We don’t often get time as teachers to just sit and enjoy the nicer things in life. Today, I’m late getting back to the RA in favor of a leisurely (and spendy) lunch of steak salad and Terminal ESG. There’s something really lovely about just enjoying good food and slowing everything down. I think this is what my favorite diet/lifestyle books are talking about. I watched the river and glimpsed at Mt. St. Helen’s cropped top. I read while I ate. I enjoyed my libation. I slowed down from the pace I’m usually expected to keep and it was the perfect choice. I love the slowing down that comes with summer even though I am not cut out for a life without some sort of structure. I suppose getting back into writing is supposed to give me that structure, but I’m not sure it’ll work if it’s my only source.
I’m trying to articulate the slow shift in my worldview and how I actually live my life. As a single woman of a certain age, I appreciate that I alone am responsible for my financial insecurities. I alone am responsible for all the little and all the big things in my life. This is why I have three retirement accounts (including the one that comes with my job). I don’t think my niece or nephew will be there to take care of me in my old age. Nor do I expect my godson or goddaughter to step into that role. I’m one of millions who will have to fend for herself as time ticks on. I have eighteen years to get my shit together before I’m forced to the next step. A step may appear in that time that I’m not expecting, but what I hope for has changed so radically as to almost be a whole different set of dreams.
I never looked forward with a specific vision. I have wondered how I fare in alternate universes. Am I a writer in one? Am I selling advertising in another? Did I make the jump to administration? Did I fall in love with academia? Did I manage to create and run my destination bookstore in any of them? I love playing what if because it’s never really made me sad for what I don’t have. I would love a true partner, someone to balance me. It would be great to feel like I had someone I could always count on. It would be wonderful to be the person someone else could always count on, but it’s not the path my life has taken so far. I have a hard time imagining what else I should be doing and it’s great. For too long I shoulded myself. I was sure there was this or that and the possibilities froze me in place. I’m not totally happy with my life. There are aspects that grate on my nerves. There are things I wish I had (like a stronger urge to save rather than spend).
I just can’t bring myself to fully regret the results of my choices. I’ve learned so much in the last forty-two years. I love that I keep to get learning. This summer I’m dedicated to getting at least twelve books read from my epic list of books I’ve purchased and not followed through on. That’s not to say I don’t regret some of the things I’ve done or how my thoughtlessness and inexperience may have hurt others. I hope with all my heart that I’ve done more good than bad for every student I’ve interacted with over the last twenty years. I hope with all my heart that I haven’t damaged any of my friends or acquaintances too much. None of them have damaged me beyond repair. And there’s a lot to be said for learning from our mistakes and failures.
I would love to see the national school system shift to year-round school (two-and-a-half months on, two weeks off) with entrance and exit test for every class (nationalized, of course). I’d love to see the federal government partner up with states to train teachers in grade level batches and see things phased in over several years instead of this slap-dash do it now approach that is the hallmark of every reform. I’d like teachers and students to have a voice equal to that of business interests in dictating what the foundational skills and ideals should be for students. I would love for every administrator to teach one class a year in their schools. We all like to revise our personal history and it’s usually not for the overall good.
We are all lucky to live in a time that allows us the leisure to think, reflect, and learn. We are blessed to have a resurgence of books and open university style courses for those who can’t afford the ever-increasing cost of post-high school education. It’s awesome that we have Star Trek level technology we can take for granted. Think of all the writers publishing themselves on Amazon or other e-publishing sites; sure there’s a lot of crap, but there’s a lot of gold too. It’s far less expensive to nurture many of our hobbies or passions today than it was twenty-five years ago.
There are many problems in American society that need to be addressed and solved. There are problems world-wide that are shaping the present and the future. The history of each group of people in the world is shaping today and we don’t always acknowledge that. It’s easier if people aren’t literate and able to think too much. It’s easier if people are more focused on survival than thriving. America is steadily moving toward a monetarily bound class system. The world has changed so much in the last hundred and fifty years; I can’t see the pace of change slowing down at all.
What does this mean for the next generations?
How will they meet the crises we are seeing the edges of today or the ones we can’t comprehend?
Which visionaries really have the right ideas?