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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This I Believe #4, 2011

Please post your TIB essay by noon on Friday, February 18th.

11 comments:

  1. sometimes i find my mind empty
    - of words, of thought, of feeling.

    for me this is a relief
    - a breath, a break, a healing.

    i don’t stress this.
    no, i don’t press it.
    i just wait, rest,
    believing
    in these most welcome
    moments
    of peace.

    i believe in being
    empty
    if only to remind me
    to still be.

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  2. The walls are always so stark and bare.
    You know when you move in that it's not your place, that even if you were sure you could get comfortable in the city you've found yourself in, this particular room (often made of cinder blocks) is going to belong to someone else in less than a year.
    You stand there. With your roommate who you may or may not know. Someone you've lived with for years, or someone who has been squeezed into your space and your life because you both wrote down the same kind of music you were interested in;
    You will later find that your versions of the same genre word are very very different.
    There is uncomfortable shuffling. Other people have planned ahead and bought bedding that matches. You have either just one wall or your own, or the pair of you share the area behind a door which could be an actual apartment.
    This apartment will have too many walls. They will be the most unfortunate color of off-white that can be managed, because no one else would paint anything that color.
    But in the niche where your computer sits, and over your bed, and slightly off kilter on the wall by the TV, posters and photos and notes from friends who seem too far away will begin to crowd the walls, and will slowly cover the blankness that keeps you from belonging somewhere.
    I believe in sticky tack. And posters. And slightly bent photographs.

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  3. The man on the television screen shouted his opposition before the jury of his peers, vehemently proclaiming his innocence. He was a bedraggled, heavily bearded specimen with a feral look; a look of someone that could possibly do whatever it takes for him to prosper. The man had been accused of robbery and his case seemed to already of been solved for him, as his peers looked on with unambiguous disdain. With the verdict already given, the boy watching this occur on his television changed the channel, seeking something that seemed worth watching. As he surfed the media sea, he stumbled upon another of those reality shows that pits people against each other. Once again, the people here were fighting for one thing; themselves. Their spittle flew in all directions as they yelled with each other as confusion had taken the place of logic long ago. With a weary sigh, the boy began his search once again on this ocean of hate. Eventually, he stumbled upon the news networks, where the only news worth watching (apparently) was the deaths of people and the actions of humanity that had caused them. Again and again, the boy found examples of the hate in this world, real or not for it seemed that people enjoyed watching the hateful sides more than anything positive.

    “Why do these horrible things keep happening? If only someone had treated them properly in the beginning, this could all have been avoided. But I suppose this is impossible, considering that our televisions are constantly spewing out the hate of our race, insinuating that we must all fight with tooth and bone to get anywhere in our lives.” The boy said.

    The boy switched the television to the off position, cutting off the constant stream of bile that seems to perpetuate there. He took the steps to go outside, hoping to clear his mind of such troubling thoughts before noon, at least. There he saw a group of people, some children some adults, working on one of the largest sand castles that could possibly be built in such a tiny square of sand. All of them were laughing and it seemed that everyone had a part…no one was left out from the fun. Nearby on the interstate, someone had blown a tire on his voyages. The man was not distressed, though; another car had stopped to help him replace his tire. They both worked on replacing this tire together and in short time it was replaced. With a beaming smile, the owner of the injured card happily shook the hands of the other, offering to pay him. The man waved this off and simply said “It was the right thing to do.” Handshakes were given once again and both men drove off, significantly giddier than they were before the boy was sure. As time passed, the boy witnessed more acts of kindness (small and large) occur around him.

    “This is what needs to be displayed each day of the week.” The boy claimed.

    I believe in the humanity that dwells within us all, so long as that humanity is properly cultivated and encouraged.

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  4. “The things we don’t talk about are the things that will kill us”

    I decided to make my own list:

    We don’t talk about men who are gentle. Men who like to cook and are not embarrassed to cry (and not just when chopping onions). Men who would rather walk in the woods than watch football on TV. Men who do not hunt and will not teach their sons to handle guns (real or otherwise).

    We don’t talk about why owning a house, two cars, and a wife slices holes in the environment and tears through our souls. We don’t talk about the nightmare that is the American dream.

    We don’t talk about injustice when we talk about college curricula. Instead, we deliberate the number of GE requirements, Writing-Intensive courses, and Area III’s.

    We don’t talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, and privilege. Instead, we celebrate diversity.

    We don’t talk about women who survive rape and mothers who give birth to children after rape. Except only sometimes on obscure radio shows.

    We don’t talk about poverty and how we contribute to it. Instead, we make jokes about toothless people marrying their own cousins. It’s ok to laugh at rednecks and white trash.

    We don’t talk about tall, blue-eyed men wearing suits who are frightening. Instead, we point fingers at gay couples, men who wear nail polish, and girls in tight outfits.

    I wonder if making this list will save us. I wonder if I can believe in lists.

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  5. I remember watching whey drip from cheesecloth sacks draped low from a loose knot tied around the tall faucet in the kitchen sink. I remember the squeaking sound of fresh curds on my teeth when we persuaded our mother to let us have a few before she finished making them into cottage cheese.

    I loved climbing high into the apple tree behind the stream. We filled rough plastic feed bags with apples and made enough apple sauce to last all year. Months later when served at the table, its center would remain frozen. Everyone wanted that frozen serving of apple sauce. It was nice to cool your insides against the dry heat of the wood stoves that I had to keep supplied with hand-split wood throughout the winter.

    I took frog eggs into my first-grade classroom so everyone could watch them hatch and grow. We raised monarch butterflies on the porch and my mother brought a baby pig to show the other kids in school. The pig was probably a runt. We raised runts in the house until they were strong enough to survive with the other pigs—until they were too tall to fit comfortably under the dining room table.

    We made our own butter in summer. I found a churn much like ours in an antique shop when I was fifteen. It was at least ten years newer than the one we were using and although the technological advances in the crank and paddle structure looked useful, they were not worth $150.

    I was sometimes embarrassed and sometimes annoyed by the fact that my life was nothing like my classmates’ lives. They had television, video games, and blacktop driveways. I have memories that belong to someone twice my age. Years later I know that details of these memories mean less to me than the story they tell of my growing years.

    I believe in my childhood.

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  6. I believe in Kim Bland, Linda Johnson, and Lisa Waldeck-Huffer. I believe in every person who ever smiled at me when I checked out a book at the Hardin County Public Library.

    I believe in Lori Riney, Becky Dennis, and Sandy Freeman. I believe in every person that has ever taught (and when I say teachers I include assistants, lunch ladies, bus drivers, janitors, office staff, and one teddy bear of a principal) at Sonora Elementary.

    I believe in five wonderful women whose offices on the second floor of Cowgill are places full of more coziness, comfort, compassion, love, belief, motivation, hard work, and talking than most people fathom receiving in their lifetime, much less from ladies they met three years ago.


    For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved books, learning, school, and the library.
    But I don’t think that’s why, even though I had been to the library only two days earlier, I sometimes stood on the back porch watching for the bookmobile go by so that we didn’t miss a minute of Lisa’s visit.
    I don’t think that’s why one day I unknowingly gave both Ms. Dennis and my mom a goodbye kiss on the cheek on my way to art class.

    I think I loved books and learning because I was loved. I was loved by people who loved books and learning so much they made it their life’s mission to help children appreciate the beauty of a good story. I was loved by my Mommy and by librarians, and teachers, and most every educator I’ve ever had.

    I was lucky. I was blessed. To live in Glendale, to have my parents, to have my educators. To love the people in my life and have them love me back, unquestionably.


    I believe I am who I am, that I am an educator, in large part because of the people who came before me and introduced me not only to books, but to the meaning of family not related by blood.

    I believe in people who know that teaching and loving are one in the same.

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  7. I didn’t do anything wrong that time, so I didn’t know why Mr. Walters held me after class. “Just wanna talk,” he says, “Just wanna know why it is you hang out with that crowd.” I don’t even answer his question. In a matter of words and seconds, this teacher—who had previously garnered respect or, at least, courtesy—transforms into the megaphone of everything I hate about the educational system that informs our socials ideas: “You should stop hanging out with them, they’re losers.”

    Both of my parents went to college. My dad is a lawyer. My mother can build a computer from start to finish. I have been told since childhood that I should work hard to make something of myself. The question of going to college has never been of “if” but of “when”. I have been molded into expectations. I did not need teachers to encourage me; I learned to do it myself.

    But what about the crowd I was hanging out with? Shouldn’t the system be encouraging them to improve instead of simply congratulating me for maintaining?

    I was always the bookworm in the stereotype: the smart skateboarder, the high-brow stoner, the more-clever-than-average scummy kid. And I was almost invariably best friends with the worst troublemakers in school: the hyperactive kids, the adolescent vandals, the kids throwing the keggers.

    My associations with them were never enough to discount my “smart kid” status. But I hated how their “bad influence” stigma covered their perseverance and vitality. Friends of mine are graduating from college, having art premiers, and can still drink you under the table.

    I was, and still am, the odd man out in some social situations. But it’s nice being the writer amongst them to get it all down.

    I believe in dirt bag friends. They’ll break your heart if you let them.

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  8. Katie, your reflection reads almost like a chant to use for meditating. There is so much to be said for emptying ourselves of everything we carry around with us, if only to be able to know what the things we carry feel like. I, too, believe in being empty.

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  9. Wow, this is a powerful belief, April. You must must must give a copy of your reflection to all the people you mention in it. If I were one of them, I would absolutely love to know that I have impacted someone in the way they've impacted you. You are lucky to have had so many loving teachers. Your students, too, will be lucky one day...

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  10. Dirt-bag friends? Did you invent that term, Clay? Either way, your care for your "loser" friends is apparent. I know, now, where some of your love for marginalized people and literary characters comes from. And I hope you realize how much Ashland means to you and to who you're becoming.

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  11. Blair, it seems your essay is about a belief in finding impermanent adhesives to permanently hold the people found in the images surrounding you indelibly into your life, even when there is noise created by people who are, ostensibly, chosen to replace the people in the photographs--chosen by someone other than yourself.

    i like this idea and it make me like sticky tack, too

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