The seemingly endless summer weather that pushed gently and deeply into the school year appeared to turn abruptly, and a morass of unfriendly murky gloominess spread in as a replacement. And it seemed, the projects and the tests and the stressors and the this and the that came riding with it, and a hunkering down, a get under shelter from the mortar rounds mentality pervaded and seeped. I was talking to Bruce about the busyness of the school year, and he lamented to me a general malaise, a disinterest in schoolwork, and a begrudging motivation.
It’s easy, almost natural, I suppose, to be tossed about and dragged under a current of pressures, doubt, and demands. To give in, to look at the overwhelming mountain, admit defeat and turn the other way. There is no more strength, no more to give, no more fake smiles, no more anything. Just a shut it all down, I don’t care, I’m just watching Netflix all day, and to hell with the consequences kind of mood.
A motivational speaker might exhort to start each day by saying, “Today, I will find a new thing.” And it would be easy to scoff at such suggestions. For words alone can’t fix, and even then, maybe the fixing only makes the outside shinier, but the inside is the same.
But sometimes new things are good things. And for every good thing, you fold it up in two, and put it in your pocket. And then as your pocket gets full, you unfold these things, and they brush away a few dark bits, and you know nothing is fixed, but nothing is broken either, and you discovered something off routine, and maybe a little potent, and that’s not so bad.
I found some new things.
I found Mr. Parker and Mr. Seo and other teachers, hands behind their back, faces to plates, eating pumpkin pie with whipped cream smeared over their faces. Disgusting and joyful all the same. I found Sophia and Emma asking me to play 80s new wave tunes they use during volleyball warmups. And as Tainted Love and Psycho Killer filled my room, I marveled how connected these teens were to music beyond their time. I found Griffyn and Michael sharing the substance of their so-called dispute in front of the class, and doing so with wild and outrageous hilarity. Time away from the lesson, but time still well spent.
I found Liam, the master of late, coming in an hour early with his pirate smile, to do some work. And somehow while doing so, he introduced me to some EDM. I found Summer coming in after school with bright pink cardboard paper while I was helping Gaga with math. And that paper just made doing repetitive problems that much better. I found Caroline and Jessica thoughtfully discussing university apps, and reflecting how the apps and getting in or not shouldn’t and didn’t equate to identity. And I knew these young people were bound to do something true, and something right for our society and our world.
A new thing can’t necessarily cure what is deep. Things that are deep typically took time to get lodged and embedded, and typically take time and patience to unlodge. With the trusted help of those who love us, the nibbling away at the mountain becomes a manageable piece here and there. But as we work on that which are rooted and buried, we need sustainment for the way. That’s when it’s time to unfold those pieces of paper, to help lift us, to give us just a modest spurt of momentum and optimism, and to know that every discovery often carries hope and beauty alongside.
It isn’t always easy to find that which give rise to something anew. Sometimes it takes a bit of looking. Sometimes it’s small and tiny and brief. Sometimes it means opening our eyes a little wider, a little longer, a little more often. Sometimes, we’ll miss it. Which makes finding them all the richer and more delightful.
Today, I will find a new thing.