It is my experience that the majority of the educators (faculty and staff that work at academic institutions) I have been a student of have been are amazing people who have faced tremendous struggles, and are in the positions they are in so that they can help students who face the same struggles.
I am so grateful for my teachers who have gone above and beyond their job description to take time to help me figure out what is important, and what is worth being upset about.
Recently I have been struggling with the holiday season. In a strangely contradictory manner I love winter holidays just as much as I dislike them. The inner warmth of joy, the beauty of storefront decorations, the ringing bell of the Salvation Army. The smell of fresh pine. The hope, joy, and excitement. It all mingles in the air and creates an event – nay, a season that the majority of individuals in what we conceive as the Western World can say they have experienced with great jubilee. Yet many also face challenges, now almost known as stereotypes. The drunk relative. The family story that always gets told. The pain of buying something for an individual one has not talked to since last year. The feeling of being excluded from ones family. Everyone faces something.
The duality of this season mixed with personal issues of (off and on) feeling like I am an unwelcome intruder on the happy lives of others has caused me to be a bit of a wet blanket the past few days.
And suddenly, out of nowhere, my teachers rescue me.
As I open up my problems to them, they share with me their personal experiences and academic enlightenment. One teacher kindly lends an open ear and bows her gentle heart to my problems, reminding me that not all is as it seems. She reminds me that many individuals face struggles like mine. Instead of feeling burdensome, I start to understand my place. That I have a place. This conversation reminds me to get over myself and let people care. Because people do care. It made me realize that I didn’t want anyone to solve my problems – I prefer to solve my own problems – I wanted someone to listen and share a kind thought that would help me solve this issue I have.
As I approach another professor who I greatly respect, we talk about graduate school, literature, my research project. He gives me hope. Hope that everything I want to do is something I can do. I know this, yet oftentimes I forget.
I spend the evening writing. Because my assignment is due. And because I love writing. I experience the joy and pain as my character has his adventures. I am envious that he gets to fight space aliens, and pirates, and dragons. That he gets to learn how to fly spaceships and fight and wear awesome clothes that look cool no matter what.
As I write, I am released from my struggles. My world. My life. When I return, it is more of a gentle, soft landing rather than a harsh crash. But slowly the thoughts seep back into my head. Everyone is excited to go home. I have nothing to call my own home. I am so happy for Christmas. But not for break.
While walking home the next afternoon I cross paths with another teacher. She asks how I am doing. I instantly see two choices. I can lie or tell the truth. I compromise with the normally satisfactory “I’m alright. You?”
My answer is not satisfactory and my teacher probes for why I am not better than alright. And the walls tumble down. I talk about my mothers death. My time at my boarding school. Why I am struggling emotionally with the concept of the holidays. The binary existence I see.
She told me she had many similar experiences. And I saw a new side of the professor who grills us everyday in class. She talked about Foucault and how he wrote an essay that discusses friendship. She said that we define our friends how we choose to. If we set boundaries in our friendships, that those are the boundaries that exist. Anything is possible. Anything can happen. As individuals, we just need to enjoy the moment. Whatever happens after the moment is irrelevant, and can only tarnish the moment we have enjoyed if we let it. We just need to enjoy the moment we are in. She spoke about splotches on a canvas. Every memory is like a splotch on a canvas.
So I’m done being in a tizzy. I’m done fretting and worrying and being sad because everyone else has something that I don’t. Because in not having that, I have the freedom to create what I want. I can make my own style, My own traditions. That does not start down the road when I get married and have children. My traditions start now, with the way I live my life. With the choices I make.
So holidays are not exclusive to those who have perfect smiling famlies that line up for photographs or wonderful memories that turn into legendary holiday stories.. Holidays are an experience for everyone to enjoy and remember in a way that we make our own.
How will you make it your own?