Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Memoirs and Cookie Cutters

Well, my husband is busy wrapping Christmas presents, so I get the computer for once. :) So I'm recording Private Practice and now I'm blogging here with you fine people. (Ok, I may have watch Titanic one too many times...)

I've had an interesting couple of days. I've found that as I've gotten older and settled more into this life that we all try so cleverly to craft for ourselves that I'm introspective less often than I used to be. I dunno, maybe that's what your early twenties are for. But lately a few passing things have sparked my interest and I'm back to thinking about how I think. Why do I do the things I do? Why do I feel the way I do?

My kids are doing memoir presentations in class right now. They wrote a two page memoir (which was ridiculously long they said), created a visual representation of their story, and presented it to the class. They knew ahead of time they'd be sharing their stories, so it was important they wrote something they were comfortable with sharing. And it's important to note that on the very first day of school we spend the hour talking about my expectations for the year. We make sure we set down the rules and create the atmosphere that we'll work in for the rest of the year. Above all, on the very first day I try to impress upon my kids that my room is a safe place. There are no wrong answers (but there is wrong behavior). It's important for me that they have a place to express themselves and in the process learn a little bit about English and literature. So we establish respect-- from them to me, from me to them, and most importantly among themselves. This is something that was tested the last couple of days. In their memoir projects, some kids wrote about their great love for their cars, some wrote about their favorite vacations, lots of them wrote about how much they love their homeland, Mexico, but a few of them ventured off the beaten path. And we've had tears-- tears over miscarriages, tears over grandma who died on Monday (literally), and tears over a cousin who was shot dead in front of one of my students. (Not to mention a student who recounted his story of being shot 3 times-- he brought the shorts with bullet holes to prove it.) It's been an interesting couple of days. And it makes me happy that my classroom is a place where some of my students can spill over when they need to. Even if there's nowhere else to talk about it. And it makes me extremely happy that their classmates have been very supportive during their presentations. I feel like I'm doing something right.

And that brings me to my next thought-- all my life it's been very easy for me to look around at other people and try to compare myself with them-- compare my life to whatever they've got going on. And I tend to get down on myself very quickly when that happens. I start questioning everything I do. That happened yesterday. No doubt I've taken a very different path-- heck, I'm probably on a completely different map--than that of many people I know. I've never been one to be spoon fed. I've never been one to take the path of least resistance. I struggle for it. I beat it to death until I figure it out. Lessons come hard that way, but they also end up being very, very valuable. And I look at my life and think, wow. I'm not that old, 29 to be exact, and I've accomplished quite a bit. Education, degrees, travels, great career experiences, a book on the way, and who knows what else is to come. It's so easy for me to get down on myself for not being a product of the cookie cutter. But that's our culture, I think. Look and compare. Be exactly the same, but be better. Have more. At all costs. It's not me, and it won't be.