At some point it becomes so much more carnal than that. Need. One sideways glance and it was clear that all he needed was affection. After the routine of a stingy lover, we begin to define ourselves by the number of kisses shared and the number of times they didn't call. Here was half a person. I saw enough of myself in the glimmer of his eye to recognize that look. Why do we let people define us?
Why do we need people at all?
But need is a rabbit hole. And the further you fall, the less you feel yourself falling. The less you know yourself at all. I think I got I lost somewhere between promising myself I was okay and giving up on the notion altogether.
This was the first year I realized how much I need people. That realization fills the rabbit hole with dread-- I would be drowning but I float in the promise of a city full of solitary moments. Like Martin Buber’s asks, between It and Thou relationships: do we really want to live in a society in which all of our encounters with people involve genuine human engagement? The INFJ in me says yes. That is why I shy away from anything less deep. The girl I have become, however, says no. It is much easier to float above the dread that fills us.
And Buber says, man is unfulfilled and alienated. Need ignored. Needy.
And that makes man less attractive, interjects the society that has made man so.
And man needs again: Needs approval, needs encouragement, needs man.
This is how man gets into trouble.
I would like to take a second to redefine beauty. To take beauty out of the hands of people who call it a single size or look or idea because then, we can never be beautiful. And we have become a people who aspire to beauty, like never before.
This is the first year of my life where I have had a kind relationship with food. Where I have not once stopped eating all together, or eaten less than 50 calories a day. Where, instead, I have filled my time with slicing vegetables and pretending to be on Chopped. With sweets and savories and little shame. I think it's because of the students. For the first time in my life I want to be better for someone--because I sure as hell have never decided on "better" for myself.
But I have reached my limit on hypocrisy and, I'm finding that, it's much easier to tackle the things you can control before the ones you feel you have less control over.
Food used to be my control: only I had the power to allow or limit, and so I did. Anything to feel less like a pawn in my life. To take gratification from the way people smiled at me-- or stared as I walked by. Yes, I am surviving on water and half a portion of almonds. I'm glad you like it.
I don't have that anymore. It's all incredulousness from this side of the screen. Without my control, I don't find much to be proud of myself for. But I'm learning.
I used to think the passage from child to adult completed with some sort of epiphany. That, in order to be a real grown up, you were clued into a secret of sorts. The pool on the fourth floor, the monster under the bed. The reality is that couldn't be further from the truth. And maybe my message got lost in the mail, as so many of mine seem to, but rather than an epiphany, I think we are forced into action. If my taking care of myself is demonstrative of the way I want my kids to take care of themselves, then I can handle that.
I'm having my seniors finish the year writing an epic poem about their lives so far, in the form of a hero's journey. A few weeks ago, one of my favorite little derelicts informed me that graduation, for him, was not the end of the journey but his "call to action." And he is exactly right. And he is my call to action, although he'll never know it.
So I want to redefine beauty. Too preoccupied with the aesthetic, we have created filters for bad lighting and spell-check for our language deficiencies. But off the screen we still look funny in sunlight or can't spell. So we use make up for blemishes--but nothing covers up being ill-informed.
In a year where informed decisions matter more than they ever seem to have before, beauty should be proper syntax and equations with all of the work shown. Eyebrows get to be "on fleek" but what's the cool term for getting an A on a project? For reading the news in the morning? Beauty is a term that needs to be more than aesthetic. Beauty is reclaiming control over you life, is asking informed questions, is watching someone else smile. Human connection, to me, is beautiful.
So put the phone down, pick up a paper, ask questions, don't skip breakfast, really listen to the person next to you. And have a beautiful day.
This is not the humble-brag post. This is the if-I-don't-write-it-down-I'll-never-believe-it post. Friday was the kind of day you make movies about. Friday was the day that put life back into perspective for me, that--for the first time too long--said, you are now at this moment all that you need to be.
The last day of Teacher Appreciation Week--a week I hardly remember from school, although there were many teachers whom I certainly appreciated--and one of my seniors asked me not to teach. She walked into the room, reminded me that I was "not allowed to do a lesson today," told me to sit, and addressed the class. "Good morning, I am the teacher today...and our Do Now is to write a poem about why we love Ms. B."
As a teacher who has begun so many of her lesson with prompts for poems and brainstorms, my heart stopped. This was not what I had expected. Passing out the snacks that they brought, to celebrate our class, one student groaned, "Can't we just tell her?"
And they did.
For the next 40 minutes, came a room-full of kind thoughts. Kind thoughts about me. About how appreciative they were--about how loved they felt. About moments we had shared. Things they had learned, reasons they wanted to come to class. It was like that scene in To Sir With Love; a movie I watched as a kid, with my mom. A movie that made me want to become a teacher.
I am overwhelmed by their display and more thankful for them than I can even begin to say. What a day to remind me what I'm doing on this planet and why I have to do it.
If only they knew how much I appreciate them, right back.
This is Me:
My name's Melissa. I'm the girl with her hands in her journal.