We are broken people. I can only speak confidently about Americans in this instance, but for the most part, despite being a relatively wealthy country with access to the essentials for survival, as well as oodles of distraction and entertainment, pleasure and leisure, were all pretty fucked up. I don’t know any one who I would say has good psychic health. Everyone I know suffers. There are many reasons for this. We are an emotional country despite what we tend to project and expect of each other. And perhaps that’s on purpose as our movements to emote are defiance against a culture that doesn’t want us to express our feelings.
My experiences with being emotional are increasing. No, I don’t count passionate ranting and raving as emotional. That is my dictatorial side emerging in an effort to browbeat argumentative opponents. Or so I will state. But in all seriousness, situations that require me to have intense emotions are not something I do well with, either positive or negative. Happiness and sadness are two extremes that I would rather not engage in. I’d rather remain neutral, like I have been taught. I guess in some cases obedience is the way.
As has already become theme here in the relaunch of the Korrupt Yrself Corporation for World Domination Propaganda Department, talking about the ass whopping that 2016 has rendered upon myself and others I wanted to once again explore this idea of slowing down, offer an anecdote, some insight perhaps, into just how slowing down the speed has offered new perspective. Gaining new perspective seems to be a large sacrifice of the time and work that needs to be done as Nazi’s invade our government, take over our psyche, plant fake news stories to distract us by means of creating paranoia and other such horrifying shit that is still to come. And as much as I want to talk at length about #pizzagate and NODAPL, things that affect me directly in indirect ways, today I want to give you, dear reader something a little more heart warming. Because in a moment where-in I was blindsided, my heart broke in one of those great and beautiful ways.
Since town crier, ranting lunatic, public nuisance, soapbox syndicate and asshole are not jobs I can claim nor get paid for, I have to work (at least until you all make me a famous author. Buy my stuff here, here and here). Currently I am employed by a community college as a person who takes notes for people with various disabilities. I did not pursue this job at first because I am a kindhearted person who wanted to make a difference while earning a less than livable wage. I needed a job. This one is one I knew I could do successfully. It was short-term solution to a long-term problem of previous, though enjoyed, unemployment. In other words, altruism is not one of my key motivators. I could give a fuck about people. Or so I thought.
You wouldn’t think something as simple as showing up for community college courses and copying down what teachers say would be so substantial to a person’s life. For the most part too, our work often goes relatively unnoticed as it is. Which is good. I like when my work is seamless and unnoticed when I have to make money at something that doesn’t concern me personally. It makes for a pleasant employment experience where the time I trade for money is finished at the same time everyday and no one talks to me about it and I don’t think about it when I get home. Sometimes however, someone does recognize your work. This is a short story about this happening to me.
One of my students, I won’t talk in detail about her, but she’s young and newly in college. Of her many traits two are important to this story, she is cute as a button in that way that people can be cute like teddy bears and kittens and puppies. It’s not human, but comforting and forces you to smile. Part of what makes her this way is she always smiles. Based on the very little I do know about her, this is meaningful. Her life was and is filled with more obstacles than mine for many reasons. And yet, every day, she smiles. She is proud and happy to be doing what many people have probably told her she would never or could never do. That is a reality about people with disabilities that most people don’t share. We assume that their different traits prevent them from achieving what is totally obtainable. It’s fucked up and ugly and it pisses me off and has propelled me in new directions I never considered before. This young lady has conquered that. If anyone has the right to be proud and happy for themselves it is her.
My job does not require me to interact with the students I serve. I like this. I’m not a people person. I don’t mind serving the public and others, but I don’t generally want to interact with them or know them. I do not have to interact with this student. I sit in the back of her class, listen to her teacher talk and give instruction and write it down. Then I leave. So, when she approached me on the last day of class I was at first confused.
Another thing you need to know about me is that I don’t like cake. I find frosting to be a displeasing texture, one of the few food stuffs that I find off-putting because of that quality. And cake is just gross. Somehow it’s both moist and dry at the same time and is always over flavored not matter what. Fuck cake.
But I ate cake the other day. Happy and with tears streaming down my face in courtyard outside on a cold December day. Why? Because when this young woman came up to me to thank me for the work I did, which in the class she was taking was honestly not that much, I gladly and fully accepted. Look, I’m not gonna lie, the presenter had a lot to do with my acceptance of and following reaction to the cake. Even just the gesture in this case cracked through all the protective layers, fortitude, walls, security and roadblocks I have put up around my heart. The cold chill of isolation was evaporated by the warmth of her thank you. My heart tore open, over flowed with emotion and gratitude and a thousand little fairies exploded into the air reciting the lines to Promise Ring and Braid songs of yesteryear. And yeah, I cried a little bit. Not in front of her. Science No! That would be embarrassing. But I did, on a cold bench, sitting and staring at a piece of chocolate cake with pink mousse frosting as a few strangers walked by looking at me like the idiot I felt like in that moment.
I was just doing my job, one I fully believe is thankless. This is necessary work to provide equity to those our culture casts aside and designs in spite of. While I do wish I could get a livable wage to do it so that I could do this for the rest of my life, I have no other complaints about my job. I honestly love what I do and that is reward enough for me. I think about my students, feel disappointed in myself when my own life gets in the way, as it had a few times this semester. When I wake up and my body hurts and it’s too cold or too hot and my depression is fully set on my shoulders I think if I don’t go to work the burden of providing this equity is stressed even further. My work means more than just what I get out of it and that fuels me to do it, even at the expense of my own desires and dreams. My student didn’t need to thank me. I was just doing my duty to my community in one of the easiest ways possible.
I’m not fully recovered from this. Much like the loss of my two pets, the crushing fear set in by some fat fascist winning a presidential election, friends suffering and all the other shit 2016 has decided to throw at me, I am effected by this. Yes, it’s a positive, reassuring and beautiful thing, but it moved me from my norm during a time when my norm has been disturbed and shifted quite a bit. So I am taking the time to reflect on this, very deeply, because I never, ever, ever want to forget the smile on that young woman’s face as she expressed her thanks and offered me a small token of her appreciation in the form of pink frosted cake. I need to reflect on this moment, memorialize it because I am going to need the image of that smile to be able to be recalled quickly in times of stress, self-doubt and duress since those moments are likely to increase in the coming months and years.
The moments of happiness that crack us are powerful because they aren’t breaking things down, but breaking things open. I don’t want to rebuild the fortress around my heart (with apologies to Ida Maria). I want to look at the rubble with pride that something so simple could catch me off guard and release the best part of me even if I feel unsure and vulnerable. I want to be that smile for others. I want us all to be broken this way.