Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Arctic Home Supplement: Lets Get Real.

Its been another quiet day here on Nunivak, my island in the Bering Sea. Today was the much anticipated last day of school. I'm spending my last night in Mekoryuk for the year tonight. The soothing sound of rabid flailing village children jumping bikes over plywood ramps, beating wood against the play deck incessantly, crying, yelling and throwing objects at each other, four-wheeler exhaust, and swearing teenagers lulls me into such a peaceful serenity from outside my windows that I will miss OH SO MUCH, so much that I won't come back for a whole summer.

People often see the "cliche" last day of school clip with students running down the front steps of a brick and white pillared school to a sound byte of Alice Cooper's "Schools out for summer" as they rejoice and throw reems of old papers into the air and take off for summer adventure and fun. They never show the teachers of American Schools breathing a collective sigh of relief, laughing out loud, shaking their heads in trumph, and crying out, rejoicing to themselves in an empty classroom over the prospect that they won't have to be confronted with the outright stupidity of America's youth for at least two months. Sure there were good times, but as much hell as the teachers have reaped in the minds of the students, it has been returned tenfold on the teacher, after all there is one teacher, and many many many students. Essentially its an unbalanced situation from the beginning, until school is out and life evens things like it does so much in the end.

Some of the local high schoolers are out lazying around town, smoking cigs, chewing, hanging out at the game room chit chatting with the recent return arrivals from private schools and college back for the summer, laughing, bobbing heads to their iPods, posturing for the opposite sex like ungulates in rut, basking in the sudden rush of freedom and light heartedness that comes from the sudden massive release of responsibility that is "Summer," their squinty, glassy, sleepy eyes swing around and mischievous smiles creep across their faces as they say playfully from the game room steps, curiously, to me as I walk back from the store with a couple of goods...

"Yo Yo YO what up Mr. iVERson...what you doin? HAHAHA. HEY looks like you got the munchies yo...hahahahahaa?"

They're testing the waters already, and it hasn't even been a couple of hours yet. School's out lets try to be "REAL" with Mr. Iverson the local biology teacher, he's got a beard, and I think he's a hippie. The weird thing is that a beard (in my opinion a perfectly rational thing to have) is odd around these parts apparently, and their limited knowledge of American "hippies" is basically resting on my hair tossed shoulders. So they'refishing for information...

"No but you probably do smokey!"

I say back to them knowingly, pinpointed and in my own way being "REALLY REAL." A slightly shocked look comes across some of their faces, implicating themselves and as if to say, crap, he isn't as clueless as we thought...Oh man, Hopefully he won't tell our parents, wait, he doesn't know anything, wait maybe he already has, wait no...yeah and he can't prove anything anyways, We're just being paranoid for all he knows we're just standing here normal, we're cool, I look normal right? You look normal...We're normal its cool...besides he's Mr. Iverson, he's cool, he doesn't care...he hacky sacked with us yesterday.

Their sedated internal monologues are right, I got no proof (but the hacky sack is enough in my opinion). Not any I can use at least. But I know. AND I do care about there futures and well being, but I just don't care all that much about taking my last day before I leave this far away land to lecture recently freed students outside the game room on the dangers of mind altering drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sex. It won't do any good anyways. I care but I'm also a realist. Students, nay, teens, nay, people will do what they want to do in the end, no amount of "prevention" or "education" can stop a die hard. In the moment, right there staring temptation in the face, ultimately its a decision for the person to make based on their perception of the situation. And decisions have repercussions, sometimes immediate, sometimes far in the distance of time. Those consequences are the fodder for all the lessons that teach us about life and how to live it. Those lessons are needed to show us what to "choose" next time around. In nature "lessons" can be the meaning of life and death, but for a human, a species who's survival depends on defining our meaning in life, a lesson is far more abstract for our "happy" survival to utilize.

People do what they want. Period. And the funniest thing about "Education" is that we hide this big secret about ourselves that says: "You shouldn't DO THAT" when the cold stone reality is that many teachers across America do drink, smoke, chew, and have premarital sex, use drugs, have STD's, watch porn, hate their neighbor, smite their father, pollute, cheat, gamble, adulterate, don't vote and generally disobey traffic laws... or have in the past. Teachers had to learn lessons about the problems of these on their own, and instead of sharing the lessons learned from mistakes made, educators more commonly "Just say no," A ludicrous piece of advice if I've ever heard one on the principal that some people do what they're told not to do on principal alone (teens especially). A better piece of advice would be weigh the options if you're not too in love, angry, hurried, stoned, drunk, or high to do so, understand the risk if your brain isn't too clouded by emotions, chemicals or judgment, do what your heart says knowing that you'll think back someday and wonder "what was I thinking," and live with the consequences be they salty or sweet, because you made the choice pal and don't even think about blaming anyone because you're gonna live with it whether you own up to it or not.

I've always wondered what school would be like if educators shared their life mistakes openly when they felt the time was right and had a discussion about it if an opportunity arose. Often the things we know most about are the times when we've overcome adversity or resurrected ourselves from pain, anguish, failure and misery and the processes that enabled us to overcome them. But because of our pride, hypocrisy, and shame most of these valuable lessons will never be appropriate enough to share within the confines of American Schools. You know what I think, you can't teach people how to be a "good person" or a "good citizen" or a "good scholar" unless you are one yourself, and lots of people I've seen aren't some or most of the time, so why can't we just embrace our hypocrisy and mediocrity and all face the fact that we're just freakin people trying to get by, be happy and for god's sake have someone to love us. Lets be real folks.

People have to learn lessons on their own. Sometimes the lessons of life are hard, real hard. An unexpected child, a brush with the law, a death, an accident, an illness all things that seemingly end life as we know it but somehow end up defining us down the road for better or worse. And there is a certain truth that comes from a monumental screw up in life. A moment of clarity, when you realize you've just ruined everything, lost it all, destroyed all you'd worked for and all you ever had going for you through your own choices in life, and now nothing will be the same. A moment where you kind of have to say, my sweet moses, mary and joseph, what have I done and where do I go from here?

Whether you're poor, rich, strait, gay, sober, drunk, high, healthy, sick, religious, freethinking, woman or man, everyone faces something in life as a result of a decision they made. The scariest thing about judgment is how hypocritical it is, and how much it silences real opportunities for growth and sharing with others. Their are no mistakes in life, just different paths that have been left untravelled...for now.

Today is not a day for those sort of questions or thoughts. Today is the last day of school. Today is a day to be happy, to be free, however you so see fit (just don't be a moron...wait go be a moron you'll probably learn something just as valuable). Whether you believe in heaven or hell, good or evil, sin or holiness, karma, balance, equilibrium or witch craft, it can at least be said "What goes around comes around" or "It'll all work out in the end." After all, it has to one way or another.

Thats not so much the news but rather my opinion from Nunivak Island, where the fog rolls in, the teachers roll out, and the teens here like the rest of the world, live life full of anxiety and doubt.

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