In March, our lives changed.
We were all sent home from school, from our jobs. People rushed to the stores and bought up everything they thought they needed. We have seen the good and the bad of humanity in the weeks following the Stay at Home Order.
Since then, we’ve been trying to fill our time with work, crafts, home improvement projects, or social justice causes that seem to be top of mind. We’re all very good at Zoom now.
Right now, going outward and exploring the world around us isn’t an option. At least, it doesn’t feel the same as it was before. For many of us, this change has forced us to look inward. We are realizing what really matters in our lives. With that said, I have a few things to say to my students.
I’m an English teacher and I love metaphors. I have two for you to chew on. The first one is that we are all Pokemon. Make fun of me, but at least hear me out. We’re all Pokemon because we’re all constantly evolving. We spend our lives in a constant state of becoming. The metamorphosis is continuous and, yeah, it’s gross and painful just like a butterfly that starts out as goo (that’s a real fact). It’s part beauty, part misery, and part wonder. Seize your life and become who you want to become. Fully realize your evolved Pokemon status.
The next comes from my brother who is a surfer at Mavericks in Santa Cruz. He told me that when you get taken in by a wave you can’t handle, it’s best to let your body relax and float to the surface. See, bodies are buoyant because they have air in them. Eventually, your body will find the surface because it will float to the top of the water. Sometimes it’s best to relax into what is happening when it’s out of our control. We can choose to let ourselves simply be amidst chaos. We can choose to radically love ourselves despite being turned over by endless waves crashing over our heads.
There is an exception to my brother’s wisdom. When something is within your control, you fight. Sometimes you see something in the world that gives you a feeling of ickiness deep inside of your bones. It’s a feeling you won’t be able to shake and that’s how you know it’s real. It tells you to do something. That’s the part of you wanting to fight for justice. If your small action can make life even .01% better for another human being existing on this planet, it is your responsibility to create that positive change, especially if you realize that you have the power to do so.
Always try to remember what is and is not within your realm of control. We have choices we can make each day that can make things better for everyone. We can choose to be kind and supportive to those who need it. We can choose to tell people we love them. We can choose to forgive others and ourselves in ways that surprise us. We can actively choose to notice beauty. We need to be aware of our own actions and their impact on others around us. Make that choice. The world is ready and waiting for your ripple effect.
My final message to all my students is that you are loved. Dana loves you and misses you everyday. I love and miss you. To my culminating 8th graders, I am so proud of all of you and so grateful for the lessons you have taught me. Teaching is not a one-way street. You have impacted me just as I have impacted you. I will never forget you and I am always here to support you no matter what. You are my students (and teachers) for life. It has been a gift and privilege to get to know each and every single one of you. Thank you for all you have taught me. Thank you for making me a better person and a better teacher for my future students. Thank you for being the humans you are in this world and please stay young inside. Keep that childish wonder and don’t harden yourself to the world in the face of trauma. Soften yourself in the face of pain. Be radically happy in spite of it all.
I will finish with the words of the poet Maya Angelou who demonstrates that we are always allowed to use our voices and sing.