Despite all the evidence I can gather to invalidate their claims, I’m pretty sure there will always be a swarm of toxic bees roiling around my head, screaming in hive-mind unison that my insecurities are right, that anyone who enjoys my company just hasn’t gotten to know me well enough, that I should probably open my heart and soul to the warm embrace of self-immolation.
But then, sometimes, a day actually goes pretty swell, and I get to send in my own swarm of emotional beekeepers, except they’re not like normal beekeepers because they have flamethrowers and, also unlike normal beekeepers, they are the brave manifestations of the ephemeral return of my self-confidence, and I can’t stress enough how important those flamethrowers are. Most beekeepers, or so I’ve heard, likely have probably no relation to my mental health.
I started teaching again yesterday. It went well. I’ve loved teaching from the first time I got to boss a bunch of people younger than me around and make them write, but this class is the first time I’ve been just teaching, no homework to do, no deadlines on the horizon, no classes about to start or about to climatically and painfully end, just telling some kids why writing is super rad.
It’s interesting, without the expectation and necessity to devote myself entirely to a dozen different things, I actually can devote myself entirely to something I like. A typical week used to involve me receiving a new set of drafts to comment on from my students, getting 3 or 4 new projects to work on for my degree, and I’d have to make sure I was doing enough extra work that I’d look special and unique and employable to people who would only look at how good my work in my classroom and in my field was if I was exemplary enough to get their attention, which meant being better than I could possibly be. There is an expectation at every level of school that a student is only successful if someone else says they are, and someone else will only say they are successful if they see the exact kind of evidence they are looking for. That’s bad research. Because of that way of thing, I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, staring at the carpet, hoping things might be ok someday. And now they are.
I spent about two hours putting together a class that only took an hour and a half to teach. I sat in my class 10 minutes before it started so I could chat with my new students before our first day had really started. Class started, and I made jokes, and things were natural, and I’ve only got 11 students right now, and the curriculum just sort of fell into place perfectly, and I told them I’d have their drafts back the day after they give them to me, and I’m not planning ahead how I will send the email telling them that can’t happen. After all the exhaustion and the unfair expectations and the awful habits I developed to meet those unfair expectations, there is this little window where things are pretty alright, and the bees have gone quiet for a moment.
Like the unjust seating arrangements on seemingly every plane I’ve been on recently, not everyone gets a window, even if they deserve one. The point at which you are done working and life can be smooth is a luxury that’s really only given to people so rich that luxury means something completely different to them than it does to people for whom the word is less a practical possibility and more a desperate goal. But there can still be these little windows in which things go alright. There can still be these brief periods in which we’ve worked enough for a brief reprieve and can take a nap, or drink before 5, or pet a cat.
In a few months, I’ll have a lot more students, less free time, the stress will have come back a because I can’t exactly live without it anymore, but the fact that things are going to get harder again doesn’t invalidate them being good right now. It’s very nice, even if my window does close soon.