Where We Come From

All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, come from somewhere.

Some of us hold where we come from in high regards, spouting off to whomever will listen about our grand background and lineage.

Others of us will act as if we sprung from the darkness fully formed, tied to nothing and owing nothing to anyone.

Each of us has a past though, a beginning, and it is that beginning that forms the foundation of who we are to become and what we have to overcome.

I was lucky.

I don’t think I saw it as a kid because when you are in the middle of a part of your life you cannot see past that moment.

I know I didn’t.

I was lucky.

I had a mother that was artistic, loving, and into scary stuff.

I have a father who was a smart business man and a straight shooter.

I have a sister and cousin who encouraged my imagination with scary stories and scares.

I grew up out in the country on a street where I was across from a field and had woods on both ends of the lake we lived on.

We had an island in the middle of the lake and I had friends who I would swim with when we weren’t riding our bikes until late.

No childhood is perfect, and no one survives childhood without scars but it’s the scars that help teach us about the world around us.

It’s the scars that teach us about life.

My parents weren’t perfect.

My sisters wasn’t perfect.

Hell, I wasn’t perfect.

I am still not.

No one is.

But I was loved, and I was taken care of, and I survived.

Sometimes that is what you have to do with childhood – survive it.

Get through it.

For me, it was about survival.

I had to survive myself and the hell of adolescence.

But I did.

Not all of us do, but I did.

Writing, and drawing, and watching movies, and making movies, and spending time with my friends got me through things.

It got me to the point where I could find myself and make myself when I went to college.

It got me to the point where I could start to make and re-make myself, flawed as I am, and could find people who would encourage, enlighten, and make my life mean so much more.

We all take this journey forward, from childhood to adulthood and to what comes afterward, and none of us will take the same path.

People can put all manner of expectations and demands and dreams on our backs but it’s we who decide what made this life worthwhile and happy.

And most of us will face death unfulfilled, realizing the things we didn’t see as they faced us – the time we should of spent, the love we should have shared, and the things we should have done.

But we do the best we are able.

Maybe it’s faith that guides you.

Maybe it’s love.

Maybe it’s just you, chug, chug, chugging along.

All of us are on this journey though, and we are on it together.

So easily we miss the pain of those around us.

The love.

The heartache.

The heartbreak.

We are so wrapped up in our personal stories that we forget that we are all in this together, more similar than different, our journeys all our own but the paths all heading towards some manner of happiness.

We live in an angry, hurtful, hateful world that has become moreso in recent years.

We accept lies told from the highest seats so long as it soothes us and tells us that things will be OK.

We turn our backs on one another for fear of losing the place we hold in society, terrified that change means loss, and loss means failure, and that we will be forced to admit that maybe we aren’t special, we are just as special as we believe ourselves to be.

The lie of this life is to believe that we are special above and beyond all others.

That we are chosen, because of our faith, color, sexuality, creed, wealth, or some other arbitrary reasoning that makes us feel as if we have a set path, a golden path to the salvation of our choosing.

Heaven, we are told, is waiting.

If we follow the right person, pay the right money, and do the right things.

Only, this sort of salvation is paved with brimstones.

Turning the back on the ideal and way of the savior as they listen to the words of someone with an agenda.

With a job.

With a golden lie.

Salvation is in moving the human race and the world forward.

Salvation is in honoring this planet and its creatures and the magic they hold.

Salvation is in finding the things you love, the people you love, and the causes you love and supporting them and working to make yourself a whole person.

A person of love, and happiness, and faith in something beyond yourself.

And happiness will come and go.

Love will come and leave.

But all of it builds who we are.

Who we can be.

What sort of world is built on hatred?

THIS world.

This fragile, collapsing world where the biggest bomb will win a temporary stay of execution so that those people can die last, alone and damned to dine on cinder and ash.

What god would tell you to hate, when it was love that unites us?

And we will not love all people.

We will not love all things.

But we must learn to live together, to find it in ourselves to accept one another, and even if we disagree, to find the common ground of humanity because hate has no future.

I was lucky enough to be born in a world of privilege, of skin, race, sex, family income, and location.

I was lucky enough to survive myself and my teen years.

I was bullied.

I spent more time hating myself than I can count but I survived.

WE survive.

I had people that helped me survive.

I had things that I loved that helped me survive.

I saw people not as my enemies but as people.

I didn’t have to like them, at all, but I didn’t have to actively try to hurt them either.

I had my heart broken, time and again.

But I survived.

No one owed me their love.

No one owed me their body.

I owed myself the strength to move on and move forward.

I guess I was lucky because no one taught me to not hate women, to not hate people of other races and creeds and nationalities, no one taught me not to hurt people that I either felt hurt me or that I felt should just hurt out of hand.

No one did but they should have.

We should teach our children that hate is a fuel that burns bright but dirty and it ruins everything it touches.

Love, even if it’s just the love of the self, is something that can lead you through the darkest of times, and we just don’t teach that.

Not in a way that seems relevant.

Instead we hate.

And we rant.

And we show the example that the only way to get ahead is to push down those around you and stand upon them as you climb higher.

We teach that you have to get yours and you deserve yours and that you are special above all others.

We don’t teach that we are all flawed, all struggling, and all deserve the opportunity to find our own happiness.

To do that would mean to admit that we need to step back sometimes and let someone else take the lead and that doesn’t mean we lose but that we don’t have to always win.

OR that we can win in different ways.

Or just that the path forward takes twists.

But we don’t.

We teach about money, and power, and fame.

We teach hate, and lust, and greed.

We teach that if you want that you deserve it and to hell with the person that doesn’t want to give it to you.

We let people build empires on lies.

We let people forge themselves into victims so they don’t have to feel guilty for their crimes.

We let ourselves turn this world into a timebomb that is tick, tick, ticking into oblivion.
But at least a few got theirs, right?

I was lucky in how I grew up.

I got a childhood.

An imperfect, messed up childhood.

But it was mine.

And I got an adulthood.

And it was mine, flawed as it is.

Damaged as I am.

A lot of people don’t get the opportunities I got.

And if we are not careful, a lot of people won’t get any opportunities at all very, very soon.

But at least we won’t be inconvenienced with giving a damn, right?

…c…

 

School Grays

School Grays

Fair warning, this is a very long bloggy post.

After writing my last blog about Halloween I heard something that got me thinking, thinking about school and the way we treat school…and the way we treat our kids.

You would think that in 2015 we would be at a place where education was prized above almost everything else in America. Sure, wealth, fame, and power are all great but they are just tools and without the knowledge in how to wield those tools you will misuse and abuse them and regret the day you came across them. Oversimplifying? Yes. But I don’t believe it to be untrue. Education is the most important thing when you can step outside of the basic needs.

Ah, but there’s issue one – we still are not dealing with basic needs.

Too many are starving, are thirsty, are at a level of poverty that takes generations to rise above.

We refuse to create a change that allows lower income people to rise then damn them for being ‘in the system’.  Having been in the ‘system’ for a bit, the few people taking advantage of it, living high off of it, are nothing but a very small, very loud drop in a very big bucket. We tell people to ‘stop having children’ and that’s true – if you can’t afford them, don’t have them – though we’re loathe to teach sex ed to kids so basically they’re learning sex and sexuality from media, the web, and friends. And then we tell people to just say no.

We have so many opportunities to change our world but don’t. And this isn’t a liberal notion, a ‘socialist’ notion, or a ‘commie’ notion, it’s a HUMAN notion. Truly, we are in this together, a think we seem to love to forget. That madman in a foreign land that has his finger on the trigger is flesh and blood like us, he just grew up in a different time, culture, and belief system. There are bridges though that we refuse to use and refuse to see, even among our own country people. Sure, you can’t reach everyone, you can’t save everyone, and you can’t inspire everyone to do more good than ill but there are bridges that can reach to some that CAN be reached. Education is just such a bridge.

We don’t prize education though.

And it’s no wonder.

We have turned schools into knowledge grinders where everyone must go in and try to keep up to what the pace is or they’re left behind. There has to be a standard, we shout, there have to be measurable, there have to be tests. And sure, that’s all well and good but we are teaching tests over knowledge. Data over smarts. We pour money into sports then cut from the arts. We want to teach our kids to be aggressive go-getters who want to win, win, win but we don’t want to teach them how to connect with their heart, or with their soul. Sports are great, they build teamwork, and teach us how to work together, and they let us all take a common pride in excellence, but sports don’t really lead to the future. They can teach us, but they don’t make us. The arts can do both. There are FAR more career paths connected to the arts. Far more opportunities there. Ah, but what do the arts teach us? Well, they teach us to dream, to work together, to plan, and to problem solve. Art is about abstract thinking, a pretty handy tool for the toolbox, eh? But we shouldn’t have to choose between art and sport. We are taking joy from the children, and opportunity, and ways to learn about one another and the cultures and beliefs of the world so that we can remain safe, and unassuming. Parents have forgotten what it was to be a kid and each wants their child taught a certain way, to ascribe to one belief system and if the school doesn’t cater to that child then darn it, we’ll tell, we’ll tell and we’ll make this a problem and darn it, we’ll get that funding cut. But two things we shouldn’t do is limit the experience of a kid in the classroom and we shouldn’t be cutting funding, for god’s sake. If there’s one thing we need more of in our culture it’s education, yet we cut, cut, cut away from it and then claim that teachers need to teach better.

Only…how?

How do you teach kids whose families have never known hope? Kids who can’t see a future beyond the welfare books? Kids who are told they are a burden on society?

Or let’s take it away from that –

How do you teach kids to learn and to be kids when we demand they grow up?

Want an example?

I have plenty.

We have deemed it completely appropriate and necessary to carry guns into schools.

MADNESS.

We live in an era where school shootings have become horrifically common place, where kids have to worry about whether a ‘bad man’ will come and kill them at school and their parents can’t help but feel they are lying when they tell them that it’d never happen.

Then people feel it appropriate to flaunt their right to carry a weapon on them into a school, becoming outraged when people take issue with that.

How do you teach children that they matter, and that they are the future when we treat them this way?

We want their respect but treat they and their teachers and schools with utter disdain.

Why?

Because we are a selfish and self-obsessed society. We turn our noses up at a movement like Black Lives Matter or the notion that gays are marrying, or that trans people want to be accepted as they choose to be but then we want to cry like children about our rights, our rights, our RIGHTS! We care about rights when it comes to us, to the self, but not to the other. We prize our right to bear arms over the rights of children to learn and the rights of that school to control their environment. We demand our kids be safe but then we want to put them into situations that make everyone at the school feel unsafe.

And here’s the thing – how are those kids supposed to feel if you are carrying a gun? Safe? Good? Or like there is a bad person in their school, and if they are not the bad person then there must be one out there because YOU have a GUN! This issue, THIS ISSUE HERE is not about gun rights, it’s about common sense. It’s about having the common sense, and common decency, to not bring a weapon into a school unless you are an officer of the law or have a justified reason to carry it. Guns are not toys, we say that all the time, so if that’s the case – why do we act like they are another accessory we need to take everywhere we go? Some places by their very nature, should be free of guns. And sure, you can tell me that ‘the bad guys won’t care’ but our schools survived an awful long time without having guns in them…I bet they can still survive without people needlessly bringing them in.

But there is more to it than that. Guns are a distraction, as a symbol and as an actuality. The issue is with the system. It’s broken. We have robbed schools, are closing libraries, and yet we expect kids not only to learn but to excel. We are closing schools and crowding classrooms and creating an environment of chaos. We have known that bullying exists but still have a hard time facing it as parents and educators. A generation of entitlement has lead to another that feels even more entitled. My child isn’t wrong, they’re never wrong, ever, we tell people as behind closed doors we scream at them. Or at each other. Kids learn from watching us – what sort of world are we making them? We obsess over wealth and fame, people selling their bodies, their sexuality, their intimacy to the highest bidder and being rewarded for it with fame AND wealth. We are a society of voyeurs, filming everything, photographing everything and forcing every moment into a narrow scope, a tiny box that proves to the world how happy we are. We have created a generation of vain children who are taught from a young age that they deserve everything, whether they earn it or not.

But is that the truth?

No, of course not. It’s TRUE, but not the truth.

What is true is that we are pushing sexuality and self-reliance and a dozen other adult issues that kids aren’t ready to deal with. We are demanding that they be children but then tell them that they need to adapt to a world that is too busy, too stressed to raise them. We sell them, sell to them, and sell around them and make them consumers from infancy. They are a part of the machine at birth but we don’t teach them how to understand the machinery. How to block out the machine. We don’t teach them to find themselves and their voices. We take the arts and their ability to reach out to and examine the world. We tell them that losing is wrong, is failure, and we cannot fail. Failure is for losers. We have built a loud, bright, busy world and don’t want to take the time to teach that this world is as rough and angry and hurt as it seems. We are a head down society, unable and unwilling to face one another, to face one another’s anger and frustration and hurt and god so much hurt that we’d rather stare down, or at our phones, or anywhere else.

In all of this we’re abandoning a generation of kids and letting them raise themselves.

NEEDLESSLY!

And to what end?

So they can head to college and either not have the grades to get in, or the money, or if they do get in they will go into debt for most of their lives.

What are we doing?

Jobs want Bachelor degrees but now they are wanting Masters degrees when they have no interest in paying people what they are worth. The job market is a buyer’s market, and the jobs know it.

So what do we do?

We fight.

We fight this apathy.

We get engaged in the educations of our children.
We invest in their future, not with money but with time.

We start demanding that education get better, and if it won’t get better then we pick up the slack ourselves.

We teach our kids to survive, to thrive, and to grow in this world.

We teach them to be empathetic, and sympathetic, and strong.

We help them with school and then help them into college if they want to go there, helping to find the financial aid, or grants, or whatever else they need to achieve their dreams.

And we let them dream.

We let them screw up.

We let them choose their paths but guide them back when they stray too far. They need to live their lives but they also need to be kept from making mistakes that will ruin those lives.

More than anything we love these kids. Even when they don’t love themselves.

We ow this generation, and the one after, and the ones after those a lot more than we are giving them. We don’t need to make the world child-proof but we do need to make it child healthy. We need to take a step back and remember that we share this world with the past, present, and future, and need to find ways to honor all three and to take care of all three. We need to stop worshipping at the altar of ourselves and stop frequenting the First Church of Hate.

This isn’t always about us.

And you don’t have to like kids, or love kids, or whatever.

But you do have to respect that this will become their world some day and we damn well better teach them how to take care of it a lot better than we have or humanity doesn’t have much of a future at all.

Yeah, we’ve screwed up a lot, but there’s still time, there’s always time to fix things.

There’s always time…until there isn’t.

Asking Too Much

   Two posts in one day?

Outrageous.

YET TRUE!

So I got a funny letter in the mail the other day from my collegiate alma mater. Now, I have never been close with either my high school or the colleges I attended. I stayed away from the high school because I didn’t enjoy my time and didn’t have any interest in returning, and when I tried I wasn’t really someone they remembered any longer. My colleges I liked well enough I just didn’t have a reason to return. I worked for my alma mater for a short time and it ended and I didn’t have an interest in keeping the ties between them. I stayed in touch with the people that mattered and outside of that I didn’t much care. Since graduating though I have found it very funny that I suddenly get requests for donations from time to time, and each time I make sure to answer in some way.

See, here’s the deal –

When I graduated I did so with a BA. I was an English major and a writer and had no interest in teaching. There are too many teachers who don’t love what they do and because of that the students suffer. I wasn’t going to be that person too. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, heck, am just figuring it out now actually, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. No big deal. It was my degree and my responsibility to get a job. Well, I have rarely had a job where I was comfortable enough where I could contribute anything to anyone yet time and again I would get pleas from my alma mater to please, pleas, please donate to this cause or that, this program or that, or whatever they needed money for at the time. I take general umbrage with this because, frankly, they should do two things –

1. Keep track of your graduated students and what they are up to. Be involved with me and I may be involved with you.

2. When checking in on said graduates make sure they are in positions to actually donate. Sure, this may take a little more work but you can either do surveys or you can get a feel for whether they are in fields that they were looking at in school.

Why?

Because you get people like me that get very offended when you can barely make a living at the job you have and then you get pleas from a huge university for alms when they should be helping you try to get a darn job or get further.

Oh, and sure, they’ll help. If you join their membership groups and pay dues. Then you can mingle with other grads and hit them up for jobs directly. Awesome.

What makes things worse is that since graduating I have published books, maybe not great novels the school would be proud of but they are valid books, are real books, and they were written by one of their grads. Their interest is little and none. Yet they still feel they can pop up from time to time and ask me to support a student that wants to get into a writing program, or to help fund a writing scholarship or whatever it is. It drives me mad. You support the ‘children’ you helped make and then you support the ones that are not yet born. That’s how I feel in this case.

You need to give a damn that I was a student, am a graduate, and that I am working desperately to get my work out to the world. Help me do that and we’ll talk about your projects. I just can’t get too worked up to help someone when all I am is a number and a potential dollar sign. When that happens these institutions become little more than high profile beggars hitting up everyone on the street to see if they can get that much needed bus fare.

Nope.

Not from me.

When you can start caring about your students that didn’t set the world on fire but are working to make themselves, their families, their friends, their communities, and the universities themselves proud then I will care right back. There are plenty of glory hounds in college, the ones that get help and acclaim but don’t need it. It’s the students that fall between the cracks and disappear into the system that need the extra care and interest.

Start living up to your own standards, dear alma mater, and maybe I’ll start you off on an allowance. For now, go out in the yard and rake some leaves. It’s getting messy out there.