Monday, January 13, 2014
OVERVIEW: Where I sit in my life today. Monday, January 13th, 2014.
My Masters research sits in a corner in my office, untouched. I am afraid. And so, I have chosen to ignore it. It is an elephant. In my room, I see it; I just don’t want to talk about it.
And so, my process with this degree is slow. It stared out with a bang: I powered through my classes and course work, professors commented on my academic scholarship, I was awarded a National award that paid for my studies, and then another one that provided me with a 3-month research trip to Korea. I felt smart. I was happy to be learning…exploring.
And then something changed. Granted I was dealing with some major life changes as well. My husband worked in another city. I was not prepared for the challenges a long distance relationship brings. I thought my relationship was strong. It wasn’t.
The more I studied and read, the more I wanted to share my ideas with the people around me. But, no one listened. Okay it’s not that no one listened, it’s just that I had to find a new group of listeners, a new group of friends, a new social circle. My academic discussions did not bode well at dinner parties with friends, nor did my parents care to engage in discourse about issues that I was so passionate about (not because they didn’t love me, of course).
And my husband, forget it! He was busy making money and doing what he thought was required of him to be a good husband (bless his heart). We talked about the weather and how much money we had because those were discussion he enjoyed (and was linguistically capable of having). I was angry that my husband measured his worth in money. Angry that all he wanted to talk about was how much money he had made. He was not like this in Korea. This for sure is a part of Korean culture, I know, but I wonder how much it is about him. I am proud of him, certainly, for his financial success in this country and I did my best to understand his position (he came from nothing and now he could contribute financially to our relationship), but I became bitter. I didn’t marry this man for money. He didn’t have any. Nor do I measure my worth in the amount of money I have in my savings or by the kind of car I drive. While those things might be important to some people (and those people are certainly not wrong for wanting those things), they were not important to ME.
I became reflexive. Asking questions about myself, about what I truly wanted out of this life, about what brings me great joy and meaning.
And in the course of question asking, I began connecting with people who were different. It is the study of difference where I feel the most alive. I’m curious. I’m a wanderer. No wonder why I love my job so much. I’m with people from around the world. The classroom becomes a platform of difference. I learn more from my students than they do from me, although they would probably state otherwise.
It is the discussions outside of the classroom with these students that are the most meaningful to me. It is the moments that I share with them, really listening to their stories, unbound by classroom baggage: the restrictions of time, curriculum objectives, etiquette, professionalism, so forth. And so, I connect with my students. I try to understand their experiences. I listen to their stories. I want to see the world through their eyes. What is it really like to be studying in Canada? What is it like to be “not white”? I wonder. I wonder about these things often. At the times when I feel my students are wrong, I do my best to put myself in their shoes. Why do I think they are wrong? What if they are right and I am wrong? I always remain skeptical – something I learned from my professor (a man who transformed my life, my way of thinking).
My husband thinks I’m crazy! He’s probably half correct. I know my ideas don’t “jive” with mainstream thought processes. I know I make a lot of people uncomfortable with my questions. It’s in these moments of discomfort that we can learn the most about ourselves (and others) - that’s what I believe anyways. And so I throw myself in uncomfortable situations. When others are trying to make their lives more comfortable, I purposely try to create discomfort as a way for me to learn and grow. A quick trip back to my earlier “selves” shows this pattern: at 5 I was knocking on doors around my neighbourhood asking people if they liked cats or dogs. I’d tally up their responses, return home, and set out the next day with a new question; in high school, while my classmates were taking summer jobs in the city, I flew (alone for the first time) halfway across the country to be yelled at. I joined the military. I learned to shoot a gun; after university ten days before I was to go to Korea with my long-term boyfriend he told me he wasn’t going. Ah, fuck it, I thought. I went anyways; I expose personal details about my life on this blog! Something my parents are worried about, “You’ve got to be careful what you say. Future employers check these things” (sorry mom and dad). There is truth in their words; I acknowledge that.
BUT I can’t be any other way. If I do then I’m not being true to myself. I’m renting an identity, one that doesn’t belong to me.
My brother commented one time, “why are you trying to fight a system that supports you?…a white North American English speaking teacher” And my answer was “why not?” Why aren’t we ALL trying to turn this world into a better place? Why aren’t we all interested in creating more opportunities for disenfranchised and oppressed peoples?
I could go on forever. And this post lacks a bit in continuity, so I’ll stop. For now I’ll say this: thanks for reading, thanks for encouraging, thanks for sharing, thanks for allowing me the space to expose myself, thanks for watching me grow, thanks for reading. I write for me…and also for you.