Again this year, I am having my students write a “This I Believe” essay. I like to begin the semester (school year) with my students explaining why they believe in a particular idea, concept, or theme. I like to do this for two reasons, or probably more, but it helps me to get to know one big belief they hold, so we can talk about it throughout the semester. And, it helps me see how they already write about their beliefs, so I know what I need to teach about argument, about rhetoric, and about those pesky little things like grammar. I have a student writing about how fantastic he is, one writing about the first amendment, and one writing about friendship among other things. Fantastic topics, really, if they can pull them off with good, solid examples.
I have already had two parents tell me that they are thrilled that their children are actually writing in class school this year. Well, yeah, the only way to learn how to write is to actually do it. I figure it’s somewhat similar to trying to become a mechanic by learning the parts of an engine, but never putting the whole thing together. I suppose it might run, but it certainly wouldn’t run fluidly. Apparently, in the past, there has been a great emphasis on vocabulary and spelling without putting them into practice in writing. I really see no point in learning these skills separately from writing. In the same ways that reading and writing are related, and listening and speaking are related, vocabulary and spelling are related to writing. They all work together! Our language acquisition and usage functions as a gigantic web in which we learn how to speak and write. It’s ridiculous to separate them out on a regular basis. Enough ranting.
In other news, my Vibrams wore through the right sole. That’s my longer leg, which is probably why my other leg gets a hip ache, and that leg’s quad is always sore when I run. I can’t imagine being Wilma Rudolph. She deserves some mad props, running with legs that were once crippled. Seeing as how no one thought she’d walk normally, I guess she showed them by earning the title of Fastest Woman in the World. That’s right, Sister, run on.
In other news, I’ve been looking at recent AUSOT student orientation pictures. I remember being so optimistic and hopeful that anything I did in a pulpit would make a difference in this big, fucked-up world. I remember thinking that my sexuality had nothing to do with quality of pastor I would become. I remember hiding so far back behind those robes and stoles hanging in that seminary closet that I could barely see the light and the freedom that would eventually come from re-opening the door and leaping out a few years later. I remember thinking that my piercings might be a stumbling block for some and taking them all out, just to turn around and put them all back in. I remember being so in love with theology and talking about God and getting to know Jesus that I couldn’t focus on much of anything else. I remember passionately wanting to learn Hebrew and Greek. I remember walking in to the first orientation session and seeing some of my classmates and thinking that I could never be as put together as they were. I remember so many good things from my three years, but I also remember some bad. I remember being called a Femi-Nazi by a fellow student in a computer lab. I remember being so conflicted in classes when some of my beliefs didn’t align with the beliefs of others. I remember the pain and suffering that I put other people through, and though which they put me through. I remember knowing in the very core of my being that my sexual orientation wasn’t a choice, but that it was a gift from God that could rightfully be honored in a healthy relationship.
Now, I look back with a mix of joy and sadness, really the way that all people, if they were honest, would see the history of their lives. I think nostalgia is bound up in the details of remembering both good and bad, positive and negative, in equality. Both facets of our memories make us who we are. Do I love the fact that I met so many beautiful people? Yes. Do I love the fact that I questioned my identity in the world and in Christ on a daily basis? Yes, and no. Do I love the fact that I was made to feel like my own understanding of the gospel message was somehow errant because it didn’t align with the status quo? No. So, it was a tumultuous time, a blessing of a tumultuous time. Two of my students are writing their essays about how everything happens for a reason. I agree, but sometimes it is damn confusing how that all works out.