Okay, graduation is over, and just in time for the end of school, some of you will notice from a certain missing post that yes, Amy Lane, showing a learning curve the shape of a dead vampire’s heart rate did, indeed, screw up her almost perfect record this year of not shooting off her big fat mouth on the blog and getting in trouble for it at work.


You’d think I’d know better. Hell, I PRAY DAILY that I have learned better. Alas, I don’t know better and suffice it to say that the same monsters who hid in the library closet and ran tales to me were just as happy to run my BLOG to the last person I wanted to see it. And now I’m in trouble.

And I deserve it, and that’s all I want to say about that. (Really. I don’t think I can say any more on the blog without pissing someone else off and making it worse–and what I really want to do is run back on campus and make it better, but I have to wait until Monday.) Anyway the whole incident did make me think, in a way that’s been niggling in the back of my mind all year, about the difficulty of people (okay, maybe just me) forming attachments in this profession.

Teachers spend their day with their students.

I mean, I know it sounds obvious, but really–who are we supposed to bond with? It’s supposed to be our classes, isn’t it? We’re supposed to be there for our kids. And when I first started here, that’s what I really loved about our staff–we bonded with our kids. But there’s a couple of problems with putting all of our emotional eggs in this basket.

A. The kids come and go. And as much as I love them, and as much as I love it when they come to visit, the fact remains that the people I love most about this job desert me a lot. It hurts.

B. The teachers (at least in our school for a while) also come and go. For a short, blissful time, I had several teachers on campus that I could shoot off my big mouth to and they could help me come to my senses before I went and did something just this stupid. They have since gone, and although I still have Lady in Red, she is just as busy, and just as isolated, and just as cross campus as I am. There’s no dodging into the classroom next door to talk to one of my few remaining buddies–she’s 1/2 a lunch-period away.

C. The people left in my department are good people. They are smart and funny and wonderful. They are also mostly all men with a mentality swept in a 180 degree arc from my own. They think I’m from Venus. Most of the time I think they’re from Mars. Sometimes, I think they’re from hell, but mostly, really, it’s Mars. We respect each other (I mean, if nothing else, Venus does have her own gravity and mass, right? You don’t want to get in her way when she’s having a hormonal nadir) but we don’t always understand each other.

D. The kids are kids. They are all about the drama–even the best of them–and it’s easy to forget that we are not all about the drama as well. I’ve seen old and gray men get caught up in the uber-angst of a really charismatic, drama-ridden high school student. The fact that I get caught up in the sturmunddrang without even realizing it goes without saying. As adults, our peers can be the mirrors of our behavior, to show us what is outrageous and what is sane. As teachers, we (I) often forget that our students may serve as our mirrors, but they’re more like funhouse mirrors–their perspective is often skewed by their youth, by the hermetically sealed school culture, and by the fact that we spend five hours a week locked in a tupperware petrie dish with them. Bonding with them to the exclusion of adults is easy, but it sure isn’t wise.

The absolute loneliness of these circumstances was brought home to me by a series of moments that I think the powers that be will forgive me for talking about.

A. One of my all time favorite administrators is retiring. I respect this guy about as much as I’ve respected ANY authority figure at ANY time in my entire life. (My clan isn’t big on authority. This total awe and respect was something of a revelation for me.) As he gave his (brief, informal, lovely) last words to us as a group, he said, “Take care of each other. That’s one of the things this staff needs to work on.” I wanted to cry when he said that, because when I was thinking about it, I couldn’t pin down one person on campus who needed me to help take care of them.

B. One of my colleagues from Mars (who has said outright that he doesn’t give a shit about the blog, period) was in his room and I went to talk to him about my latest disaster.

“You fucked up,” he said, shrugging.
“No, no. You fucked up.”
“But…that’s not fai….”
“You fucked up.”
“Fine, I fucked up.”

And then we talked about something else. And this encounter made me feel so much better than anything all day. Why? Because I fucked up, and he was still willing to talk to me. Now it’s very possible that any of the other men in my department, or even the very young women, would be willing for me to come in and shoot off my mouth and to, you know, be friends? But I don’t have a lot of time to invest in those friendships–I don’t go out after work. I spend 15 minutes of a 45 minute lunch in the staff room. I’ve known this guy for 13 years, and he can say “You fucked up,” and we both know that we still have to work together and it gave me, at least today, the sort of freedom that really good friendship does. But I don’t know how repeatable this moment is–and I don’t know anybody else this could happen with. This moment was serendipity, pure and simple–well placed but, well, isolated.

C. Another colleague brought his wife to graduation tonight. She loves paranormal romance and she ran up to me saying, “When’s Bitter Moon II coming out?” and we started talking books and authors and things we loved about books and authors and book stores and… and… and…

And her husband turned to me and said, “Look at you light up. I don’t see you light up like that at lunch. You come into lunch and you look like you’re going to kill someone, but right now you’re all lit up inside.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking about it, “There’s nobody at lunch who would give a shit about these things.”

And now I’m back to isolation again.

Of course, none of this is meant to excuse my initial fuck up, right? But it is starting to make something else, a sort of terrible, uncomfortable truth, very very clear to me.

I just wish I knew what to do about it, that’s all.

0 thoughts on “Colleagues”

  1. fawatson says:

    I read your comment and just laughed, and sympathised. No I am not another teacher, but I have friends who are and I have been listening to their woes about the teachers’ common room over the years. Sadly the politics of teaching sound even worse than social work (which is my field).

    I’ve grown used to the fact most colleagues don’t share my approach to life but it can be a strain at times. And a nuisance to have to spend effort on developing or maintaining ties to people who seem so unrewarding when what you really want to be doing is putting the effort into the kids. You expect them to require effort – colleagues shouldn’t. And then they do, and the fact you didn’t comes back to bite you! It seems teaching has this tenfold compared with social work.

    Don’t let it stop you painting blue oranges. The rest of humanity may think all oranges are orange but there is no reason you shouldn’t paint them blue when that is how you see them.

    And remember, we all make mistakes. The world is remarkably forgiving of this. See! It’s still here, even with all the mistakes that have been made. It’s just humans who have problems with the concept.

    Now after all that: what I really signed on to say is I finished reading Bitter Moon One a few days ago. I’ve had it ‘waiting’ for a while, but I saw how long it was and so it had to wait until I knew I’d have enough time. I’ve read your other novels and knew I’d hate to put it down in the middle. And it lived up to my expectations. I am now waiting for Bitter Moon Two.

  2. Unknown says:

    First of all, Mars is essentially Hell. Both are red/orange, both are desolate and uninhabitable, and instead of burning, Mars is freezing. Venus, on the other hand, is much more like Earth and it is constantly reshaping and reforming itself in amidst clouds filled with lightning that never touches the ground. Take your pick of hells.

    Second, despite the fact that you fucked up, it doesn’t seem like anyone faults you for it. There are slip ups and mistakes that are completely understandable, and we are expected to take hard lessons from them.

    And maybe after all that’s happened, your part-time future is one cog in the rube-goldberg device of the universe. It will give you a chance to more actively follow up on what this post began.

    Keep on writing: you never know who will be reading.

  3. roxie says:

    Bless your dear heart. Well done.

    Human contact is important. Human connection is vital. But dear girl, it is intrinsically fleeting. You cherish the long-lasting relationships, you enjoy the brief ones. You continue to put your heart out there and make connections when and where you can, because you are a warm, vital , brave human being and because you need to do so. You may not find heart-deep connections at work. Few people do. You have Mate. And you have us.

    And understanding the intrinsic lonliness of life brings added vividness and dimensionality to your writing.

  4. Galad says:

    I can’t say it better than Roxie did, but I wholeheartedly agree with her posting!

  5. sharon m.c. says:

    dear amy, Brave big hearted gals like us/ see I feel you sister-been there big time!/ always get us in some form of trouble at work. the queen bee syndrome unfortunately lives. forgive yourself …kiss your kids and the groovy hubby and move on. and please write faster — perishing out here awaiting the next little goddess book girl!!!

  6. Oh man. I have struggled with this a lot since going part time and taking on the classes I have. The isolation is sometimes suffocating. I wish I had a quick and easy fix for it and for you, but I don’t. I may be a 1/2 a lunch period’s walk away, but email is instantaneous. I hope Monday goes well.

  7. TinkingBell says:

    Yep – for a job that’s all about people and totally surrounded by people – it just can be so damn lonely! You need kindred spirits – luckily – we’re all here reading the blog – or at home on your sofa (in CT style – probably with no pants on!)

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