When I was a kid, I used to putter around this big plot of forest we had at a house we lived in for approximately half a year before things went to shit. I still think about the little forest, and I remembered one thing I liked to do was wander around the trees digging through the fallen branches and thick sponge of moist pine needles. For whatever reason, I was pretty sure the next little hole I dug would reveal a hidden treasure, a very specific, weird treasure that might have been inspired by reading dorky books. I was certain I’d find a sword somewhere in the woods.
I did not.
Still, even if I never found my little stabbing treasure, I’ve always liked the idea of wonderful things just barely hidden away. I hide requests for pictures of animals in my syllabus, treats from my cat, and a sense that I deserve to exist from myself. Hiding things is fun, and I’ve found myself doing it in many unexpected avenues of my life.
I’ve probably written about my systematic attack on the word “surprise” in every class I teach. Every time I introduce a new project, I start the class by saying there will be a wonderful or whimsical or mysterious or fantastic “surprise.” By the second or third project, they know immediately they’re something new and difficult to work on if they see the word surprise in one of my powerpoints, but I keep using it anyway. I reinforce that knowledge. I take their assumption that the surprise will be a bad thing, and I build that association until it cannot be broken, until just casually mentioning that I’ll bring a surprise on the last day of class garners fear-groans instead of anticipatory gasps. But the unpleasant projects behind the surprise aren’t what I like to hide. What I really enjoy doing is actually following through with something pleasant at the end, of finally invalidating that association of surprise and suffering. Usually, that means the last surprise is cookies.
The funny thing about this blog is that it would largely stay the same if nobody followed it. Even if I was a relic of a distant and savage past, long forgotten by the modern people of the world, left to gather a film of antiquity, I would still be writing the same weird stuff. One thing that certainly wouldn’t change is the quality of the jokes. I feel like there isn’t an intervention or an audience in the world that could make my writing much more than what it is: an endeavor to pack as many pictures of cats and rants about capitalism into a series of vaguely articulate posts about teaching and making bad decisions.
I largely write for me, but the fact that people like what I write isn’t lost to me, it just means that sometimes I hide a joke in a post that I never expect anyone else to find, and so far nobody has. Hidden things are fun things, even if they aren’t swords I can use to slay evil or defend a small library from an angry mob. Why I used to fantasize about revealing the caliber of my character in the bloody contested archives of a shitty library, I’ll never understand, but I used to think about that almost as much as I thought I’d find a weapon with which to do it by kicking thick patches of grass. I was a weird kid.
I don’t let many people find me, even if I wanted them to, they often can’t. I remember when I started grad school, I was a regular social butterfly flapping around to different bars with different flocks of equally drunk colorful flapworms. However, a little time passed and I stopped spending time with my cohort, stopped leaving the house almost altogether except when I needed to–meaning if I needed groceries, alcohol, or to flee the boundaries of a home I’d contaminated with work. I don’t think I’ll ever be so social inclined again that I will gladly drop my plans of lying on the floor in a burrito of blankets watching cartoons in favor of getting dressed, going outside, and being around a bunch of people who will ask me questions like “what have you been up to lately?” or “how’s it going”or “why do you look like that?” I have caves now, and I love them dearly. I stay home because a night in with my partner is a lot more fun than a night out with anyone else. I bounce between tea shops while never telling anyone where or when I’ll actually be at one of them because tea does not need company to be perfect. And I sequester myself in the library, working with my students and sending them on missions to interact with my colleagues and take the photos and conduct the interviews they need to while I finally get my wish of being a silent, hidden figure in the background that no amount of searching through the forest will find. Someone I work with sent a message to me through one of my students: “Hey, I didn’t know you even worked here. You’re like a ghost.” Fuckin’ right I am. I keep myself tucked away in the old archives of the library, and it is a special joy being so hard to find.