Thursday, May 21, 2009

80 percent fun!

My students have graduated. Avery graduated, at least, and a handful of others who tearfully received their passing GEE test scores two weeks ago and will finally get that photograph to put on their fridge of cap, gown, smile, and the symbol of "COMPLETION."

Elsewhere in the universe, Ariana Rampy graduated from Whitman College, after a slew of majors, a trek across Europe, x amount of starring roles in Harper Joy theatrical productions, and x-squared amount of all-nighters. Aileen Hamilton, too, from University of Colorado (Denver?), with a degree like Ari's in art history, and a big white canvas in front of her to paint something wild and new and original. And then roughly a week and a half ago we "matriculated" the second-year Corps members, and put their accomplishments in numbers, quantifying everything that can't be quantified, and pushed forward against the tremendous current.

I feel like I should write a Baz-Luhrman-Sunscreen speech with some haste. One year after I jumped into the ocean, I find myself with an arsenal of advice. But then, whenever has that not been true?

There are just a few things I am absolutely sure about. Most of the important things are still kind of up in the air, but you've got to start somewhere, and I can think of just a handful of tiny shreds which are Absolute Truths -- things I would have liked to have known last year, or in 2004, or whenever it was I decided to be independent 4Realz. In no order: Send birthday cards; send valentines; subscribe to magazines; keep one bottle of nice wine in the house; keep fresh flowers around as much as possible; know the single place in the universe you love to read by yourself the most (your bed doesn't count); do something really self-centered every once in a while (mani-pedis and excessive amounts of dulce de leche come to mind... preferably in conjunction); read the newspaper; spend a lot of money on dinner sometimes; complain out loud about 20% of the amount you would LIKE to complain out loud; learn to Do It Yourself (knit, fix your car, make seitan from scratch, paint interiors or exteriors or on wooden surfaces, etc.).

Now. After this year, I THINK this next one is true. But you know, this is the kind of statement I make and then less than a year later look back at and laugh out loud at because I was so many different kinds of wrong. I guess that really, everything is so complicated that something like the following statement is probably PARTIALLY true, or must be true for some portion of someone's life. Maybe it is only true for Sophie Johnson in the year 2009. Maybe it's not even true then. But. I think that you are supposed to live the things you believe. At least, I think that when you do that, you like yourself a whole lot more, and that makes you generally a lot more pleasant to be around. It is a very difficult thing to do, and I never used to do it all. Except for that whole vegan thing. And even then... I have been a VERY sloppy vegan. I will say this: I am a whole lot calmer and more satisfied with being alive when I know I haven't been doing anything knowingly wrong, per se. I like riding my bike. I like eating good, local food. I like working my ass off and coming to school as prepared as humanly possible every day. I believe in it and it makes me feel good.

Surely this will not last. It is likely that in ten years I will buy a luxurious jacuzzi bath and seventeen thousand pounds of Godiva chocolates and hole myself up in selfish excess until I weigh a metric ton and my body is a gigantic prune.

Last weekened I got to volunteer at the Special Olympics. This was totally fantastic. Here is a list of things that are totally fantastic about the Special Olympics:
  1. Everyone wins a medal and gets their picture taken and gets to stand on the winners' stand, and that feels GOOD. I think. I've never won anything where you get a medal and get to stand on a stand, but it looks like fun. It looks like it is nice to be celebrated. Why don't we generally celebrate each other more often?
  2. Bocce ball. Who knew?
  3. The athletes train all year and are REALLY GOOD at what they do and it's just fun to watch really good athletes compete at sports.
  4. Free stuff abounds.
  5. People are happy to be there, very accepting and warm and open, and morale is pretty high for the whole day.

More and more this year I have started to wonder what makes us fear or reject difference. I wonder about it in myself, too... why was I so secretly unhappy when I got assigned to teach Special Ed? I know that I had opportunities to volunteer at the Special Olympics in Oregon throughout my life -- why didn't I leap at them? How is it remotely okay that we continue to live in a society in which we keep trying to shove everything that doesn't fit into our stupid little "normalcy" box into corners and away from light? And why can people still say "retard" like it's a generally acceptable insult? All obvious questions. Still, no answers.

For my birthday I had the greatest pies I've had since my mom introduced me to strawberry rhubarb and I asked seriously if it would ever be legal to marry a baked good. Leah made this mango kiwi thing which is absolutely one day going to be in a famous cookbook; Hannah did some savory vegan concoctions which seemed too good to be true; James made his first pie from scratch and it was alarmingly successful. This birthday I thought, "My. I am truly surrounded by multitalented, positive people, who are ridiculously unpretentious." I felt kind of humbled by that.

May weather in New Orleans is hot, rainy, gray, muggy, aggressive, biodiverse. There are more cockroaches and mice in my room than ever before. Outside, trees are rotting and bugs and bees and birds I had not previously acknowledged the existence of are wandering around, flitting chaotically, finding shelter when the thunderstorms are all-encompassing. Life seems to be oozing. That is the only appropriate word. As I walked down the street a week ago I practically tripped over a butterfly the size and color of a jar of blueberry jam.

The summer schedule looks like this, folks: I'll be in New Orleans until June 17thish, then driving to Colorado, then into Portland on June 25, then back to the Big Easy on July 22.

Let's hope by then I have a job again.

Fun things recently have included: A lot of really amazing cooking; volunteering all day at the New Orleans Veggie Fest, where Leah sold her baked goods and I demo-ed vegan cheese from Scotland; people pinning dollah bills to my dress in the rain on May 17; riding 16 miles on my bike for no reason in one day; new restaurants (and old ones); going to the Free Palestine lecture at UNO and learning all about the atrocious ways of the world; making clocks from empty pizza boxes and selling them on Etsy; a deluge of Crafternoonz and Veganedsays with Hannah and Leah; breakfast with James over and over again and practically beating the Crossword every time; reading like fucking crazy; listening to that rain break glass outside; my students moving forward, meaning the world to me. To name a few.


1 comment:

Nadim D said...

"I felt kind of humbled by that."
Oh gosh. Sophie, I miss you.