Thursday, October 05, 2006


Hmm. I started off, once again, trying to write something for Qarrtsiluni on education and failing. Once again, it's turned out to be all about me. So now it's a rather unformed blog post.

I have been groping for the analog. At some point, at some point of my life I felt just this way. There was even a similar catastrophe of loss hanging over me.

Finally I got it. Just now. And of course if I'd paid attention to the earworm, I would have known right away. School's... out... for... summer! School's... out... for... ever! Alice Cooper, right? And the image in my head? A blond little boy races up the steps and goes into a school.

Ah. But. The point is, it's not a school. No chain-link fences. No barbed wire. No asphalt to skin your knees on. Not a real school. It looks like a house. Real schools look like prisons.

The image is from a short documentary someone made about the New School, the little private alternative boarding school I attended for two years. It ended up with that song and that image. Liberation. That's what it was about.

I hated school, before that. Passionately. But the odd thing is, I didn't know it. I was bored. Many of my classes were desperately uninteresting. I was "weird," which meant I was mostly friendless. My movements were almost completely prescribed -- sit at this desk in this room, go to this section of the cafeteria; the only time I could move on my own was on that desolate plain of asphalt during recess. And recess was a dangerous time, because bullies too had liberty of movement then. Any sane person would hate all this. And I did.

But, as I say, I didn't know it. I had no conception of freedom.

I recognize it now, now that I'm leaving it. The craven subservience, the regimentation of movement, the good-boy eagerness to please, pretending to want to do things I am completely uninterested in -- what does all that remind me of? Oh yeah. Of course. School.

That was where I trained in this passive-aggressive style, this say-yes-mean-no. Like a beaten dog, I wag my tail and fawn, because I don't dare bite. That's even where I learned to sit like this, slumped and slouching, defeated. That's where I learned to watch a clock. To think of time as something to be gotten through somehow. To live in worlds of imagination because the world I was in had nothing, nothing to interest me. The real world was simply something to be borne. It had nothing to do with desire.

I'm not sure how I let my worklife devolve into this. Sure, my company got acquired by the company which is a stock emblem of dullness and conformity. But that doesn't really account for it. Not everyone here is slumped hopelessly in their cubicle, surreptitiously blogging. Some of them are alive, have hopes and fears and investment in their work. How? How does that work? Why doesn't it work for me?

I'm not sure. But I suspect a piece of it is that I have never connected with anyone here, never felt like anyone from my own tribe was ever in these buildings. I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about that. That there were people I could have made friends with. But I didn't, because it would be too risky. Of all places, the place where you don't reveal yourself is work.

The single most telling moment in all of this was when I told my boss what I was going to do next. "Um... something like, uh, massage therapy or physical therapy." And the next time I mentioned it, it had become physical therapy, which had to recommend it -- what? Well, maybe that it was less touchy-feely. But I suspect that what it really had to recommend it was that it wasn't the truth. It wasn't my real desire. To let my real desire be seen in this environment felt horribly rash. Anything other than the truth would have done. And when he asked me what I was going to do next week -- he was just expressing friendly interest, I think -- did I say I was starting massage school and I was terribly excited about it? No. I said I was going to sleep a lot. "Sleep a lot?" he repeated, in some puzzlement. I nodded, affably, vaguely.

Certainly no one from my tribe was going to find me while I was so assiduously hiding. And nobody, my tribe or not, was going to know me or value me for who I was, if I was carefully withholding all significant information about it.

Writing mole and having people respond to me has been a wonderful step out of hiding. But I would like to appear as myself to everybody. Surely at age 48 one is a little old to be hiding like this. To be so anxious to please.

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