I wrote this a little over year ago, and it was on one of my various blogs (which I have no clue how to get into it now). So, I thought I’d share it again. It still rings pretty true.
My desk at school is a mystical place. More often then not it’s cluttered
with various forms that need to be filled out, receipts that have been written but not returned, or stacks of papers of whose existence I refuse to acknowledge. It’s meant to be my world, my island away from student life, away from dispensing know
ledge, away from an adolescence that is not mine. This is my barrier, my blockade, my barricade. This precinct is meant solely for the depths of my mind to swim, to find newness in an occupation of monotony. The mundane is expelled from this world. I meditate on the hope of silence. I find new reaches of my soul and passions. Beyond the barricade, there is a world I long to see. Sadly, though, my defenses are less than stellar.
For some odd reason, my desk has become some sort of land of divination where all cares and anxieties are rifled my way and come with those famous words: “No exchanges, returns, or refunds.” Inside my isolation chamber, all solemnity has been violated. I remember being an elementary student and getting a note sent home that I grabbed a sticky-note off the teacher’s desk. It was harmless. I needed a sticky-note. She seemed to possess a plethora of them. Simple economics would suggest this need and the relationship between the teacher who gives of herself would suffice. However, I was wrong.
Apparently, I had violated the unwritten rule that the teacher’s desk and all that is on it is off limits to the student. I had crossed into no-man’s land and felt the wrath of a sixth grade math teacher and a very perturbed mother. What had come to pass was nothing more than a larger lesson learned. It wasn’t the sticky-note they were worried about; it was my little sixth grade hands breaching the barrier that separated the world of student from teacher. I had invaded her bubble, her precinct, her world.
My desk, itself, is nothing spectacular. It’s a little writing desk next to a six-foot long particleboard folding table. I have it wedged into the corner adjacent from the door in my classroom. You walk in, you can see me.
Above it hangs the only proof that I know how to pretend to know what I’m doing—my degree. Instead of it being an impressive display of brilliance, it’s merely another section of my life for students to pry into. Instead of it being the culmination of hoop-jumping through some 130-odd hours of college-level classes, it’s simply a piece of paper proving that my middle name is long. “Livingston? Who names their kid Livingston? The third?” Oh, the joys of having your existence warmly mocked by high schoolers.
This island, this fortress of solitude has lost all repellant power it once held, if it held any to begin with. Often times I’ll find Student A sitting in my desk chair while Student B is in the tall chair behind my podium going through that remote fortress as well. This happens daily, weekly, from class to class. The story is the same, only the names change with the ringing of the bells. The blurred lines of what I call “my bubble” are no match for the tenacity of the persistent junior, sophomore, senior. There is power in numbers, and they are never ceasing.
I’ve been thinking about my life, my world. The way my schedule is pieced together, I only have an hour to myself at the very beginning of the day, and often times that hour is monopolized by academic crises (and by academic crises I clearly mean personal tragedies of the teenage world). I go from 10:00 A.M. until bedtime juggling the mundane, the urgent, the dramatic, the eccentric, the overrated, the underrated, and the regular “rated.” How on earth do I make it? I’m not quite sure. I leave the school each day bruised after going 12 rounds with public education and all that comes with it. I grapple with the real question of whether or not to find something else to do with my life, something with far less stress and far less demand. I grapple whether or not to find a “real job” or to stay in the education world where proverbial leach after proverbial leach takes and takes…and rarely gives back.
With my safe haven mirroring a country being occupied, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. However, I’ve discovered a small glimmer of hope in losing my stronghold. My arsenal of detentions has been replaced with something so rarely found in the world of “teenager” that I gladly relent my dominion of the island—maybe gladly isn’t the word—I understandably relent my dominion of the island. Where other nations might boast of accomplishments found inside their borders, of cures and scientific breakthroughs, I proudly boast that my desk, my county, my island has become a breeding ground of trust and honesty, a land protected by truth where students can reveal themselves in a transparent manner, allowing for the curse of adolescence to be eradicated, slowly, ever so slowly, evolving into that mystical figure called a “young adult.” My fortress has been transformed into a sanctuary.
I found myself in the middle of one of those days where papers needed to be graded, tests needed to be written, lesson plans needed to be figured out, grades needed to be updated, and my own personal life needed some attention. Home chores, family matters, future plans, holiday revelry, the docket was full. As I sat in the chair of my island, I was bombarded with real, important information. One girlfriend was possibly cheating on the boyfriend. A parent was more concerned with her own issues and left her sweet baby in the hypothetical cold. One kid couldn’t get ungrounded until his grades improved, but he had an issue with actually showing up to class. The drill team was more concerned with competing than with reading. The extra-curricular dominated the curricular. In a moment that mirrored a T.S. Eliot poem, the world seemed invaded with mere anarchy. No end in sight. However, in the midst of the chaos, a pleasant stillness made itself known. I quietly looked around and recognized a collection of kids, a collection of teenagers, a collection of future somethings willing to bare a soul and share a burden. Inside the stillness, I found my role, my responsibility, my requirement.
I’ve read where a man is the sum of the events in his life. I’ve seen my share of the world, experienced my share of the angst of growing up in this very town. I’ve left. I’ve returned. I’ve held the title of the son, of brother, procured the title of the accomplice, inherited the title of confidante, and shouldered the burden of counselor. I’ve met those who have helped me along the way, guiding me through my mistakes and triumphs. I’m thankful for those who have allowed me to fail and those who have withheld their assistance, requiring me to rise to the occasion, however difficult those occasions were. Almost in tandem with all things universal, I’ve reached the moment in my trip around the clock where I’m requested to be a presence in lives of others.
There are days when I wish I could close the ports to my island, exclude all from entering, declare a holiday. Some days, I wonder if the world could do without my table, without my island, and even though my small island is merely a speck of green in a vast ocean of blue, I’m reminded of those who allowed their ports to remain open when my vessel was running low on fuel. I know my island is not important, and maybe I’m biased, but the real value of my island can’t be measured in numbers. There is no Gross National Product, no bull or bear markets, no tangible way to measure how important this island is.
There’s truly no option to close my island. The truth is, my island does not belong to me. I’m merely the current resident of the Capital. The island belongs to those who will allow themselves to be vulnerable, allow themselves to be transparent. As overwhelming as it can be,my island, my desk is a catalyst, a starting point. Here, we learn, collectively.
This island is where a kid learns to find the courage to face the bitter pains, disappointments, victories, and losses that come with growing up, the island stands as a haven, protected by the waters of everyone else who has grown up on its shores. This is where the calm is found. That’s the glimmer of the hope that is present. It’s exhausting, dealing with the end of the world (the teenage world, of course). It leaves me tired, leaves me empty. But it’s exhilarating. That’s why I relented control.
Others did for me, and to that, I’m much obliged.