I’m back! I’ve missed you all and boy have I missed writing, but life should be calming down for a bit. Sidenote: I am sick at the moment, so I’m blaming any incoherence on that, and if I disappear again soon that’s why. This was a post that I really wanted to write a few weeks ago and just never got a chance to put down on paper, so here it is.
A little bit ago, I went to a concert in which one of my professors from college was playing. I’ve always enjoyed this person’s thoughts and company, and sitting there listening to him speak and sing, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for school and for the people who taught me. I was struck with how my professors and teachers were so deliberate with their thoughts and their words, even those whose energy could not be contained. They were there because they were seeking after knowledge, and they respected each of us enough to treat their words with care.
I remembered the hours that I spent sitting one on one with professors, talking through an idea or a question that just wouldn’t let go of me, and how they never seemed to care how much of their time I was taking up. I remembered the lifelines that so many of my teachers threw to me when I refused to accept them.
And I was really hit by how much I owe to the people who have given me my education and how few opportunities I have to say thank you. And so despite the fact that most of the teachers that I’ve loved will never read this, I want to send it out into the void: I am deeply grateful for what you’ve given me. I am deeply grateful for you not just as teachers but as human beings who have expressed an interest in my life and my mind, and who have held me up when I am falling.
I don’t think it’s really fashionable to talk about the adults in your life, the mentors. And I think that’s horrible because teachers need to hear what they’re doing is making a difference. Publicly recognizing that who you are today is a direct result of the things that others have given you is necessary for us to understand that no one is self-made. We all rely on others, and my educators have been some of the most important people in my life.
As early as grade school, I had teachers who read hundreds of pages of my fantasy novel and encouraged me to continue writing. I had teachers who engaged with me, who would debate test answers with me to make sure they felt confident they had the correct answer. I had teachers who simply let me GO, who told me I could write and read and think as much as I wanted and they’d simply be there for me when I needed someone to talk to about it. In high school I had teachers who would sit around with me after school and discuss our readings and subjects in more depth. It felt like I had personal tutors because they simply cared enough to make time for me. Knowing how busy teachers are makes this even more important to me. These actions validated my curiosity and my drive. There’s no way I would have the love of learning I have now if it weren’t for the message these people sent that YES, these topics ARE interesting and wonderful.
And when I got to college I had professors who would develop things for me specifically to research and delve into. I had profs who created independent studies for me, who hired me as an editor, who sent me articles and conversed with me about them over the summer, who would spend hours talking to me about what major I should choose or where I should apply for grad school. I even had a professor who reached out to me in the midst of my eating disorder just to check and see if I was doing ok.
But perhaps even more than these specific memories, I think about the ways that my teachers approach teaching: through humor, with deep care, with passion. I think about the teachers who speak beautifully about the texts they love, or the teachers who are a little haywire and spout amazing rants that contain nuggets of brilliance in them. I miss the essence of the people who are teachers, the pure fervor with which they speak about their chosen subject. There are few people in the world who can speak about anything like a professor can about their subject, and I deeply miss being in the presence of those people.
Sometimes I forget that my teachers are human beings with complex lives of their own, but these memories mean the world to me. They remind me that there were people in the midst of my bad days who cared about me without having any idea what was happening in my life, simply for the mind I had and the ideas I shared. The most validating experiences of my life came in the classroom and came thanks to teachers who passionately cared about engaging.
So thank you. I am who I am because of you.