Friday, September 4, 2009


The Berkeley sun shines brightly on my waning days in America-land, but there is no rest for the weary. My body has warmly adopted a mystery virus which leaves me with the energy of a doped slug in Georgia mud, and my head feeling like it's being raided by anxiety gremlins with ADD. There seems to be a direct correlation between my capacity for clarity and focus, and the degree to which I am able to move my body each day. I suspect I'm not alone in this. (Do slugs really suffer this kind of syrup-headedness, or are they simply the misunderstood Zen masters of the mollusk world? See?! No focus.)

And so instead of riding the evanescent, supple waves of "nothing to do, nowhere to go" bliss, my head parts are a relentless tsunami of "What ifs". Like what if I have swine flu? What if I lose half my students in the airport in Hong Kong, and have to leave the other half behind in a dank Rajasthani prison? What if this crazy work leaves me unfit for any other form of gainful employment and I end up having to sell my body for beef jerky and Pez on the mean streets of Berryville, Virginia? This last question is definitely the primary factor in my mental climate (except for the Berryville part. The "meanest" thing about Berryville is the strictly enforced speed limit). Though the next unpredictable and inevitably altering semester still looms, the sense that my days as an "international educator" are numbered kicks my "What next, Where next, How next" ponderings into gut-churning hyperdrive.

Practically yapping with delirium from too many late night fruitless internet job search forays, I am disconcerted by the velocity of my internal frenzy when contemplating the future.

Every transition presents an invitation to figure out who I am, and what I want. Only, as it turns out (and I have considerable volumes of self-help discourse to back me up on this), when one is trying to figure out who one is and what one wants, it is necessary to distinguish between one's essential nature, and all of the "personae" one has adopted throughout one's life in order to acclimate, accomodate, and assimilate in a variety of situations. A persona is a survival tool that we pick up when we forget who we are, which we eventually end up bludgeoning ourselves (and others) with until we no longer recognize our own lives (note: "self help" does not always equal "happy thoughts"). Before we know it, "The Good Girl" who used to help with the chores when it became apparent that mommy was two wine coolers from a meltdown is the same persona that lands you in a soul-sucking job or a dead-end marriage. As I am intensely interested in avoiding either (and I suspect I may have bludgeoned a student or two with some of my "tools" in the last year), this whole persona thing seems worth a ponder. So I decided to make a list.

Then, I stopped. That's a long freaking list. On the lighter side, we've got "The Tough Cookie", "The Health Nut", "The Black Sheep", "The Lone Ranger", "The Accomodator", "The Wanderer", and "The Artful Dodger". But there's more, people, and it's not pretty. If I peeled ALL of them away, I'd probaly look like a burn victim or Joan Rivers after dermabrasion. The point is, navigating transitions may be a lot simpler if I can get my army of "tools" out of the way more often and act/choose/speak/think as me, rather than letting "The Entertainer" or "The Git 'Er Done Diva" call the shots. This is, after all, what I am charged with nurturing in my students, many of whom have more of a "fashion show" mentality in regards to their array of personae- "Look, I'm a bored urbanite slam poet! Now I'm a bookish band geek!" Two leaders, thirteen students, and a platoon of personae. We may need a few extra passports.

No comments:

Post a Comment