Monday, May 2, 2011

Keep Calm And Carry On

"How great is life today?" -Scott Heinig

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive.  It is as though they were traveling abroad.  ~Marcel Proust

Warning: This post is going to be a little less specifically education, and a little more general life issues...but I'll tie it in somehow.

So "Keep calm and carry on" was a little used British propaganda piece from WWII that I am seeing everywhere now. There it was as a poster in the house where I dog sat. A postcard in the window of a track coach's office. Someone's username on some online social network-y site. Some stranger's t-shirt. I don't know whether there's been a resurgence in popularity, or if it's always been around. But I suppose it's decent advice. And in some sense what I already do--I don't think it's in my personality to get super stressed out about anything--especially at work. If I were easily stressed, lunch room duty would kill me. But it's also what helps to get through the day when outside-of-work stressors strike. Which they have.

My roommate said that death often seems to come in threes. Which it kind of has--first someone who graduated college with me went missing and was found dead months later. Then a freshman at my alma mater dies in a car crash. Sure I didn't know either of these people, but I still feel so connected to my alma mater, and the fact that they were so young shook me up a bit. And then I found out that a guy from my 6th grade class (who I also went to Jr. High and High School with) died in a fall. And it's taking it's time to really sink in. I think I saw him once since graduating high school--I ran into him at the gym and we chatted and he was the same cute, friendly, and all around great guy I knew years ago. He's one of those guys you don't really forget.

In the past few years my family's three cats died. And each time I was over here in Minnesota. Which means I never got the same closure as I did back in 3rd grade when we put our old dog to sleep. So I still expect to see a cat when I visit home--even though there are none anymore. Which I think is why I've also had mini crying spells when it suddenly hits me that Scott is gone. Especially when I think about when I knew him best--he was one of the leads in my 6th grade class' musical. And remembering that has increased exponentially since the school I work at is starting to think about and prepare for their summer musical. And the fact that I see the 6th grade classes every day. I hope all of these kids make it past their 22nd year. They're facing more challenges than Scott or I did--most of them are going against the odds--statistically more of them may end up in jail than college, given that my school is mostly students of color and of a lower socio-economic status.

It's been an odd couple of weeks. Everything seems to remind me of Scott. And it's making me think a lot more about death--and about appreciating the people in my life right now. And while it will be less depressing when the memory isn't fresh, I still want to remember him in 10 years. Because while there are a ton of people from high school for whom I couldn't care less about where they ended up (not that I want them dead, it just doesn't matter what they ended up doing with their lives), Scott was going to be one I'd be interested to see at reunions. But here's the thing--No one really close to me has died, and I don't know how I'll react if they do. Let's hope I don't find out for a long time. I can't imagine if I were Scott's family, close friends, or girlfriend. That would be even more awful than it already is.

At least, it seems clear that Scott lived a full life for his 22 years and was very loved. Which is more than some people can say. One of the reasons I worry about the kids I work with is because a lot of their home lives are unpredictable. The Kindergarden teacher with whom I work the most told me that this one girl who has major behavior issues and is also the only one who still can't write her own name, told her about how her mom gets drunk, throws up and passes out. At 5, she really shouldn't be learning the effects of alcohol, but that's her life. How much can one teacher offset the damage that has already been done? Maybe not a lot, but you do what you can. You can't fix everything, but I suppose if you can make a little bit of difference, it can mean the world to someone. The other day I was walking with a first grade class down the hall and a boy grabs my hand and says "I love you Miss Amy." And during lunch, one of his classmates said "I want you to be my mom!" I can't control what their lives outside of school is like, but hopefully I can insert some extra love and happiness into their school life, for the brief window that I am part of their lives. Because life goes on, and all things considered, it is pretty great today--I made some kids smile, helped them read, learn math and got some hugs, and will have a home cooked meal with my close friends/roommates.


  1. Death is just one of the weirdest things. And I always feel more united with humanity afterwards. Like "we are the ones who are left, let's give our all" as if it's Survivor or something.

  2. Nice thoughtful post Amy. I was deep in thought about Scott the day of his memorial, a bit teary eyed, when I got pulled over for speeding on my way home from work. I had no excuse for not paying attention except that, so I told the cop I was thinking about Scott, and he said oh, so sad, what a great kid, and then proceeded very kindly to not give me a ticket. Guess I had Scott the angel to thank for that.