Stealing from an over-used line, all good things must come to an end. The last couple of weeks have been all about endings. We’ve had our private cast and crew screening party, I’ve had my last class meetings for the summer, and the graduation celebrations have been in full swing. We should talk about how endings also mark the beginning of new things, the next adventure, future endeavors…
Yeah but what a load of crap. At least that’s how I feel at the moment. Here in the US we have a great tendency to ignore the reality and pain of the moment, particularly associated with the process of saying goodbye. And that is exactly where I find myself, in the process of saying goodbye to a great many as well as this most recent phase of my life.
The cast party marked an end and a reunion, as some of our film associates have already graduated and are moving on to things like getting jobs. So it was a chance to see nearly everyone one more time, especially as my co-director and I are now pretty set on the idea that we too will be moving on. This combination makes for a pretty emotional time, since it is a celebration of a good two years’ worth of work, and also a send off to many we have come to know and love.
The greatest unforeseen in the journey of making this film was the creation of the community around it. I realize it sounds incredibly naive to say this, but I really had no idea everyone would come to play such a large part in this experience. Sure, we had plenty of people working hard to get the thing made, but what I didn’t expect was how we would join together, get to know each other in these rather remarkable ways. I came to understand these people in a very different way than what is usually accessible to me as a teacher. I saw things about them that were unexpected and really quite wondrous to find – who knew we had so many artists, musicians, dancers, writers, and basically all around inventive people in our midst? And all drawn together because we cared about a very simple idea – sharing stories of anti-oppression. This experience was OUR stand, and it unified and paved the way for people to form connections that were nourishing and exciting.
And the side-effect: I like getting to know students this way. One of the great myths of our higher educational system is that the wise teacher stands at the front of the class and the unknowing students soaks up all that knowledge like a sponge. It suggests that the teacher has a ton of knowledge and the student has nothing. Where’s the part where the student takes knowledge and then, let’s see, creates ideas from it? Changes it? Is transformed by it? Or even – wait for it – contributes their own knowledge? These are the parts that our current system, focused on ridiculous notions like “student learning outcomes” and “accountability assessments,” beats out of education. Uniformity of education leads to conformity of thought, and ultimately the death of creativity.
Enough of that ranting (this is also the end result of too much administrative paperwork) – the plus side came in my shift in perspective, in realizing all the students I meet have some thing about them that is worth getting to know. It doesn’t matter if one is a “straight-A” student or writes great papers, that person’s particular talent might not be readily visible but if I take a moment to try to see it, understand it, then I allow myself to meet someone who is truly remarkable. And I get to learn a lot of really cool stuff in that process.
Silver linings…because the truth is I’m still saying goodbye to lots and lots of people who mean a great deal to me. I’m saying goodbye to cast and crew, students I’ve known over the last few years, and to my counseling “dream team” all within the same 6 month period. I think that’s on one of those top 10 stressors to not do all at the same time list thingys. I keep getting the question, “are you coming to graduation,” to which the answer is “no,” because for one of the first times ever I just don’t have it in me to keep saying goodbye over and over and over again. I suppose in the narrative tradition, I should work on “re-membering,” but my little rebel at the moment wants to say, “fuck that.” Goodbye’s are sad and painful and you know exactly what you’ve lost once it is gone, and while I can sit in that space I don’t have to wallow in it and force myself to confront these bad feelings.
They’re not really bad anyway. It’s just the way it goes. The bottom line is, my little community was just that, MY community. It was one of the few places I had where I also belonged. And I will miss it. I will miss them.