Thursday, I will stand in front of a class again and try to convince people that writing is important.
The first time I taught a class, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had ten students in a little box of a room. We only had a chalkboard and a broken bit of chalk. I stood in front of them and asked them what they thought of the readings that the professor assigned, me being a TA, only in charge of making sure that the students read.
One of the students asked what a plot was and how you could see that in a story. I spent the next half hour talking, lecturing, the words coming out of me as if they were there to come out, like they always wanted to and they just needed a reason to. I didn’t know I wanted to do that forever, be a teacher. I thought I was going to be the next great novelist, saving the world with my books. Instead, I’m 35, no books published, hardly even a glimmer of desire to be famous and well regarded in the publishing community. Instead, I wish to be well regarded in my community, the teaching community, because that community actually interests me.
This isn’t some “rags to riches” story, how I over come obstacles to achieve my dreams. I paid to have my dreams fulfilled by filling out student loan agreements. The point, though, is that I didn’t know what my dream was in the first place.
Last Sunday, I stood in front of two people and officiated their wedding. They put rings on their fingers and read vows to each other and decided to spend the rest of their lives together. I put a family together. I did that twice before, each time feeling the heavy moment of infinity. These people, for the rest of their lives, will remember me. Not only that, they wanted me to be remembered, wanted me to be apart of it. They pointed and looked out and said, you, you, we would like you to do something very important for us. After a gaggle of beers went down my belly, it occurred to me that my life constantly forces me to do important things, even when and especially I don’t particularly want to do these important things. It’s a strange feeling, being important. There is a level of responsibility to it. Part of my life has been devoted in a vain attempt to be unimportant. I fail at it miserably.
Last week, I organized a meeting with over thirty colleagues, renewing them with information. I was talking about policy and rules and new regulations and how to do this and how to do that. The same thought ran into my mind that ran into my head when I was officiating my friends, the same thought that will run in my mind when I’m introducing myself to my students. “I do heavy things. Nothing I do is light.”
When you get older, and I’m closer to 40 than I would like and I also have the strange feeling that I have less days ahead of me than behind me, when you get my age, you start asking, wondering, if this was the life you wanted. If this was what you had planned. I can honestly say no. This wasn’t the life I wanted. This wasn’t the life I had planned. Remember when you were a kid and you asked your mother for a cookie and she said, “no.” She didn’t want to give you that cookie because she was worried that it would be unhealthy for you. You wanted that cookie. You didn’t get it. But, you are better off because of it. You never really know what is going to be good for you.
Still. I’m single. So I can do whatever I want. That’s why, on my day off, I sit on my couch and watch Netflix all day and eat cereal out the box, no milk. Maturity and responsibility might have a good grip on me, but I still have a large amount of wiggle room.