a note from the sub

the things i forgot to tell you today, because i was too busy botching all of your quiz scores.

Category: Uncategorized

bye

Hi my lovelies.

I’m sorry for not saying goodbye to every one of you today; I was tired, bone tired in a way that only substitute teaching for 12 years can do to you, and I dragged myself out at the earliest possible moment, barely registering the faces I passed as I made my way out. As are many momentous moments in life, my departure today was small, and passed unnoticed. One less car in the lot. A casual wave goodbye to the security guards. A hug from a kindergartener passing by. Today was my last day as your substitute teacher.

I want to thank you for the notes, and the drawings, and the cards, your indefatigable Facebook friend requests, your invitations to plays and basketball games and dinner at Denny’s, your advice on love and life, your companionship on the benches when I was forced to supervise you during P.E. because you were acting like a shithead. Without your sage, blistering honesty, never would I have known quite how fugly that jumpsuit really was, or how certifiably insane I looked when I cut those mental patient bangs. Thank you for teaching me how to draw a minion. Thank you for letting me teach you how to make a fortune teller. One million times. You have to cut it into a square first. Never mind, I’ll just do it for you.

It sounds so nice, doesn’t it? It’s been a really special part of my  life. Why then, you ask, would I leave you now, deep in the trenches of your academic careers? Well, it’s true that to you I owe these lovely and priceless gifts, both material and experiential. However, it is also to you that I owe an acute twitch in my left eye, a running total of nine prematurely gray hairs, an exotic array of illnesses, two concussions, and the occasional night terror. My favorite articles of clothing long ago perished in the line of duty, falling victim one by one to leaky pens, to fingerpaints, tomato sauce, glue. My list of names for future children is utterly decimated; potentials lost one by one to those of you with whom I would never want to associate my own offspring. Even my speech has suffered; so accustomed am I to talking to you, that the amount of focus I have to put into talking to adults like an adult is pain-inducing. OMG it literally blows chunks.

It’s not that I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes as well, don’t get me wrong. I apologize for telling you not to tattle on each other because, “no one likes a tattle tale,” and then ratting you out to your teacher. I apologize for every wrong answer I have ever very confidently given you, I’m sorry for all of the left margins I cut off while I was xeroxing your homework, and I’m sorry for that time I was binding those storybooks you worked so hard to write and illustrate, and I bound half of them upside down. I’m sorry for telling you to share, and to be nice. I’m a hypocrite; I rarely do either. I’m sorry for the number of times I wrote the wrong date on the board (I only count the days when I work,) and, lastly, I’m sorry for lying to you and telling you I never got in trouble when I was your age. I got detention once, in 6th grade. And I cried the entire time.

So, in conclusion, I hope I leave you with fond memories, and forgettable resentment. I will miss spirit days a little, and class birthdays a lot. If you continue to try and Facebook me, I will continue to “ignore” you. Much like you will eventually graduate from school, I am graduating from this life of 5:00am work calls, of missing lesson plans, of being asked for my hall pass. Over the years, you will not be for want of subs of whom to take advantage, and I will eventually fade into the ranks of them. Please know, however, that every last one of you has touched my life. And that this job has been the richest, strangest, most hilarious and sweet and thankless and heartwarming and heartbreaking and futile and meaningful I will ever know. I wish you all nothing but success, and infinite joy.

Your substitute teacher,

Miss Park

 

toast

Dear kids,

Greetings, from Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again’s small and poorly air-conditioned studio apartment, here in the resplendent Slums of Beverly Hills. As we rapidly approach summer vacation, that means way more time spent in my house, watching YouTube videos and reading Facebook-linked HuffPost articles, trying to expend the least amount of energy and money as possible. Currently, I am watching a video compilation of people receiving puppies for Christmas and crying, as I hold my dog Toast who, typically, appears deeply disturbed by the sudden and intense onslaught of emotion.

Whenever anyone tells me they’re getting a dog, I feel the overwhelming urge to warn them, which already sounds absurd because dogs are the best, right? But dogs are complicated, also. In ways I could never have possibly fathomed when I drove my adorable, small-yet-durable-looking new pup home from the shelter. And it’s not that I don’t love him, don’t mistake me, because I do. But how can I explain to you the real-life complexities of having a dog in your life?

You’ve already heard about my dog, Toast. I’ve perhaps used him a few too many times as an allegory for the way in which I interact with you, but that’s probably merely a small piece of a much larger conversation we can have another day. As you may or may not have already gathered, he and I have a very complicated relationship, the sort of dog-owner thing you don’t read about in Buzzfeed articles or memes about the mythically-proportioned loyalty of rescue pets. My dog is fiercely independent, stubborn and temperamental. We don’t spend time together in a traditional dog-owner sense; he doesn’t care to sit with me or even near me, mostly preferring the privacy of his crate or his little bed. Some days are low days for him; sometimes he won’t let me touch him all day and instead he just slinks around the house moodily, glaring at me from various positions in our small apartment, lunging at me aggressively, suddenly and with no provocation. And other days he is my vibrant, charming best friend, playing with the sleeve of my sweater, tangling himself in my shoelaces as I endeavor to tie them, sashaying around the mall with me like he’s the mayor of Century City. You know it’s bad when your exceedingly kind vet tells you he’s “… Just a difficult dog, and it’s a very long road ahead.”

For a long time, I blamed myself for Toast’s shortcomings as a companion. If I only loved him better somehow, I told myself, if I was home more, if I spent more money or time on him maybe he would love me the way dogs are supposed to love their owners. There are some moments where my only saving grace is that he is small enough that I can physically overpower him when he is out of control; it is in these moments I understand that, if he was a larger dog, I could certainly not keep him. If I had a family, I absolutely could not keep him, and it is very likely he would need to be put down. It is on these days, when I have to lock him in his crate so that he can’t hurt me, that I still curl up in a little ball on my bed and just sob, over how disappointed I am with him, how much responsibility he is and how little equipped I am to handle it all on my own, how I might bear it better if I felt like I got more from him in return.

When people say that dogs have personalities, usually they mean it in a charming sense— dogs are allowed to have a personality when it’s a cute and quirky one. But Toast came to me with a full set of very real baggage, and sometimes it is cute and charming, and other times it’s dark and heavy and terrifying. He doesn’t understand the social contract under which dogs and humans are supposed to coexist because he can’t read. And, more importantly, I have no right to ask it of him because, well, he’s just a fucking dog. He is a creature of independent will and spirit for whose wellbeing I have made myself solely and entirely responsible.  Whose wellbeing I am required to ensure even when he is shitty to me, when he refuses to hold up his end of our imaginary bargain, on those days (and of which there are many) when the heartbreak and disappointment and massive financial burden far outweigh the joy he brings to me.

I know my experience with Toast is not typical, but it happened; he exists. And the thing I want you to know is that I still wouldn’t trade him for the world; for everything that he is, he’s mine and we are family. I want you to know that, at some point, I began to no longer look at him through the lens of what I wish he was, or what I thought having a dog would be. I began instead to understand our relationship not as a contract in which he has systematically failed to uphold his end, but as a unilateral promise I made when I drove my adorable and small-yet-durable-looking new pup from the shelter, to love him for who he is, and often in spite of who he is, to put a roof over his head and food in his bowl, to be available for a snuggle when he wants it, to never give up on him just because he didn’t turn out to be who I was hoping he would. In the end, having a dog has truly been all about unconditional love, it was just my love that would be called upon to be unconditional. And Toast has taught me that my capacity to love is infinite.

Anyway, this is all a bit heavy for you. I want you to keep watching your dog videos (especially peep that one where a bunch of dogs fail to catch things… fucking hysterical.) Snuggle up with your stuffed pooch at night, let him ward off the baddies for you.  And, as a place in your heart continues to be carved out for the dogs of the world, really make sure it’s a place for them, for everything they are, good and bad. There is always more room.

Except in my apartment, if you ask Toast. He’d like his own.

the best policy

Oh my kiddos.

I did need you to tell the truth today. I needed to know the truth about who had thrown the first punch; I did need to know the truth in order to determine who should offer a miserably conciliatory handshake first. I needed to know so very much that, after I forced you to handshake-bro hug it out, I asked you if you understood why it mattered to tell the truth. You told me because honesty is the best policy, of course. I looked you straight in your sweet, precocious eyes, grimaced, and lied when I told you, “yup.”

Don’t get me wrong. Honesty is good. Honesty is fine. Honesty is the kid who somehow got invited to everyone’s birthday parties until we realized he was kind of a shit stirrer and no one could figure out who was actually friends with him. The problem with honesty is that it gets presented as a sort of catch-all, a when in doubt…, when it is, in reality, an extremely niche solution that is ONLY appropriate in instances for which it is specifically requested, and people so very rarely ask for what they really want.

There was a time in my life where I was really into being honest; it was a phase I went through in college, akin to my passing obsession with faux fur, Adam Levine, and the period of time during which I wore three inch stilettos everywhere, including while riding my bicycle, which may have been related to the considerable number of times I crashed my bicycle. I remember turning to a crush-of-the-moment once and saying (and this is both real and specific, I remember it as though it were yesterday… for reasons that will become obvious,) “I don’t know if it’s what’s going on with your hair, or what, but I am like super into you these days.” He looked at me with what could only be described as “…” I eventually said, “Okay bye,” and teetered off in my heels. We never spoke of it again.

Here are some things I’ve learned about honesty.

  1. People don’t really expect honesty; hitting people with some unexpected truth is literally that, you hit them with it; you punch them in the face. And they don’t react like they do in the movies, for the most part, unless they cry, and if they are crying it’s because that’s sometimes how people react when they get punched in the face.
  1. You will almost always instantly regret it. You will continue to regret it until enough time has passed that it becomes a hilarious story to tell your friends, about what a dumbass you are. Like the time over spring break when I told a treasured friend that I was in love with him and he reacted in the sort of bewildered way you do when you get punched in the face by a treasured friend, and I really went balls to the wall Nicholas Sparks style and told him I would move to another country for him and boy was that stupid and ha ha ha and hardy har har and excuse me while I go throw myself out the window.
  1. You will not be thanked for it. People will say that they respect you but, in truth, they fear you, and contrary to what you may have come to believe in your school life so far, fear and respect are sort of the same but also not really. People get afraid to be subjected to your truth bombs, wincing as they praise your candor and silently try and figure out how they can get as far away from you as possible before that happens again.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should all run around telling big fat lies to each other all the live long day. But please take it from someone who knows; honesty should come with a warning label. Apply sparingly. Dime-sized amount. If symptoms persist, discontinue use, for fuck’s sake. You don’t need to be a truth-wielding knight of the round table every single second of your life. Tell someone it will be fine, even if you’re not sure it will. Tell them he will be back, even if he won’t. Tell Miss Park you like her hair, instead of letting her know she looks like she didn’t brush it (I didn’t, that’s truth.) Punch someone with your fists for a change. Wait, don’t do that. That was the whole point of… Oh never mind.

#ALISON

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… Really? Really?! REALLY?!

 

I pick you all the time! I, in fact, pick you MORE often than What’s-Her-Name, for the specific reason that I know you and she are frenemies and she gets way more attention than you because, well, she doesn’t pull shit like this, for one. Also, we JUST went over question marks and COME ON, you are like one of the ONLY KIDS IN CLASS I WAS RELYING ON to remember it, COME ON GIRL WORK WITH ME HERE.

Look, I get it. You’re sensitive about What’s-Her-Name because she’s so cute and nice and well-liked, and you are also cute and nice and well-liked, but, well, you’re not What’s-Her-Name. And who is? I mean, just look at her, helping people with stuff, being all inclusive at recess and letting everyone play her stupid game, cleaning up her trash, washing her hands after she picks her nose– I mean, who can maintain all that crap but What’s-Her-Name? You want to know the worst part? Welcome to your life. There’s always going to be that one girl who seems to effortlessly or absolutely laboriously and totally knowingly or maybe unknowingly do EVERY SINGLE THING BETTER THAN YOU. She’s your nemesis. She’s your #ALISON.

Who is #ALISON? She’s a girl in my grad school program. She comes from a long line of teachers. She goes the extra mile. She likes to volunteer to answer questions addressed to the professor. She is a leader, not a follower. She refers to herself as “Type A.” She refers to kids as the children. But that’s not all she is.

Oh no.

Someday, #ALISON will take a photo of the two of you, in which she looks super cute and you look like shit, and post it all over social media and tag you in it. #ALISON is younger than you, but gets promoted first. #ALISON is constantly referring to people as either “her age” or “your age.” #ALISON is the girl that the boy you’ve fallen in love with gets with instead of you. #ALISON has a lot of money but pretends she doesn’t. #ALISON has a lot of money, and forgets that you don’t. #ALISON complains that there aren’t enough songs celebrating skinny girls. What’s with all the songs talking about how great girls with curves are? #SKINNYGIRLS need love too.

You know #ALISON is a person just like any other person and has hopes and dreams and fears and feelings, but you just can’t bring yourself to take it there with her. You know that being a truly empowered, self-confident lady means embracing and lifting your fellow ladies up instead of drinking the haterade on them and you’re perfectly willing to do that for every lady you know and don’t know. Except #ALISON.

If someone tries to tell you that you and #ALISON are not so different, punch them in the face. They’re wrong.

 

 

Addendum: So, as you know, we sat down and had a talk about your letter, and I told you how I really appreciated and respected how you communicated your feelings. I said that I had no idea you felt that way, I apologized if there were any instances in which I had been unfair, that I trusted you to help me as much and in the exact same way as I trusted #ALISON. I also told you that I hoped you would always come to me if anything upset you, and that I was so proud of how brave you were. I found this in your “Unfinished Work” folder this afternoon:

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I take it back.

hope

So, i haven’t written to you in a while kiddos, and that’s because #art. Art is tricky. I didn’t learn, really, about being an artist, ironically, until I stopped trying to be one. Good art is intimate and personal, and because it is personal, it will personally offend the people who personally know you and don’t like what you make (art, also, is not, in fact, life, or it would be called life, which people get confused about sometimes even though the people who named everything (the Mayans or whatever?) specifically gave them different names so that people wouldn’t get confused… but that is perhaps for another blog post, and also why I failed the history portion of the CSET. <— I haven’t actually, that’s just artistic liberty. <— but maybe I will now, because that’s karma?) Following? Good.

It took me a while to wrap my head around this new thing of being an artist and people having an opinion about what you write who aren’t your mother, because maybe other people are reading what I write and, well, how strange is that even? But today I found something, a little remnant of a past I have endeavored to erase so hard I erased it and THEN white-outed it, and then ripped it off the rest of the paper and fed it to my dog. And there it was, like the fucking tell-tale heart, sitting in my makeup drawer (yes, I have a drawer of makeup WHATEVER) pointing and laughing, saying NEVERMORE! Or, Oh I know you gonna write me up bitch.

When my ex and I were moving in together, I stumbled across a box in his closet full of odd trinkets and photos, that turned out to be mementos of relationships past. It made me uneasy, perhaps because even then I knew we were destined to one day end up in a box like that, perhaps because it was difficult to think about how he had felt for these women how he currently felt for me, how transient love can actually turn out. It was for that reason that I carefully folded it back shut, tucking the top of the box into itself the way he did with all of his boxes, and set it aside, just as I carefully tucked away all of my fears and questions: did normal people do that? Why would he want those memories? Does he plan to someday share them with those girls, with his future children, with me? What does it mean? And I neither talked about it, nor thought about it again, truly, until today.

It’s a rubber bracelet, like the LIVESTRONG ones everyone was wearing at one point (until Lance won the Tour de France, left his wife and got with Sheryl Crow, and got busted for steroids) except it was for President Obama’s first presidential campaign. It was in every photo of me and him (my ex, not Lance Armstrong) from when we first got together. On one side it reads OBAMA ’08 and on the other, is emblazoned the single, ironic, word: HOPE. It’s a little painful to look at, kind of like it’s painful to remember that time in my life. I remember watching Obama give his acceptance speech with him, watching him thank Michelle and talk about how he never could have made it to where he was without her, and thinking that I had found a partner like that, wondering if he felt the same way.

So I am thinking of his box of lovetrinkets past, wondering if anything of mine ended up there, wondering if the box is part of the reason why I endeavored so hard to scrub every living memory of our relationship out of my life. I threw away every physical remnant of him, I deleted emails, I trashed pictures, I don’t visit the places we frequented. I did such a good job that, sometimes, that entire period of my life feels like a bad dream, a former life where I was someone else, vague and hazy and unreal. But you can’t erase a part of your life, as much as you may like to. It is embedded deep in the fabric of late night drives home, in the smell of fast food at 3am, in the sharp fluorescent glare of the yogurt shop, in a small, black rubber bracelet that says HOPE.

I sat down to write this with the intent of talking about how my relationship robbed me of hope, how ironic that rubber band is now (and how I can’t throw it away because maybe it will be worth something someday, like all the Beanie Babies I still have <— I don’t actually have any, that’s artistic liberty.) But the more I write, I realize that isn’t true. Hope is actually the only thing that survived that relationship. I still wake up every morning hoping I might find love again. Hoping next time I will be braver and wiser, able to face my partner with an open, brand new-again heart. I hope I someday have the opportunity to take everything I learned and give to to someone else, wholly and unreservedly. I hope I can someday let go of every mistake I made, and feel worthy of another chance. I hope for happiness.

You can’t scrub away everything. You can’t please everyone. Life is a big, messy canvas. All we can do is make it someplace livable. Some place with hope.

under pressure

So, pressure, right? Pressure’s a lot of things. Air pressure is what we studied in science, is what should have made that very cool rocket propel forward, had I not constructed the rocket incorrectly. Pressure is what finally made that balloon you needed for your own rocket explode in a million little pieces, because you overfilled it (remember, you were supposed to watch the little nose at the end and make sure it didn’t disappear, like that terrible rhyme I made up to remember it by, when the nose goes, no more blows— yeah yeah but even though you popped your balloon I bet you still remember it, and now, dear readers, you will remember it too, you’re welcome.) Pressure is also what society puts on us to be both thin yet not so thin so as to make yourself a topic of discussion amongst your friends, to be strong and assertive but not a bitch, to be honest and always tell the truth but actually don’t do that ever, mostly that’s a terrible idea.

Pressure is when your future looks uncertain yet again, and even though it’s pretty much always been uncertain you’re so very tired of not having any clue what you’ll do next. Pressure is feeling fairly sure you’ve done everything right, and that you should be proud of who you’ve become and what you’ve accomplished, but you have nothing to show for it and you wonder if your father would have thought you were a failure. Pressure is feeling old, is looking in the mirror and thinking that maybe your prettiest days are behind you, and that you wasted them on someone who was never going to be the love of your life (pressure is wondering if maybe that’s the only love you’re going to get in this life anyway.) Pressure is watching your friends grow up and leave you; pressure is the loneliness of wondering if you will always be the one left.

Pressure is when it all starts to leave its trace on you. It makes its way under your skin, and it’s so small, so very small; it’s just a bad day at first, a bad week. Maybe you’re getting sick; maybe you are so exhausted because your immune system is fighting something off. You let yourself sleep for those 14 hours one day, a handful of days. You make your green smoothie but you leave it in your bag, you don’t even open it; you opt for the stale piece of banana bread in the breakroom instead. You try and force yourself to work out; on the rare occasion you make it to a class, you find yourself so angry halfway through from the sheer idea of being there you have to work harder than you have the entire time just not to walk out. You cry during stretches afterwards.

Pressure is that, the more your body shuts down, incapable of keeping up, your mind speeds up, in a panicked attempt to compensate. You haul yourself up the stairs to your apartment four, maybe five, times each morning just to make sure you didn’t leave the stove on, even though you haven’t used it for days. Every social interaction is full of potential slights that you obsessively replay for hours, days, parsing every word and every gesture for hidden signs of annoyance and disapproval. Your day is filled with nothing but confrontation, and overwhelming exhaustion. The first few times you fall asleep somewhere inappropriate it’s almost funny, the ensuing times are not. The only thing that gets you out of bed every morning is the idea that, eventually, you will be able to return to it. You begin to have nightmares.

Pressure is when it isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way, and you knew this day would probably come again, but the knowing of it turns out to be not nearly as comforting as you thought it might have been. And then, one day, when you come home from another painfully long day pretending everything is fine, you come home to see that pressure is also the thing that builds in your container of green smoothie that you completely forgot about, because you were too busy feeling miserably self-indulgent, that began to ferment and fill the remaining space in that sealed, magic bullet container with carbon dioxide until it too exploded. All over your apartment.

You call your psychiatrist and you wipe down the walls.

love letter

Dear kids,

When I was fifteen, I fell in love.

I was at a sleepover, and we were flipping through channels on TV (because what else are you going to do at a sleepover?) and we came across a show that was extremely poorly lit, this particular episode about a lady who was blind but could see through the eyes of a murderer doing his dirty deeds, and these two FBI agents were trying to help her/ catch the killer, and the guy agent seemed very sure about all this crazy stuff that was happening even though it was crazy and his lady partner helped him see it through even though you could tell a lot of the time she had trouble believing him and he annoyingly kept running off just expecting her to know where he was going. And it was only on for like ten minutes, because we were fifteen and we had the attention spans of… well, a bunch of fifteen year old girls. But, for whatever reason, that weird, dark (and by dark I mean content-wise, and also it was really fucking dark all the time,) melancholy show struck me deep in my heart, sang to my little teenage soul, welcoming me home.

Who knows why we fall in love with the things that we do? From that very first time I saw it, The X-Files felt like a code embedded in my DNA; it felt familiar, it felt mine. At fifteen, I couldn’t understand the bleakness of Mulder and Scully’s lives, the intricacies of the global conspiracies they were battling (later of course I learned that was because they did not actually make any sense,) or the complicated nuances of their love for each other, but it didn’t matter. In The X-Files, I connected on a primal, essential level to the human need for storytelling. It truly is one of the rare and real bits of genuine magic in a lifetime, when characters become real for you, when their suffering becomes your suffering and their joy, yours too. Mulder and Scully felt like real people to me, they still feel real, in a way, like compatriots from long ago, having seen me through all of the ups and downs of my young adulthood, guns drawn, flashlights in hand.

They let me down sometimes, as friends do. As the series wore on, and Mulder left, and it seemed as though even the writers had given up on it, I was still there on the couch, every Sunday night, suffering through that weird Brady Bunch episode, cringing every time Doggett said “MUL-dah;” that’s what love is about. I even loved the second movie, and don’t even think about giving me any shit about that; you don’t just bail on your friends when they get a little morose and self-pitying. That’s all part of the beauty of finding a story that speaks to you; even in its shittier moments what it means to you, what you have found within it, is what matters. All those years peering into dark corners, rummaging through secret files, wire-tapping phones, while Mulder and Scully looked for the truth, I found myself.

So here’s what I have to say to you, kiddos. When grownups tell you it’s not good to watch too much TV, that what you’re watching is garbage, that it isn’t as good as reading a book: don’t listen. Go ahead; dive in. Find a story that speaks to you. Get invested. Fall in love.

The truth is out there.

Miss Park

i have something to say.

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In the bleaker moments of my almost two-decade pursuit of being a working actress, I imagined how it would be if I quit. I envisioned walking away from acting as something monstrous and fittingly movie-moment climactic, a hideous proclamation, a grief-filled packing up of my car, a defeated retreat back home. As so many of these things end up being, it was, in truth, nothing but an almost imperceptible shift of gravity; it was a missed class, the quiet tucking away of headshots, letting my IMDBpro membership lapse.

It’s hard to talk about giving up on a dream.

I think a lot about my thirteen year old self, full of that uniquely psychotic thirteen year old fervor, proclaiming to anyone who might seem like they were listening that I would never give up, that it was my destiny, that I was that one in a million! I would be starring in The X-Files (so sweetly and agonizingly ironic, now) married to Leonardo DiCaprio, and doing Maybelline commercials (“Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline… nope SHE’S MARRIED TO LEONARDO DICAPRIO, SHE IS TOTES BORN WITH IT.”) I would want to explain to her how all those years equating our worth with our work would wear us down, strip us of everything we valued about ourselves. I would tell her how the time spent worrying that we weren’t pretty enough or thin enough or appealing enough would come at a terrible cost to our sense of self-worth. I would show her how fantastically unfit we are to live a life of uncertainty, how uncomfortable we would be promoting ourselves, how dirty we would feel befriending people who might be able to help us get ahead (and I don’t mean to denigrate my actor friends; it’s bold and gutsy to believe in yourself enough to survive in this industry, and we have never had that kind of moxie and that’s totally okay too, because we have other very nice qualities.) I would try and convey to her how it would all slowly suffocate our love of the art until it was gone, and how we would push on, terrified to acknowledge the loss. I would warn her how our latent depression would sense the blood in the water and surface like something out of a nightmare, how it would feed off of every rejection, every perceived failure, and turn us into someone we barely recognized, someone fearful and jealous and bitter and so very sad.

It sounds really scary and really awful and she would probably cry because, well seriously who wouldn’t cry after hearing all that? I would try to tell her that it was all worth it, for the most part, and that I still don’t regret any of those very difficult years because they shaped us into a much wiser, and gentler, person. I would tell her that we are so many different people in a lifetime; we change so very much, things affect our lives in ways we can’t anticipate, and it doesn’t make any sense to maintain some sort of token loyalty for a dream to which we pledged ourselves a million selves ago. I would try and make her understand that being an actress was never our identity, that being an actress isn’t an identity at all, and that it was only when we stopped defining ourselves that way that we rediscovered all of the things that we actually are: loyal and funny and strange, and surprisingly resilient. I would tell her that we have become so proud of being all of those things that sometimes we are overcome with the simple joy of feeling true, and free. I would tell her that this freedom would inspire us to explore our artistic identity in gorgeous, raw, messy new ways that would inspire and fulfill us beyond anything we had come to hope for ourselves.

I would encourage her to be kind, because we weren’t very understanding at thirteen, and this decision didn’t come without a cost. I watch the people from my former life, in movies, on TV, living the dream I had wanted so long for myself while I sit in my crummy studio apartment with my subpar dog. I wonder, knee deep in textbooks and grad school essays, how long it might have taken, if I would have gotten there myself if I had just pushed a little farther, gone a little longer, and it’s not as though it doesn’t cost something. I would tell her that, at some point, we would hear that, when a great love is over, it takes half the length of the affair to truly heal from it. I would tell her not to worry, that we have also learned to be patient.

I say I wish I could tell her all of these things, but I’m really pretty grateful I don’t have to because, as I said, I wasn’t super understanding back then. If I could have a chat with her, I would probably just give her a big hug and tell her everything is going to be just fine, because that’s really what you need to hear when you’re thirteen. I think about how difficult it was to come to terms with the fact that I had fallen out of love with my dream, and I think that, if maybe I had read something honest and (hopefully a little) comforting, maybe it would have made it easier to face. If you’re facing, or trying not to face, something similar, I hope you can pat yourself on the back, and give your poor little heart a huge break. I hope you can remind yourself that we should all feel incredibly grateful that we are not held accountable to every dream we had when we were kids. Although, some dreams, of course, are timeless (Leo, I’m looking at you.)

adult class, part deux

Hola Los Kiddos!

Happy August! Miss me yet? Good, I don’t miss you either. What has Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again? been up to since our paths last crossed, oh, two weeks ago? Well, I started Adult Class. Yes indeed, that infamous concept, the mysterious and alluring: Adult Class. Class for grownups. We’ve talked about Adult Class (see post: Adult Class.) Let’s play a game of: how many times can Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again fit the words “Adult Class” into this post! This is sort of a different class than last time, though. Last time, my ADULT CLASS (number 10!) was an acting class which, ironically, is sort of for adults who refuse to actually be adults, so it only barely qualifies as Adult Class (come on, Pseudo-Adult Class friends, you gonna disagree with me?)

This class is not nearly as fun, or emotionally cathartic. No longer do I sit in a cozy living room full of attractive people, having all of the feelings. No. Now I sit in my own wasteland of a living room, on a computer, talking to a bunch of crazy people in a chatroom while I trim my cuticles. Welcome to Adult Class, part deux.

Let me tell you a couple of things about Adult Class, my lovelies. Allow me to teach you something new, although we are both still officially Off The Clock. Something that, as opposed to most of the things I teach you, you might actually use someday:

  1. Subject matter remains overwhelmingly useless in real life. I’m learning about how to organize and execute a Comprehensive School Health Program. Will I ever actually organize and execute a health program at school? FUCK. NO. First of all, no. Second of all, according to the health assessment I was required to take, I still engage frequently in behaviors that put my health and wellbeing at risk, like being spiritually disconnected. And drinking heavily to work up the nerve to text every handsome man in my phone to see if he might want to come over and hold my hand for ten minutes while we watch Criminal Minds.
  2. No cute boys in Adult Class. Unlike Pseudo-Adult Class, which was full of adorable boys to make imaginary eyes at while in truth you’re just staring at them creepily, NO CUTE BOYS in Adult Class. None. Instead, Adult Class is full of late-30’s gym trainers, who need a day job to support their passion for crossfit (let’s play a game of: how many totally unfair stereotypes can Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again fit into this post!)
  3. There are still overachievers, but it gets way more complicated to overachieve. For our first discussion board prompt, we were asked to write, in 250 words or less, a little bit about ourselves and our educational background. I, of course, waited for a few people to post before me, no need to announce straight off the bat that I graduated in the top ten of my high school class, and magna cum laude from my college which is an extremely prestigious school even though three people in this program have already asked me if it’s accredited, or a community college. The first five posts clocked in at 1,000 words. I know because I copied them, and then pasted them into a word document to get an exact count. For those of you who remember the math I taught you, that’s a whopping 850 words over the limit. So then, I had to ask myself… what, precisely, would be overachieving more: blasting everyone else’s word count out of the Blackboard waters, or actually following the directions? WHAT IS THE ANSWER? I HATE MY CLASSMATES.
  4. No one follows directions, still. One of the overachievers posted her personal manifesto on the help desk discussion board. Nice job, Michelle.
  5. It’s easy to hate on your classmates, and then fucking impossible. I just read Michelle’s 1,213 word count manifesto and she’s a single mom and a breast cancer survivor. Sorry, Michelle.

What is my conclusion to you, my lovelies, when it comes to Adult Class (number 23!) for adults? Just get all of your goddamn degrees when you’re in college. Stay for an extra ten years. Get a doctorate. Get all the doctorates. Never leave! The adult world is a wasteland of dirty dishes and dog hair. Or maybe that’s just my apartment. And don’t go to the College of William and Mary, unless you want to work really hard to do super wow great at a school that no one’s ever heard of. And no, William and Mary is not a community college.

Love,

Miss WYNA

magic

Dear ladies and germs,

As you head off to summer, and I head off to sit in my apartment and try my best to expend as little energy/ money as possible for the next three months, I would like to subject you to one last, goodbye letter/lesson that will probably have too many words, and some shitty analogies. It is about magic.

You know magic, right? Like when What’s-His-Face “took his thumb off” and then “reattached it,” and then stuck a Snapea Crisp up his nose and had to go to the nurse to get it removed. Like unicorns, and sparkle glitter butterflies, and sneaking a photo of Prince Charming from across a crowded room and it’s love at first snapchat. When I was your age, I was all about magic. I don’t have it anymore, not like I used to. My depression killed it. That sounds dramatic, and it is! That’s the worst thing depression does; it takes away the sense of infinite possibility, that big, bright, wonderful things could happen someday. Getting proper medical treatment helped me bounce back, but the magic never really did; I’m not sure it could. That blissfully ignorant suspension of reality isn’t something you can build back up to. It’s like, even if you get back on a horse when you fall off, you still fell. I miss it a lot, like I miss my teenage metabolism, like I miss being able to sleep past 8am. I miss it like I miss my old dog, Shadow, who I never really got to mourn because my Dad died a week after her, who slept in bed with me every night, to chase the fear away of being the only one awake in the house.

I’m so much better now. I’ve been trying to hope again, for big, bright, wonderful things, even when that hope feels sort of useless and stupid. Sometimes I even daydream, like I used to. Sometimes I do sort of dumb things like I used to, scheming, chasing impossible things; a tiny, fledgling “why not?” kicking around in my patched-up heart. But I am careful who I tell my hopes and dreams to now. When you’re a grownup, you have to be. You don’t always get support for them. Instead, you are constantly reminded, by friends and loved ones and trusted people in your life, of the limitations on your possibilities; that, to aim too high, or to wish too big, is to set yourself up for failure, to miss out on perfectly fine, more accessible alternatives. That you need to keep your options open. That you need to have some fallback plans. That you usually don’t get what you want. That love isn’t like the movies, that it’s time to be a big girl about it. That you should never hope again to feel like you like someone so much you want to throw up at the sight of him. That you will never again offer your friendship, only to immediately rescind it, trip over a lamp, and cry Auf Wiedersehen! as you stumble out the door (maybe I can live without repeating that one, actually.) No more sleepless nights, no daydreams. No magic. At first I was angry and resentful that, when finally I felt enough ground under my feet again to begin looking in an upward direction, everyone was suddenly telling me not to even bother. But I think it must have been very scary for the people in my life to see me at my worst, and I do realize how very fortunate I am, that there are people who care so very deeply about me, that they fear so very much for my little fragile heart. Who would prefer to keep me in a sterile, shatterproof box, full of practical, blunt objects, which might serve in giving me a life perfectly harmless and fine.

Everyone, that is, except for you.

I wanted to thank you for this year, this messy, gorgeous, hilarious, heartbreaking, super-wow crazy year of teaching you monsters. Thank you, for being so mightily bizarre, so pristinely loyal, so painfully honest. Thank you for making me laugh, even when you wrote me that letter accusing me of hand-holding favoritism, or when, after a year of tying your shoes, I learned you actually knew how to tie them all along. Or that time you pretended to be blind and I had to continuously fish the basketball out of the goddamn trash can because you kept “mistaking it for the hoop” (I give you mad props on that one, it was clever as fuck for a six year old.) You made me cry with your kindness, when your friend was sad and homesick, and wanted an ice pack, so you smacked your arm until it was red, so that the nurse would give you one for your sunburn that you immediately passed along. You comforted me without knowing it, with your quiet, reassuring presence on the bench at recess, with your company during lunchtime. It sort of felt like magic, the whole rotten lot of it.

I want to believe there is magic because I think what else could it have been, when I earned your trust enough to feel you slip your tiny little hand in mine for the first time as we walked to lunch? When you were tearfully disconsolate about your botched work, and I endeavored to convey to you how little I cared about the quality of your handwriting by tearing it into little pieces, and then (to both of our abject horror) shoving them in my mouth (okay, that was probably not magic, that was just me being disgusting, why am I so disgusting.) When I doodled all over your homework, when I found the doodles you had left for me? What else could it have been but magic, when I was teaching you handwriting, and was suddenly overwhelmed with a memory of my father, long forgotten? When he was able to live again for a moment, through a joke I passed onto a six year old child?

If I have one wish for you, as you leave me and I return to my gypsy nomad lifestyle of traveling schools and ruining lesson plans, and I’ve thought about this a lot… I wish for you the one wish I would wish for myself: that you keep believing in magic. I don’t care how many times you get hurt, and it isn’t because I don’t love you that much, it’s because I love you too much to let you live your life any other way. I don’t want anyone to ever tell you to stop believing. I will never tell you to stop believing. So I will say it one million times, I will write it again and again, I will look for it everywhere I go, I won’t give up and I won’t settle for anything less because I have to believe we all deserve it.

I believe in good things.

I believe in infinite possibility.

I believe in love.

I believe in magic.

I believe in magic.

I believe in magic.

Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again.