Friday, March 21, 2014

All Hail the Dead End

My classroom, at times, becomes more a crossroad than a classroom. Students wander in and out to work on various projects; teachers wander in and out to make copies when they don't want to make the Odyssey-esque journey to the teachers' work room. I love it because it affords the opportunity for teachers and students to interact in a very real way: conversation. The topics are wide and varied from the philosophical to the debatable to the good old-fashioned belly laugh that comes with being somewhere that you feel safe and accepted.
   It was one of these conversations that lead me to an oddly dark place a couple of days ago. One of my students, very intelligent and well-spoken became absolutely appalled when I and another teacher expressed that, at some point in time you learn to cling to the following beliefs:
          1) It is what it is.
          2) Whatever happens, happens.
   Her eyes flew open almost as quickly as her mouth in the shock that two people could allow themselves to become so desolate of hope. "That's terrible!" she cried as she made her case against the two mantras. "That's just giving up... it's so passive and so lacking of hope." She was sincerely shocked.
   I didn't bring it up again, but her shock had shaken me a bit. Had I lost hope? At age 42 had I become so stained and tainted by the world and the people in it that I no longer felt the need to fight? Was I no longer raging against the dying of the light? Was I going gently? Had I become (gulp) a doubter?
   I could turn only to one place... the past. And so I dug out my old journals and began to read the words of a former me, in many ways, a lesser me. My world was so small, I couldn't help thinking as I read and re-read poetry and the pining and whining of an unrequited lover, the girl who was left behind and the one that was never understood. All the way back to college when I first started writing "seriously" I traveled in those journals, all the while asking if I, bright-eyed/bushy-tailed optimist, first-to-arrive/last-to-leave party-goer and eternally-bubbly and good-natured good-time gal, had allowed life to turn me into (gulp, gulp) a doubter.
   In the pages I found an odd destination to end my journey. I found the dead end. I didn't find it in my college journals or in the journals of my early 20's. I found it in the journals of my late 20's when my heart was absolutely and beyond mending broken. I mean broken in a way that could never be smiled away, that time would allow to scar but never heal. The kind of pain that scratches at your brain in your sleep and makes you feel as if you are being followed - that was the kind of pain that was my first dead end. Something was gone that was never coming back and there was absolutely nothing in the world, nothing at all within my powers that I could do to change it.
   You either die at the dead end or climb over whatever wall is there and leave it behind... because it is what it is. The dead end is finite. The dead end is "no." And the dead end will never be revived, it will never come chasing after you, it will never whip you around and plant a passionate kiss on your mouth and whisper apologies in your ear. The dead end is just that: dead and it leaves a part of you dead as well.
   And it occurred to me that, at the tender age of 18, she hadn't come to a dead end and I prayed a quick and quiet prayer that she never would. But that is not a reality. I was jealous of her for just a moment, the belief that you can change anything out of sheer will and determination. I believed that once too... until I dead ended. And then I had to adjust.
   I have seen enough dead ends since my first to know that I am a climber. I may throw myself against the wall for a bit, kneel in a tearful prayer and ask that there be a secret passage through the dead end, but eventually I will accept the dead end for what it is... because, as much as I hate to say it again, it is what it is. And so I climb over it, sometimes in a few days, sometimes months, and there are still a few that I am struggling to get that last leg over... but once I am over them I then have the power to turn and look back at it, from wherever I am on my path at that time and move away from it with a bit more hope in my step because that dead end is a dead end - it is what it is. And whatever is waiting ahead for me is there. It may be a dead end, it may be an infinite loop that forces me to forge a path not yet created. But I am prepared for it because I know that whatever happens, happens.
   So you see, young person, I am not a doubter nor am I a curmudgeon or a hopeless cynic. I'm a climber and I am stronger than I ever have been because I have left the dead ends behind knowing that I can deal with whatever the future brings. That is the great difference between me at 18, me at 25 and me right here and now. You fear that I am hopeless but in truth I have nothing but hope and for that I owe a debt of gratitude to the dead end that taught me you don't always defeat every foe but there is always a victory to be found if you are willing to claim it; I've claimed a million and I'm sure there are a million more coming.
   There you go. That is why it is what it is. That is why whatever happens, happens. That is why you can truly only carpe so much of the diem and that is why YOLO is really stupid when you think about it: if you're doing it right, you live a million lives in your lifetime. THAT is what it is... truly.

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