Friday, 2 June 2017

We've got to make our noises

I've been thinking on that line from "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman, "I am large, I contain multitudes." I like to apply it to myself in a way that would make Walt question my IQ. I'm pretty sure he's just reminding us that he writes for all the voices of the world, but I like to think it means that I get to be more than one thing. Aren't we all a little hard wired to resent anyone putting Baby in the corner?

People love to ask my poor high school seniors what they are majoring in. I want to elbow all of the well meaning askers out of the way. It's the rare student that knows with a capital KN. I try to telepathically deliver the message that I hope they major in adventure and learning and flexibility and change and opportunity. I hope they study responsibility and hard work and buck-up. I hope they examine humanity and find ways to make this mixed up world better. I hope they choose joy over whining and make the best of bad situations. There are going to be so many bad situations.

When I'm not rolling my eyes at the tradition of locking youthful minds into one trajectory, I'm wrestling with my own notions of success. In my career, I've always sought opportunities to switch grades or subjects. Someone once called me a "job jumper". It felt yucky. Another person, after my shift from the middle to the high school, shook his head and said, "Well, we're not all middle school people." I was horrified. It never felt like I was escaping anything; it always just felt like I was getting the grand chance to learn something new.

College didn't have "professional temp worker" as an option, and I only had a fraction of a developed brain, so by sheer miracle and divine intervention I ended up in a career that allows me growth not towards more money, power, or accolades (ha!) but towards various fields and options and disciplines. And even then, even though I was getting all sorts of New in my life, time and time again I found myself at the drawing table or the writing desk or reading manuals on how to start a small business. There were pieces of me that wanted to diverge from educational texts to books about design and fonts and creative writing. 

I'd always doodled and scribbled. My family always made things. I didn't consider myself an artist or author. It didn't matter to me to have a label. I just valued making and sharing homemade gifts. But when I was pregnant with my son, eight years ago (oh lordy), it became important to create a finished product. I printed some pretty awful cards and Advent calendars (one of which had the days numbered wrong. Sorry, kids!). But in that half-baked process of evening sketching after day time teaching and waddling down school hallways with a growing belly, I felt very alive and very curious. 

That wonder never left. No matter how sleep deprived I was in those early years of Oscar Gus, there was never a nap time I didn't want to draw or write. And since darling Oscar only slept about 10 minutes a week, I wasn't particularly productive, but I was very focused. I knew what I wanted to learn. I knew there was more to explore.

And what a good lesson in renewal. On my birthday recently, a blessed no-expectations-41, I vowed to stop swearing. It's not that I'm a total potty mouth, but I've gotten a bit relaxed, and a few mother pheasants have flown out of these lips. And then, about 45 minutes into the day, at 5:20am (for reals), while running to school with my buddies (because I sure know how to have fun on my big day), I saw what I thought was a snake (a fearsome stick). I screamed a holy shamrock, and I broke my vow. In 45 minutes. But, I am large. I contain multitudes. I'm not defined by all my son of a biscuits or my what the hockey sticks. I get to try again. Or I get to be a runner that sometimes swears. Either way, I get do-overs and new selves and tomorrow mornings. I get to steal 10 minutes a day or week to renew. 

This ramble is all to say that after eight years of hodge-podging my multitudes into blogs and instagrams and facebooks and businesses, I've made some peace. They get to be all of me. I get to be Becky Green, "Lady who does lots of things sorta-halfway-okay. Sometimes." I'm jealous of the folks that know they are a brain surgeon or sculptor or great American novelist. Singular focus seems so stable. But, it's not me. My new tomorrow morning is a half-finished website (which is probably very 15 years ago), and a willingness to celebrate my mismatched endeavors: an alphabet book, a sketchnote journal, prints, doodles, teaching, speaking, a half-written novel, an almost-open-again business. I don't do all of it well, but I do all of it. And it keeps me wonder-filled. 

Perhaps that is less Walt Whitman and more Dr. Seuss. And not the Oh The Places You'll Go cliche that all my students are getting as gifts this week. No. Horton Hears a Who: "We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts! So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!"

Hopefully my noises are fewer swear words and more ah-has. But I've got to make them.

Very Boring Technical FYI: now takes you to my website. On that homepage, you'll find a link to this same blog ( The address to the blog is long and unhelpful. Sorry, friends. You'll have to bookmark it. Don't worry--you get to swear under your breath! We are large! We contain multitudes!