To the Girl Who Stood Behind Me In Line At the Union Street Market

To the girl who stood behind me in line at the Union Street Market:

You are too drunk or high to realize that I’m being rude, but if you were to call me out on my rudeness, I would make the excuse that I have a lot on my mind.

I do.

I am contemplating the vulgarity of the world. I’m tense.

I’m trying to figure out how to sleep when people are dying and when not enough places sell vanilla Coke.

I wonder if you think about the same things.

You awkwardly reach around me to put your finger on a piece of packaging. You look at me and smile and laugh. As a pleasantry, I grin before moving forward in the line.

“You were holding this down,” you say, referring to the packaging. “I thought I’d help.”

I hadn’t realized that my hand was on the packaging. I was resting my hand there absentmindedly.

You try to start a conversation about the box. It holds several containers of energy shots. “You seemed very interested,” you say.

“I’m trying to go to bed soon. I don’t need any energy.” I’m hoping you don’t notice the hypocrisy of me buying a vanilla Coke.

“I should go to bed soon, too.” You say it as if you don’t mean it and know it.

I buy my vanilla Coke as you ask about the single blueberry bagel left on the counter. The cashier ignores your inquiry.

As I leave, you ask for a pack of Marlboros.

What kind of person are you like when it is not 12:30 am on a Monday night? What classes do you go to during the day? What kind of family do you have? What are you passionate about? What keeps you up at night?

These are the questions I mean to ask you. But it’s easier to box you in with the energy shots.

I Will Teach: A Promissory Note to a Future Student

Note: Unlike most of the things I write, this is not based on one factual occurrence. Instead, it is a composite of many experiences.

I have been given the instructions to mentor you. I have been given neat little packets that tell me the words to say.

“What do you want to be?”

“A mechanical engineer,” you answer.

“Great! Write that down!”

I glimpse at your sheet and see the words “megin engineer.”

You are in tenth grade. You are pimply, bright, optimistic, witty, and beautiful. But you can’t spell “mechanical.” I wouldn’t be bothered by it–“mechanical” is a hard word–except that word you spelled isn’t even phonetically close. And that’s when the gravity of the situation comes crashing down on me.

The neat little packets don’t know you.

I realize that you don’t need a mentor. You need a leader. You don’t need to be asked “What do you want to be?” You need to be asked “What combination of letters put together can also make the “k” sound?” Both questions are important, and you will get to both. You can even ask the first while you are asking the second, but the second should be present, too. You need someone to tell you each and every step for a while. Eventually, you will grow out of that. But right now, you need someone to help you.

You are everywhere. You are always in my head. You are perpetually getting off the bus that I’m stopped behind. You are in the group of kids sitting in the local coffee shop. You are on the playground when I walk by at lunch time.

You are everywhere. Today you were in Detroit. And I had a mini panic attack when I woke up because I thought I should get on an airplane and fly to you immediately. Yesterday you were in Appalachia, and I could have driven to you. The day before that you were in Atlanta, and I was afraid of the culture shock. Tomorrow you will be in New Mexico, and the arid heat will feel new and foreign against my skin.

Sometimes you jump across the ocean, where, the experts tell me, you know how to spell “mechanical,” but you can’t think critically about whether becoming a mechanical engineer will be a good occupation for you.

All this to say that you are constantly living in the back of my mind. I’m often guilty that I’m not with you.

When I go to being the mentor, I know how little it is. How it’s hardly anything at all. But right now, it’s all I can do.

I’m coming, wherever you are, I’m coming.

I promise.

To The Critic/Skeptic/Asshole at the Party

My friends and I have a joke that I can make any conversation be about education. There’s a lot of truth in it.

The world just makes more sense in terms of education. I think about the world in terms of teachers and students. I can’t help it.

My friend Benji says that the act of education is one of the purest acts of love–that there are teachers and students everywhere. I think he’s right.

And that’s why you make me sad. That’s why I avoid large social gatherings. There is always one of you. Usually alone in a corner. Either with or without drink. Brooding. You don’t fit here.

The worst part is that you don’t have to be here. But you think you do. You think that the only way of being is the way your peers are being.

And it depresses me because no one ever loved you enough to tell you that you are allowed to believe in something. You are allowed to have faith in something so big and crazy that no one else can understand it. You are allowed to be head over heels for something or someone. You are allowed to make your dreams into reality.

But no one ever told you.

When I look at you, I see someone who was always told what to do. I see someone whose opinion was never respected. I see someone who desperately wants to be different.

But no one ever gave you permission.

You are the reason I want to teach. You are the reason I want to put the formal label on the act of love I already prize.

Everyone should know that it’s okay to believe in something.