Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday afternoon, and I'm back in the library in San Saba.

Nope, there won't be any Friday dinner with Mom this week. In stead, I'm sitting in my regular seat at computer number two (one of seven here at the library, but one of only two that has Firefox downloaded to it), toiling away at the usual shit. I've got posts to set up so you folks will have somethin' to do while I'm away next week. More on that later.

Oh, everything is cool here. My three jobs have steadily wound down to one. I'm really looking forward to the next four weeks of working only here in Saba (well, one week of fishing and three of teaching), followed by another five weeks of total freedom... meaning five weeks of payed vacation from everyone.
Oh, it's gonna cost me. My salary will go down to about half or two thirds of what it normally is, but it'll be worth it to have the freedom and relaxation.

My Ft. Hood classes ended the Thursday before last, and the classes in Florence fizzled out this week. I had to go down there yesterday to finalize the grades and sign some paperwork, but other than that it's over. The Principal asked me a while back if I was gonna be coming back in the Fall. I told him I was torn. The money's OK, and It's steady, easy work, but
if I stopped comin' I get to sleep in every day until about 10:30 and have Fridays off. Three-day weekends would be nice to have. But I told him I'd be back. I can't turn down the money just yet. Soon though, and it'll be really nice when it does happen.

To tell the truth though, I think I'd miss it if I stopped teachin' these classes. I've gotten used to it all... bein' back in high school again. I went in last Tuesday to finish grading things and take roll. It was the last time I'd see most of those kids. They've been in my classes for two years now, but I've been teaching down there as long as they've been in High School. Four years. You remember how long those four years were when you were in school? I though they'd never end. but these have flown by.

A few of the Seniors asked me if I'd be going to their graduation, which takes place today. They really sounded disappointed when I told them I couldn't. I usually do attend, and I've always enjoyed it. I went to the last few, when some of their older brothers or sisters graduated. But I've got plans for next week, taking three days off from the jail to go fishing in Canada with my cousin and a few other guys. So I've had to come out here to San Saba to make up for a class I'll be missing next Wednesday.

I guess I'm surprised how much it upsets me not to be able to go to that Graduation today. It's always an emotional time. I'll never forget the first time I went to a
CTC graduation on Ft. Hood. Lots of my former students were getting their Associates Degrees. It was fun to recognize people from my classes and see them in their caps and gowns. It was even nicer when a few of them came up to me after and thanked me. It made me feel like what I do really is important. You forget that, getting used to the routine of it all. It's nice to remember it from time to time.

One of the kids in Florence asked me something as the class ended Tuesday. Something about life. She was jokin' around, making light of the fact that we wouldn't see one another again. I told her to live as full a life as she could, "but don't be stupid about it." We both laughed, but I repeated the words again as she was trailing off down the hall.

I figured out a while back that the best thing about teaching high school kids is the chance it gives me to try to pass on what little wisdom i think I've managed to cobble together in 48 years. I pick my moments carefully, finding part of a lecture where I can pontificate a bit. Ether that or I just jump in when I find them talking about a relevant topic.

A while back, a few of the bright ones were talking about their English teacher. She'd given them some Robert Frost to read. You know... The road less traveled, etc., etc.. One of the kids asked me what it was all about, and that was all it took. I told him that Frost was saying that sometimes it's better to take a path in life that takes you in a different direction. It takes courage to go a different way than everyone else. It takes you away from the crowd, and maybe in a getter direction. Of course, sometimes you'll find that path is less traveled for a good reason, but you will have gained a level of wisdom from the traveling. i told them that life was meant to be lived! That they shouldn't settle for just existing.

I told him I thought there was a better poem that said the same thing in a better way, clicked on YouTube and showed them this. It's Bono reciting a poem by Charles Bukowski called "Roll The Dice". You've seen it here before.

That poem always tares me up. I've been such an idiot in my life, wasting most of the last thirty years just existing. I guess, when it comes to being a teacher, I feel like I personify the old joke about "Those who can't do...".

For whatever reason, whether it was my upbringing or my own internal wiring, or maybe a combination of the two, I never had the guts to roll those dice. I've never felt the freedom or the confidence in my own decision making to take that other path that Frost wrote about. Hell, I never even took the well worn path, being to afraid for tripping and looking foolish to all the other walkers. I just sat in my room watching television, were it was safe. I've spent my whole life sitting back and watching others turn down that path, watching as they had a great adventure and envying them, but I never had the courage to go there myself.

Oh, I've had my fun. I've been around the world and seen lots of cool things. But even then, when I saw people going out to live it up, I always stayed behind. So, seeing these kids off into the world, there's a HUGE part of me that wishes I could trade places with them. I'm so envious, seeing the freedom in them. They're so much less tied down than I was. They're like so many of the kids I went to school with, most of whom went on from high school to live full lives.

I started living, really living, just a while ago. I guess I got to the point (with the help of a great set of friends) where the desire to live overpowered the fear of dying. So now, looking back, I see all the things that came my way over the last three decades... all the stuff I passed up, and I let it get to me.

Mostly, I realize that I'm still that scared kid. I still really don't have the courage to take that mysterious path. Don't get me wrong. I'm NOT the scared kid I used to be. But deep down inside, I still prefer the known to the unknown. I still don't trust myself when it comes to knowing the right things to do. The confidence just isn't there.

Oh, when I'm in class, like I will be in just a while, sitting in front of a room full of convicts, I own that fuckin' room. It's mine. I know my stuff and I run things. So I know that I can be confident. I guess I just never developed that level of confidence when it comes to other things. Maybe it's because, at 48, I'm only still just a beginner at life while I've had 18 years to learn how to own that classroom. Yea, that's the ticket. maybe, if I live another twenty years, I'll get to the point where I feel as confident in my personal life as I do in a classroom. Lets hope so. I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Like I said, I'm going fishing next week. Denise and I will go to a gun show Saturday in Belton and then spend the rest of the weekend doing yard work. I'll teach class here in San Saba Monday, but then Tuesday I'll fly out of Austin, headed for Syracuse New York. My cousin Bob and a few other guys will drive by there from Williamsport Pennsylvania Wednesday morning and we'll all head up to Gananoque, Ontario Canada for four days of rest and relaxation (go here for pictures from past trips). I'll fly back to Austin with a camera load of shots on Sunday, and then the grind, though seriously reduced, will begin again the next day when I head back here to San Saba to pick up where I left off.

So, let's all give a toast to the graduating Seniors down in Florence (or wherever) as they step off into the world, and maybe toss another back for those of us who are still stumbling along, tryin' to find our way on this journey. Lets wish them all the best, and that they find the courage to live life to it's fullest, but that they manage not to be too stupid about it. Cheers!


Hammer said...

Sounds like you've come a long way in a relatively short period of time. It also sounds like you are damn good at what you do.
It only gets better from here.

Have a great time fishing.

Anonymous said...

Well, hey there Jeff, you missed a good free meal at CTC Ft. Hood today. We had "nanner pudding" without you. A guy from Georgia (serving with Marc, Dave & Elke?sp?) said I couldn't call it that although I'm from AL!! He said it was "industrial pudding". You're missed by Ft. Hood students too and you're just now gone! Have a great time fishing. Maybe I can have a sit down dinner with Denise while you're off in Canada. Take Care! Belle

BRUNO said...

Have to agree with Hammer---sounds like you ARE damned-good at what you do. And best of all, you seem to be comfortable with it, which is the important thing in any job, or career.

I could never do it. I might be a good instructor---but I'd make a piss-poor TEACHER. That takes the "special-breed" who literally WANT to teach---not just because "It's a good paying job"...

PRH....... said...

Sounds like a fun trip, my last one to the land of Canada(back in 1995) for fishing was one to remember.

Have a great time!

FHB said...

Thanks folks. It's gonna be a blast.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

I am sure we will see some good fishing/and or drinking pics. Enjoy 5 weeks vacation, that is unreal.