Mental Health

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It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.

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Happy National Friendship Day: A Tribute

In the past two months I have written two short stories about a single woman looking for love.  One, specifically; the other, well, she sort of finds love by accident.  (Well, she meets a couple of dudes, we don’t know that she loves either of them.)  Neither of these stories would accomplish the wretchedly simple job of passing the Bechdel Test, a test I find important, but not as important as representing “real” women, whatever that means (see my post about Thor v The Avengers).  But neither story is about female relationships (although one could analyze the female relationships in the first story).  I tend to write about what I’m currently going through and my mind was heavily on my own hetero-romantic relationships while I was writing them.  Because those are in a constant state of flux.  I didn’t write about my female relationships because my female relationships are solid.

Today is National Friendship Day, or some such nonsense, and it’s got me thinking about my most significant friendships.  Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the older I get the more important my female friendships are to me.  I still love my boys and my life would be sad without them, but it’s my girls, if ‘importance’ were a scale, who are the most important.  There are specific women from various points in my life who have greatly impacted me and continue to be my friends despite my wildly narcissistic and transient lifestyle.  And, the beauty of these women is that they are all different.

My oldest friend is someone who has always been supportive of me.  We met in the third grade in violin class and I have valued her opinion and her esteem and her friendship very highly ever since.  We had a small period of separation in college, but managed to reconnect afterwards and are still very close.  A very confident woman, she is also confidence-inspiring.  I never feel more encouraged, more empowered, than after I speak with her.  She took me clothes shopping for a “professional” outfit when I was temping, she sends me information on writing retreats and contests, she buys me dinner a couple times a year, and a birthday present even when I want to ignore my own birthday.  Always so career driven, she has served as an inspiration in my own professional life, making me believe I can forge ahead with the notion that I am a writer and might actually get paid one day to write.  I was happy to be a part of her wedding party when she asked.  She and her husband are one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met and have never, even inadvertently, made me feel badly about being single.  Their daughter is five months old and I know they are going to be excellent parents because they’ve been practicing on me for years now.  Every time I visit with them they feed me, give me career advice, and counsel me on my most recent romantic disaster.  When their kid is a teenager they’d be wise to remember how they’ve advised me over the years.

In high school I met my Best Friend (technically, all these women are my “best friend”, after all, like Mindy Lahiri says “best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier”, but this one is my Best Friend).  My Best Friend is a funny woman.  She’s very analytical, enjoys making lists, and loves setting “life goals” — she was the only teenager I knew with a five-year-plan.  We met in a church youth group when we were sixteen and have been friends from the moment she introduced herself to me.  I don’t really know what drew us together initially, but a desire for a certain sort of connection kept us together.  Best Friend is a friend with whom I can discuss Important Topics.  From the time we were juniors in high school, she has been the friend with whom I discuss books, articles, philosophy, current events, the political impact of music, education, careers, travel, and religious matters.  We rarely talk about boys, men, love, or sex.  It was never a subject either of us brought up in high school and we rarely bring it up now.  Only occasionally have those subjects arisen, and mostly when she’d first met her now-husband and wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  Our friendship not only passes, but defines the Bechdel Test.  Which is odd for a Best Friend relationship, one might think, in stories it’s always the best friend who the protagonist goes to for sex or love advice.  It’s an entire category of movie character, usually played by Judy Greer or Jeremy Piven.  But our friendship has never been of that sort.  In high school it was sort of a relief, because there were plenty of other girls who were happy to talk about those topics ad nauseam and nothing else.

College.  So many significant things happened to me in college.  One, I learned that I am smart.  Highly intelligent, even.  Not like Mensa intelligent, not like best-friend-from-college smart, but of above average intelligence.  I also learned how to drink alcohol, kiss boys, and to travel independently.  Sophomore year I met previously mentioned best-friend-from-college at our tiny college, in our even tinier English department.  Originally an equine major, she moved to the dark side after taking a seminar on Tolkien freshman year.  She and I wound up in almost all the same classes Sophomore year, including a Theater History class where, I feel, we really bonded.  Self-centered moron I am, I didn’t realize how close our friendship was until after the opening performance of Fahrenheit 451 when she ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me how well I’d done.  Starting then our friendship deepened significantly.  We were travel buddies during our semester abroad, she was there the first time I got really drunk, the first time I got really hung up on a dude, the first time I went home with a guy.  And I was there for her when she underwent similar foolishness.  We saw each other be incredibly silly about men, and make unbelievably wise decisions about our education and work.  We are each other’s favorite theater-going friend and she is still one of the first people I will talk to about dating woes.  All the things that brought us together in college — literature, theater, writing — are still our favorite topics.  She is lovely, generous, and supportive.  I see her the least of the four women I’m writing about today and, therefore, I miss her the most.  But I am always incredibly proud of her.

The friend I’ve seen the most lately is technically my boss.  We work for a seasonal outdoor education program where staff live all together on site, and recently I’ve shared a house with my direct supervisor.  We started working together in the spring of 2014, before that we knew each other a little, mostly by sight.  That first spring we worked together, however, our knowledge of one another turned from knowing a little about each other, to knowing everything about one another.  Staff relations that season were a little tense and few came to our house (even though that’s where the food is).  The Boss and I found ourselves, many nights and weekends, the only two hanging out.  A fun, friendly, chatty woman she and I quickly opened up to each other about a whole many things.  I used to lament that I didn’t have any Sex and the City friends, no group of women with which to discuss life, dating, and sex over brunch.  Suddenly, amongst other things, I had this: a woman I regard highly to whom I could unburden myself when feeling emotional, or frustrated about anything (not just men or sex).  She is a friend who would drink whisky with me when I broke up with someone and get excited with me when I met someone new.  The twelve months I was 29 turned out to be a particularly trying twelve months.  I was getting down about all the bummed out things that happened, sure nothing good happened that year.  But then I remembered the new friendship I’d developed with my housemate and colleague.  If there has ever been a bright spot, it has been her.  I am certain I would not have struggled through certain things as well as I did if it weren’t for her friendship.  I am happy she is there when I need her and I am more than happy to be there when she needs me.

The Girl Scout Law commands that one tries her best to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  Growing up with three older sisters, Girl Scout sisters, and, once I started school, a number of girl friends, I’ve always felt that line applies to all girls, all women, I chance to meet.  Sometimes those relationships don’t last, but others remain strong even when far apart.  That isn’t to say the latter is “better”, or “more real” than the former.  As Cher Horowitz says “all my friends [are] really good in different ways.”  I love all my friends for those things that make them good.  These four women, in particular, are friends whom I am exceptionally lucky to have because my life would be significantly different without them.

A Story of Natural Consequences

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A little ways to the left of the dock above is a deep channel dug years ago for irrigation purposes.  Whoever was digging it gave up and now it’s just a deep, muddy ditch.  This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that the program I work for regularly brings students into that marsh.  Which isn’t actually a big deal: typically, our students listen to us when we tell them not to go into the mud because they’ll sink in up to their waists.  Typically they hear these instructions and heed our advice.  Typically.

Last week, the final week of our program for the school year, we had a school from the Boston inner city area.  With urban schools, my main objective is to get the kids out into nature, to try to get them to connect with something, anything, in the outdoors.  Now Boston isn’t New York in terms of nature, but my goal remains the same.  This is mud, those are trees, bug spray goes on you not the insects.

Regardless of where a school is from my rules are simple: we stay together, we have fun and learn something, don’t get hurt.  This last school had a little trouble with the rules.  None of the students got hurt, but half were having trouble with the “have fun and learn something” rule (“it’s so cold!”, “there are so many bugs!”, “I’m gonna get wet!”), while the other half was disregarding the “stay together” rule.

Tuesday, we’re in the marsh, about four girls have informed me they have to pee (these muffins are not prepared to go in the trees), I am attempting to get us as close to an actual bathroom as possible.  This is proving difficult as the kids not into the exploration are dragging their feet, and the kids who are into finding animals in the marsh keep finding really cool crabs and asking questions about the various species, and I’m really pumped to stop and examine and answer their questions.  However, slowly, but surely, we are getting closer and closer to the dock above (which is a short walk to the dining hall and, therefore, toilets) but we are still on the far side of the channel.

And I don’t realize that I’m not going to be able to get up ahead of them to warn them about the mud.

There I am, standing in the marsh, looking around to make sure all students are moving with the group, while staying away from the osprey nest on the point, when I turn back around to see, up ahead, K—-, a small, fifth grade boy in a clear plastic poncho, jump off the marsh, into the channel, and run/crawl up the far bank back onto the marsh.  I yell to them to stay where they are as the rest of the students and I make our way to the channel.  Miraculously all the students come gather around.  Mostly due to other kids yelling “K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  K—- LOST HIS SHOE!  MISS BECKA, K—- LOST HIS SHOE!”

K—- had, indeed, lost one of his shoes.

Very calmly, to the gathered students, I tell them that I am now going to tell them the story of the girl who jumped in the channel.  She didn’t listen to me, got ahead of me, much like K—- did, jumped in the channel and sank up to her waist in the mud.  She was lucky, however, I told my students.  Unlike another student who lost his boot in the mud.  When his teacher reached in to get it out, she pulled out a boot, sure; but not that kid’s boot.  A different boot.  K—-‘s shoe is gone.  K—-‘s shoe is no more.  There is no shoe.  It’s gone, baby; gone.

And I couldn’t be mad at him.  Couldn’t yell at him.  I couldn’t give him a warning or a strike for running ahead.  The boy lost his shoe in the mud.  Forever.  I wasn’t about to jump in there and try to retrieve it, especially after the kid told me he had another pair in the cabin.  I did tell his teacher when we got back, however.  He agreed with me: Natural Consequences.  Now the kid knows if he jumps in the mud again: he might lose his shoes.

This child is destined to lose shoes, though; I’m convinced.  The next day, that same student almost lost his sandal to the ocean.  Another kid fished it out with a crabbing net.

Don’t Look at Me Like That

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
You’ll still be thinking that
of me twenty years from
now.
We’ll see each other in
a bar, and I’ll admit
I stole your hall pass sim-
ply because it was yours.
Too embarrassed to con-
fess, I hid it in a
hole.
And I fear the day they
find that ceiling; and I
live my embarrassment
again.
And you’ll make me feel as
incompetent as you
always did back in the
day when I took it.
So don’t look at me like that
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
Twenty years from now you’ll
feel the same when you see
me in a coffee shop.
And I’ll just want to die
because it will be the
one time I wear your sweat
shirt;
the one I ‘borrowed’ the
night I let you go where
no boy had gone before.
Hopped up on caffeine, I’ll
admit that I took it
meant to be in exchange.
Then you’ll know what you didn’t
(’cause I never told you);
it will be so strange.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
And nothing will have changed
in twenty years when you
nervously edge toward me
to make awkward small talk
about work and family.
I’ll tell you I have your
DVDs, as if I
just found them. But the truth
is I’ve found and lost them
a dozen times since then.
And you’ll make a joke that
will put neither of us
at ease. And I’ll admit
I think of you every
time I post a letter
and laugh every time I
walk because I know how
you’d balk at me walking
alone down the street.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
That’s how you’ll feel about
me in twenty years when
you see me again at
our friends’ vow renewal.
We’ll drink red wine as we
discuss the pink-hued past,
and share the sepia-toned now.
And I’ll admit that I
donated your sweatshirt
years ago ’cause I thought
we were a hopeless case.
You’ll laugh, shake your head, say
‘you’re right, of course’, and I’ll
feel like I’ve let you down
even though we both know
it’s the other way around.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Don’t look at me like that;
I know what you’re thinking.
Nothing will have changed in
twenty years from now, when
our work will overlap;
You’ll be there with her; you’ll
see I’ll be there with me.
And by then I won’t want
to punch you in the chest.
But I’ll tell you how I
fantasized I did.
And I never listened
to your music again,
But I kept the earrings
you gave to me back then.
And if you read between
the lines, you’ll finally
understand just how much
I loved you.
So don’t look at me like that,
because I already know
what you are thinking.

Blogs: When we need them, and when we don’t.

“For, what, two years I wrote an essay about nearly every book I read and I posted it on my Tumblr: Literary Bex. I loved everything about writing those essays. They ranged from pure reader/response pieces to analytical. I ranted about books I read, and I raved; I poured my heart out, and I remained incredibly reserved. Sometimes I had a bone to pick with the writer over nit-picky things like character development or more basic writing skills like grammar. In 2013 I’ve written two essays. I’ve read more than two books this year, but I only felt like I needed to write two essays, and they were back in February when life was amazingly, and stupidly, and unnecessarily rough. But the rest of the year I haven’t needed this blog the way I have in the past.”

This is how I started my first essay for Literary Bex, the Tumblr, in nine months (it’ll be posted Friday 11/22 at 12 pm Eastern).  I wrote a grand total of two essays back in February and then I stopped.  On the one hand it may have been because I started working in March and didn’t stop until August.  Even then I was only taking a three week break between jobs, during which I traveled and slept on a beach.  I started working in September and only last week stopped again.  Because I lead the life of a seasonal worker.

This is the cold truth, is it not?  I only seem to blog with any seriousness when I am not employed.  As if these blogs are filling the time I, the rest of the year, spend running around with my students and campers teaching them stuff.  I work amazingly long days when I’m employed and have minimal time and energy to spend reading.  Even less energy to write anything about them.  On my days off this summer (weekends) I spent most of my time reading, watching Netflix, and making bracelets.  I wasn’t interested in writing about what I had read: I was reading to keep my mind from turning to mush as I spent most of my time trekking about the Connecticut woods with eight to twelve year-olds (the rest of my time was spent dispensing words of wisdom – gleaned from all my years of living – to my 18 to 22 year old coworkers).  Reading something not about sex-lives or bugs was a mental necessity.

I didn’t need the blogs.  I didn’t need to sit down and write about the things I was thinking.  I needed to relish in the delight of reading this year.  I didn’t need to analyze what I was reading.  I didn’t need others to read about what I think about what I’ve read.  I didn’t need the internet.

And, it was nice.  It was nice to read without feeling like I needed to think about it.

I started Literary Bex, the Tumblr, because I needed it at the time.  I needed occupation.  I was unemployed, living with my sister’s family outside Boston, and I was reading… a lot.  I read so many books that winter it was ridiculous.  I had so many thoughts and I missed writing essays about what I was reading.  So I started writing essays about what I was reading.  I wrote essays about books, plays, novellas, graphic novels, short stories, comic strips, TV shows… I wrote essays about so many forms of storytelling; every kind of story I was absorbing, I was writing about it.  I needed it.

This year I didn’t.

I might, and I probably will, again need to write these essays with the same regularity, but for now I am all set.  I’m still happy to discuss, answer questions, engage in discourse about books I have read; but the need to analyze is minimal at the moment.  Please, if you want to discuss books, I am here.  Otherwise, happy reading.

Xxx Bex

Stream Stomp!

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Stream Stomp!

I really like my job. People don’t understand this. People who don’t work at my job, I mean. People who DO work at my job wholeheartedly understand why I keep coming back despite the long hours, isolated locations, close quarters, bad camp food, (sometimes) terrible coworkers, little pay, and seasonal employment. But we love our job.

We love it, for one reason, because kids are weird. Kids are freakin’ weird. Children have asked me the weirdest questions over the years, made the funniest statements, and generally made me laugh. This past week we got the tiniest child to wear the banana costume during dinner (yes, we have a banana costume).

Another reason is because we, the teachers, as well as the kids, are constantly learning new things. Our first season doing outdoor ed, my friend said to me: “This job is great! We get paid to LEARN!” (we’re very nerdy here).

Also: we get to do really REALLY fun things like stomp around in the river and look for animals. When I worked at the ocean site, I could take my groups down to the docks with a few buckets and nets, string, and a bag of leftover meat and spend a few hours catching crabs. Now that I’m back in the woods, along a Connecticut river, I get to take buckets and nets to the water and spend a couple hours catching crayfish and frogs. Do you get to do that at your job?

2013-05-03 10.34.15This week I tried a class that had previously terrified me.  I never really understood it.  But we had second through fifth graders this week, many of whom did not speak much English, and I figured I could take them to the river and have them catch creatures for an hour and a half and it would be fun and (sort of) educational.

2013-05-03 10.47.24And I was right: my students had so great a time, on the last day I took my group down for our final Field Group to the river to catch animals.  They got wet, they picked up animals, they slipped on rocks, they climbed on everything, and had a wonderful time.

2013-05-03 11.24.18I had girls catching frogs with their bare hands, naming them, falling in love with these wild little creatures, wishing they could bring them home to New York with them (which they cannot).  It was wonderful to see Girly Girl types bare-handing these precious amphibians and having zero qualms about getting dirty and tromping around in the mud and holding frogs.

2013-04-30 10.41.46

One kid had brought this net case for capturing animals.  We used it more than once for frogs and aquatic insects that we discovered while exploring the streams and the river.2013-04-30 10.41.02_1

I had another student, a boy, who caught a shit-ton of crayfish with just a net and his bare hands.  He collected them all in a bucket and was determined to show them to his teacher even though we HAD TO RELEASE THEM AND GO BACK because they were loading the busses and they had to go home.  But it was adorable that all he wanted to do was see just how many of these weird, tiny lobster, crustaceans he could collect.

2013-05-03 11.51.01It was almost exactly like catching crabs, which I also had to warm up to doing myself, and I loved every second of it.  My mission, now that it’s warmer and nicer weather here in the northeast, is to take the buckets and nets out at least once, if not twice, a week and see how many of what my students can collect out of our waters.  It was, by far, the most fun I have had in a very long time.

2013-05-03 10.46.55And, quite frankly, there’s really nothing greater than watching children do something they might never get to do at home or with their families, or in their daily lives; either because they simply don’t have the opportunity, or because their parents won’t let them do things like go down to the stream and catch frogs.  I always was intrigued, as a kid, by characters in movies and books who just ran around the neighborhood and rode their bikes to bodies of water and caught frogs and fish and tried to bring them home.  As a kid I never would have known how to do these things.  No one ever showed me and I wasn’t allowed to leave the yard, unless I was riding a bike (not my bike, a bike, I never had my own bike) and even then I could only ride it around the portion of the street where we lived.  I assume many kids get an upbringing like mine, one where I had many restrictions on what and where I could do and go, and I want those kids to be comfortable in the outdoors and open up to things like getting dirty and being knee deep in a river solely for the purpose of scooping up a tadpole or fish or crab or whatever.

While I had restrictions while at home, I also have an outdoorsy mother who did take me places where I could get dirty and encouraged me to spend time in and appreciate nature.  She made me environmentally aware and for that I am forever grateful.  I am glad that I figured out how to be in the outdoors on my own, as a grownup, but I do appreciate her appreciation and passing that on to me.  I don’t plan on having children of my own and therefore the best way I can pass on what my mother gave to me is to work with children in the outdoors and help them be comfortable exploring the outdoors.

I know I can’t do this forever, but while I still have the energy I am very happy to be doing this.  I do wish it were more year round; however, I am still very happy to be doing what I can.  I really do love my job.  My job is not odd; it is not stress-free; it is not “normal” — all that is definitely part of what keeps me coming back.

Kids are Weird.

Especially when they only see adults in one context and they make all sorts of assumptions about them.  This week my students asked me the following questions:

+ Have you ever worn a dress?

+ Do you have a boyfriend? (Standard question; I was actually asked this twice this week by very different children.)

+ Do you like boys?

+ Who do you have a crush on?

+ What do you think is an inappropriate age to have a baby?

+ Wouldn’t she [a 13 year old mother] die because she’s too young to have a baby?

From Susan Cain’s “Quiet”

Quote

“Williams also identifies leadership training as a primary benefit of cooperative learning. Indeed, the teachers I met seemed to pay close attention to their students’ managerial skills. In one public school I visited in downtown Atlanta, a third-grade teacher pointed out a quiet student who likes to “do his own thing.” “But we put him in charge of safety patrol one morning, so he got the chance to be a leader, too,” she assured me.
This teacher was kind and well-intentioned, but I wonder whether students like the young safety officer would be better off if we appreciated that not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word – that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, and others to be independent of it.”

I read this last night when I couldn’t sleep, yet was slowly drifting off, and it reminded me of some work evaluations I have had.  Now, I accept criticism pretty well.  I don’t like being told I’m wrong when I don’t think I am, but I accept criticism, constructive criticism, fairly well.  I know my own shortcomings and if someone can help me either get around them or correct them, then I am all ears.  And I know when it’s good advice (especially when I don’t follow it and I should have).

But I went into an evaluation a year or so ago and my then supervisor, I think, started the conversation with: “You are not a leader”.  I was so shocked by that statement.  I don’t ever remember telling him that I wanted to be a leader.  I don’t remember ever doing anything to indicated that might be something I was desirous of that season.  In fact, I think I’d once told him – on an extremely awkward date months earlier – that I had no intention of seeking a leadership position within our company.  That particular season I didn’t want to be a leader.

A person in our company, even if they are not a supervisor, can absolutely be a leader.  Returning staff are meant, to a degree, to be leaders for the new staff to follow: I’m all about doing this, it’s how I learned the job and it isn’t a task I shy away from.  Our new staff members that season, I took an active interest in them and was friendly and, hopefully, I led, to a degree, by example.  But there were so many returning staff that season that I didn’t have to be a stand out leader.  Other seasons, when I’ve worked on smaller staffs, I’ve stepped up and been a more proactive leader, teaching and guiding and explaining things to new staff as needed.  That particular season my “leadership” wasn’t necessary.  (He also, in the same conversation, praised me for always being willing to do what was needed.)

I won’t lie, I was laid back that season.  I took it a little easy.  It may have been a little because I’d started dating the TMM that season; it may have been a little because the last time my supervisor and I spoke before I arrived on site that season was an awkward conversation earlier in the summer and all fall I didn’t know where I stood with him and I wasn’t brave enough to confront him about it; but mostly it was because I never wanted to be a leader.  I wasn’t looking for that responsibility.  It was really nice that entire year I didn’t feel like I had to be anyone’s mentor (not that I mind doing it for new staff, but sometimes it can get overwhelming when, you know, it’s not in your job description).

I never claimed to be a leader.  I never aspired to be a leader the way I’m almost positive my middle child, borderline ADD, extroverted supervisor meant the term “leader”.  I wasn’t even sure why we were talking about my “leadership skills” in my evaluation.  And I’m still not certain why he said it as if this was news to me.  And it was coming on the heels of my previous evaluation where my then supervisor wrote, and I paraphrase, “that people overlook me because I’m so quiet”.  (Which I also find interesting when we encourage our teachers not to ignore the quiet kid and to remind our students that we really need to listen to everyone in the group because if we don’t listen to everyone’s ideas we might miss out on an even better idea, etc, etc.)  These two statements, clearly, have stuck with me; mostly because I don’t agree with them.

Amongst my peers, my fellow teachers, I have more than my fair share been looked to for leadership.  Which is sometimes OK, but often crap; because it usually meant we had a bad supervisor.  I remember what it was like to walk into this bizarre world in which we live and how overwhelming it can be and I was able to survive it, in part, because I wasn’t going through it alone (seven of our ten staff my first season were new); but mostly there are one or two new people on the staffs I’ve worked with and I have always done right by the new person, and even the returning staff when they need the support of their fellow teachers — and they have been there for me.  That is a form of leadership.  Just being there for the people you work with — especially in a setting where you also live together.  I never want to be the loudest person in a room, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that because a person isn’t the loudest person in the room, or doesn’t jump at the chance to lead activities, that means they don’t have “leadership skills”.

Ps. I’m finding this book very empowering.

Vintage Stores

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Vintage Stores

I want a job in a vintage/consignment/thrift store, but I don’t know how to go about getting one. Hell, I’d settle for Free People or Anthropologie, quite frankly. I have always thought I’d really enjoy a small, locally owned, retail job. But I’m so crap at getting jobs like this.