in education as well, so we had a similar vocabulary to work with. They were asking me about the culture, the faculty, and the salary, and I was gushing, because I could not be happier. It’s really quite amazing how excited I am about this job, something I never saw for my future. I’m sharing all of this with them, and I say, “and the administration is amazing and really works to meet the employee’s passions. When I was hired, it was phrased as ‘We know we don’t pay as much as public school, so hopefully (enter a myriad of benefits and opportunities) kind of balances it out,’ and I actually find that more valuable than a higher salary, you know?”. The wife then laughs and says, “Well that’ll change when you have kids!”. My throat clenched as tight as my hands around my mug of cider, which I thought might break, and all I could muster was an eyebrow raise to frame my eyes as they looked down at the counter.
What I wish I said was, “If you would get your head out of my uterus for a second, so you can hear me letting you know that what you meant to say was ‘if I have children one day,’ but this is assuming that you meant to tell me about my values changing at all, because I’m pretty sure that should I decide to have a child I wouldn’t want my established values changing very much at all, because if I’m bringing another person into this world, my values better be in-effing-tact. So I hear you projecting some of your own issues onto me, but I’m going to let your problems be just that, and instead pretend I heard what you meant to say, which was, ‘that’s great, it sounds like you’re really finding a great community,’ because I am.”
The Time When Time Was Not On Our Side
I wonder about how so many things might be different if I had actually said what I wish I said. I was twenty-one, a dumb dumb, and in love. I was in love with someone who was a year older than me, also an artist, and also a dumb dumb. We had an un spoken, uncommitted relationship because two scared dumb dumbs don’t know yet how to be open and honest with each other. It’s why we break our hearts so much when we’re young. Because he was a year older than me, he graduated and went home. We kept in touch at first a lot, and he would visit, almost like we were continuing our unspoken, uncommitted relationship. Then we stopped keeping in touch and we moved on. We would at times, while we were together, talk about how unfair it was that we were in two very different places in life. Being a year a part in age, at the end of college with as much drive as we had can make a big difference. As we grew a part we both had different relationships and opportunities so our lives took form into what they are today. I have reflected many, many times on how every conversation in which he told me that it was too much work to keep a long distance relationship alive, my throat closed, and shallow agreements fell from my voice. I agreed, because it is what he was saying and so I believed him. Now I don’t know why, and later I learned from a mutual friend that I apparently broke his heart as much as he broke mine, most likely because I let him be right.
What I very much wish I said was, “I don’t care if it’s too much work. I would rather work hard at something I want than be stress free with the road most convenient. I love you, and I think there is a way most inconvenient and unconventional that we aren’t seeing but should at least try to find. I’m not fighting with you because I want to be annoying, or nagging, or clinging. I’m fighting with you for myself. Because something about this makes me so happy, and challenged, and excited, and I’ll be broken when that’s gone, and I don’t want to have to fix myself without having tried to keep it.”
I have put these in so many bubbles, so many times, but they never fly away. To quote Amanda Palmer, “even if you never hear this song, somebody else will know.”
PS: new logo! Peep it below.
PPS: Sorry for so much shade, but sometimes you gotta have a catharsis to get present.