I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about closing this and opening that for a while now. On a literal level, this is due to lots of changes in direction, career, point of view and some serious pondering on relationships, habits and what I really want my life to look and feel like in the near future. There’s also the jar of caramel that I just opened, wondering all the while if it would taste as good as I hoped it would and a book that I have been saving the final three pages for almost a week now, just so that that I don’t have to finish the story and close the doors to the riveting world I’ve been hanging out in while I read.
Even though there is a literal base to my openings and closings thread; I stick with this yarn because it always gives me plenty of opportunities for sideways thinking and metaphor building which are kind of like dessert for me, mental desert. If I begin by thinking about the fact that I may very well be quitting the job I’ve had for almost exactly a decade and moving on to a new career, I only spend a day or two on the surface concerns like whether I will make new friends and if I made the right decision to change paths. While these are the meaty things that I talk about with my friends for much longer than a day two, in my own mind, during my solitary time, my mind wanders deeper to the sweet soul of what I’m up to.
A tiny Alice in Wonderland type of door opens in my mind and I can see through it quite plainly to what I really want to consider. The job I am leaving was a clean complement to the way I would describe myself as an adult since I have considered myself an adult. It wasn’t glamorous or uber professional, but it was something I was good at and it contributed to my ethic of being a humble and curious person involved in positive endeavors. The new career is also decidedly un-glamorous, but more distinctly it bears complete contradictions to the way that I identified myself for a really long time. I used to see myself as a worker, not an academic. I dropped out of high school and no matter what I did after that, there was always that tag in my view of myself. Now, with a college degree and a career in education I’m rewriting that self image. After some thought I feel like this is the change, the opening and the closing, that I am really interested in. I don’t know exactly what the changes I’m making will mean for the way I see myself , but since I am I feeling kind of in limbo the way I define myself is kind of a rough draft right now.
This phenomenon intrigues me. And now I am on the other side of that oddly shaped door in my consciousness. I’m not closing the door behind me, but it is definitely getting small on the horizon as I walk away from it. The meaning underlying what I am up to these days is changing as I indulge in the kind of thinking that brings me joy. Think of Pandora’s box or the wardrobe that leads to and from Narnia. Both are openings/closings that force you to think of something beyond the surface. Of course the caramel and the book that I started with, like the magical box and the fantastic wardrobe, are meant to invite a thought that leads to something deeper and more complicated within the taster or the reader. Desert topping may not make everyone think introspectively, but it’s the perfect place to look for meaning in my book
As a teacher, one of the ripest concepts for mining seems to be identity. When I was in high school teachers didn’t ask us to dig very deep, but they did ask us to dig in and try to document who we thought we are. My schooling was all catholic, so of course there were (mostly unsaid) strict and narrow boundaries on what we were allowed to express. As luck would have it, this practice of asking young people to consider their own view of them self seems to come with a built in escape hatch (or a crawlspace or trapdoor, depending on how much confidence and support you have) one that can never really be closed.
In my own school, I was lucky to have one class that explored literature of controversy instead of just “The Canon.” That class gave me some models for what else writing could look like and what exploring self and meaning and purpose could sound like. We read the works of some of the Beat poets and watched documentaries about Harvey Milk and how writing and counter culture have challenged policy and mainstream consciousness. I didn’t know it then, but this exposure ran a single, memorable, pink highlighter through one line of text in my high school years.I do not remember confirmation, Canterbury Tales or chemistry, but I do remember exploring the impact of the writings of a few men and many creative people involved in the San Fransisco arts scene of the late 50’s and 60’s. To this day, my mind always wanders to what goes on beneath the surface, what inspires change, who writes history and what threads are most valuable to follow…for me.
I want to hold on to the awareness that what I introduce in my classroom will take hold in many different ways. It’s hard with all the objectives and standards at the forefront of planning to remember that the outcome of high school doesn’t happen at the semester mark or even at graduation. It happens in little instances across time. Like a true opening, the ideas I might want my students to uncover and the skills I want them to master might just be starting points or models for concepts and tasks that they will later come across that are way more important to them.
Thinking about what came before, the openings that I have walked through, the closings that I have initiated, the changes that I have made, all of this is in hopes of getting a clearer picture of how I want to focus my energy today. Sometimes the start of a new adventure looks one way at the outset or seems to only have one reasonable direction, but then after some time that changes. I want to remember that as I start this new adventure. I wasn’t necessarily going to become a bohemian poet in San Fransisco when I studied Ginsburg’s “HOWL” in high school, but I spent time thinking about how consciousness is raised one small ripple at a time, be it in the form of a drizzle of salted caramel or the beginning of a new chapter (which is of course, always at the end of an old one) and that, I believe, has made all the difference.