I must have been in the third or fourth grade. We were standing, single-file, outside and waiting to have recess. We were being led by a teacher that taught our grade but wasn’t our actual teacher. I wasn’t fond of her, I remember.
It was chilly, but the sun was out. One of the rays of light hit me right in the face, and it felt so good. I could feel the warmth spreading across my nose and eyes. It felt so good, in fact, that I closed my eyes and smiled. I swayed, ever so slightly, as I let the brightness travel down to my toes. I relished in my moment of meditation for about 10 seconds (if that) and when I opened my eyes, found that the teacher was staring at me. I’ll never forget her face – absolute anger.
“Go to the wall,” she shouted, arm extended outwards, index finger pointing to the school’s brick wall. I felt the blood rush to my face. I hardly ever got in trouble and was really confused. What had I done?
The wall drained any warmth I had accrued just a few moments ago. It also took away my joy. I really couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong or why it had caused such a reaction from her. I was embarrassed, but mostly hurt. I was a fucking nerd (and in retrospect, already had low self-esteem) and desperately wanted the approval of all my teachers. I wanted to be one myself.
This was about 25 years ago, but I think about it often. To this day, I am unsure as to why enjoying the sun for a few seconds was such a bad thing to do, such an insult to the craft of being a learner. And the more I think about it – and I subconsciously realized it back then – the more I realize I didn’t do anything wrong at all.
The point: the shit we do and say affects people. It can hurt them or make their day a little better. It can weaken an already fragile perception of self or give it a confidence boost. It can reinforce pre-existing notions or allow for a change of mind, should they decide. Our roles as friends, partners, relatives, or strangers, even, isn’t to try to change or influence a person’s perception/behavior/feelings to one that matches our own. It’s to let them be and live in theirs. We aren’t supposed to stifle a child’s momentary delight in the sun; we should allow, encourage, and celebrate it.
So I’ll say now what I couldn’t say then: You can piss right off, Mrs. Whateverthefuckyournameis!