My dad said that when he ran track that everyone called him Freddie. I don’t know when it happened, but I am pretty sure it was sometime around 2007, when students started calling me Fred. I don’t really like it, I would prefer Kelly, but I have come to accept it. The inevitable Fred. Parents whom I have not yet met are always surprised at conferences to discover that I am not a man. Perk.
We just wrapped our annual art show and I am exhausted. Not just exhausted, but tired. TIRED. Sean keeps saying, “What’s up with you?” I am TIRED. Super, super fucking tired. He says, “What happens to the girl I met?” and I just stare blankly with tears in my eyes, trying to communicate the full level of exhaustion that comes with teaching and I just cannot seem to adequately express it.
Dear graduating AP Art Studio students of 2017, I love you so much, but I am so tired. I think, sometimes, that I just cannot do this anymore. The energy expended, the commitment that comes with 100% of me going into you … it’s just …. it’s like giving birth 1000x times over and then by time 999, the push comes with the sigh of, “I just cannot.”
But then … at the show I watch all these red dots go up on the work. You sold your work! Complete strangers walked in, connected with something you created with your hands and your heart, validated your experience with praise or money or both and in an instant I know that future you will surround yourself with the dreamers and the empaths. I know that future you values the arts, values the arts in education, values voice, and most of all values your own self. None of that makes me feel less tired, but it does make me know that if my job on this planet was to be the stone that caused the ripple, then I have done my job. There is something satisfying in that, something delicate and complete.
Yet at the center of it, I wanted there to be more. I wanted it to be me. I wanted the studio and the studio dog and the light in the window and my words in magazines and so I wonder if in all that giving if Fred is all that I am.
That thought is so overwhelming and comes with so many questions that start with the word “how,” that I stop asking and resign myself to eating ice-cream sandwiches in my underpants, perfectly content to watch the Kardashians, fully aware that horrible crimes against humanity are happening all over the world and that my hunger to be called something other than Mom or Fred are trivial wants in comparison to most humans.
No one calls my dad Freddie anymore. Recently, someone finally broke his college hurdling record at St. Norbert college, knocking him down a peg, but not erasing him from the college’s hall of fame. I think I was about eleven years old when my mom said, “Your dad has one prayer and it goes, “help me be a better father, a better teacher, a better husband, and a better friend.” That is a pretty good prayer, I think, but I think the part that is missing, the part that we all miss, is asking, “help me be me.”
This year I started building a religious shrine next to my bed. I ordered pictures of Jesus and Mary from an Orthodox church in Greece. I ordered a Buddha from Singapore and, three times now, I have made time to study with a shaman. I know this is ironic seeing I started my last post with a quote that started with the line, “I don’t believe in God.” What I am looking for, I suppose, is to trust the god within. Buddha, Jesus, the Shaman, the angels, and me.
I rocked Quinn and we read his book and I noted, silently, that he has just gotten to be a bit too big to be comfortably rocked. For heavens sake, his hands are almost as big as mine are. My own body is looking more and more like fifty and not in a, “Wow, Jennifer Aniston is almost fifty,” kind of way, but more in an Aunt Bea/Andy Griffith sort of way. The physical is changing. No more babies, the middles are almost out of the house, Luke is supposedly a man… and here I am, still “just teaching.”
By September that resignation will turn from “just teaching,” to “TEACHING,” but for now, I just need that nine week hiatus to find my own core again, to close my eyes and let go of all of the voices calling my name, and instead, own my own name. It doesn’t start with F.