“Darkness creeps in like a thief
And offers no relief.” — Peter Gabriel
The last few days of writing have opened up a few wounds that need to be healed. This is the way these things always happen. This space has always been about sharing my feelings, but it is always a way to get all of those things out of my system. It keeps me from hanging onto anger, but today I’m releasing the fear and pain.
Two events changed my life forever. Actually I’m sure it’s more, but two events are what you are getting today. In order to avoid just simply unloading I probably should make my point. I was considering the whole anti-vaxxer point of view and made a mental connection with those that are anti-welfare. In fact, we will just classify these people as anti.
They feel like it won’t happen to them. I understand it because I used to be that way. I watched some students waste time, skip school, and sluff off on their work and honestly felt they deserved the fate that awaited them. We shouldn’t help them. They chose to be slugs. Slugs get what they get. Even if they wake up at 20 and realize they screwed up they still deserve their fate.
The same was somehow true with health. I always took vaccines because I believe in their efficacy, but I was rarely affected by any of this. Those that are anti assume none of this will happen to them. Even if they do get Covid, it will be relatively minor. There always has been and always will be a subset of people that can’t fathom bad things happening to them and can’t be bothered to worry about bad things happening to others.
Halfway through my teaching career I was let go as an elementary counselor. Honestly, looking back it wasn’t a good fit. I know I would be better at it now, but I also know it just wasn’t what I was meant to do. I was just so desperate to get a counseling job that I didn’t consider the fit. Unfortunately, the state of Texas was going through financial issues in education and cutting back everywhere. I had lost in a game of musical chairs.
I floated for a year doing odd jobs and hoping for another opportunity. Then, I began the second year driving a school bus with a masters degree and teaching certificates coming out of every direction. In the middle of the year I transferred and became a teacher’s aide. Again, I was earning somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 dollars an hour with a masters degree.
The whole experience was incredibly humbling. I had always landed on my feet before. There was always another teaching job waiting for me. Today I recognize that as privaledge. Then, I just assumed that was the way it always was going to be.
A little less than three years ago, I had a major infection in my foot that ended up being made worse by diabetes. Health was another thing I had taken for granted. I never missed more than a few days of school every year. Suddenly, I was out from March through the end of the year.
The diabetes has been stabilized and I’m thankful for that, but it’s pierced the armor and given me a mortal wound to my confidence. I was deathly afraid of Covid. I had some vision problems that suddenly became alarming (that I have since gone to doctor for) and some other assorted health concerns that have frightened me. I’m still frightened that something else will happen.
These two things have taught me a bunch of humility. I spent time trying to heap DirecTV onto unsuspecting customers. I was the grossly overeducated guy at Barnes and Noble checking you out. These used to be the people who I would wonder what went wrong in their lives. Now, I don’t have to wonder. I also don’t have to consider them as “other people.”
I came to realize that everyone deserves a second and even third chance to get things right. People deserve to feel healthy and deserve to have their anxieties eased. Sure, we are all possibly a single breath away from meeting our maker, but in the meantime we can offer everyone peace of mind whether they are responsible for their health problems or not.
Along the way, I had people help me through both situations. Some were family and some weren’t. My coworkers picked up the slack for me when I was sick. I had others help me get back into the classroom as a teacher when I was out. We don’t exist in this world alone. This is even true when we have a hand in creating those situations.
I could have stayed in the classroom and not taken the counseling job. I would likely have never wound up in the situation I was in. I could have taken better care of myself and not wound up in the hospital. Unfortunately, wisdom comes late to the party. Every negative situation I’ve had, I’ve had a hand in creating. I know that now. I didn’t know it then.
In a similar way, millions struggle with their careers or health and don’t realize their own culpability at the time. The anti crowd seizes on that culpability without considering the fallout. They will realize some day and what will be done when that some day comes? Will we lend a hand to get them back on their feet or will we simply tell them they shouldn’t have put themselves in this position in the first place? It’s hard to say the cruelty isn’t the point, but I’ve been there on both sides and I know the thinking behind it. The anti crowd doesn’t see it as cruelty. They see it as tough love. I just can’t go down that road anymore.