Friday, January 11, 2008

Did I mention I'm a failure?

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned once or twice that my senior year of high school I took advance composition. As a writer, aspiring to be published, one would assume that I loved this class above all others and put every bit of effort into it. That would be not so accurate.
I did love the class, but it was a lot of work and at the time I thought I had better things to do with my last hour of the school day.
I failed the class, but I didn't need it to graduate so oh well. Not really. I failed a few classes in high school, for instance algebra, physics, geometry, all mostly for a lack of attendance. I thought living was more import than learning and when it comes to those classes, for the most part, I have no regrets. Failing advance comp was the only time I really felt bad about failing.
The teacher was an odd guy, not your usual teacher, but a great teacher. He wanted to make sure we could write a solid essay before we took off for college, he wanted to make sure we read good literature that wasn't the main stream stuff we we're use to and he pushed us to be creative. I think I've mentioned a play that I wrote for his class.
Anyway, he actually wanted us to learn something. Even though I failed, I still learned a lot. I even keep the journal that we had to write in every week filled with the positive comments that he wrote about my work, about my writing. And I kick myself for not finishing that class.
What brought all of this to mind was when he walked into the shoe store today and even though I should have taken it as the chance to apologize for giving up, and told him that I regretted not finishing and that he was still a really good teacher that taught me something regardless of my grade. That's not what I did though, I hid. I hid because I didn't want him to see me selling shoes. It's been nearly seven years since I graduated and I had nothing to say but I sell shoes. And I couldn't face it.
I felt like a huge let down to everyone, including myself. And I know I'm the one to blame for what my life is. I need to work harder so if there's ever a next time I will have something worth saying.


D.B. Echo said...

Wow. So was this his first time in the shoe shop? Was it just a random visit? Or....maybe, does he know you're there?

jenni said...

I've never thought of selling shoes as a failure. I was far happier there than I am with my "real" "career" job. Even when I was selling leather shoes (totally compromising my ethics), I felt good about the fact that I was helping people - possibly changing their whole lives by getting them into a shoe they could walk, stand, live, and function in. I think most [writing] teachers are bohemian hippie types that sold out for health insurance and salary. He probably envies you! As a teacher, I never imagine what my students go on to become. I tell them whether they go to college or not, I want them to write. Whether they make a million dollars or none, I want them to write. If I were him, I would have felt happy just knowing that a student remembered me, and did so fondly, and to some extent, it would be gratifying to know that a student felt bad failing my class not just because of the grades or whatever was going on in school but because of the inherent value that the student realized my class had. Too many students get caught up in the minutia. I think if you learned something from the class, regardless of your grade, then the teacher would feel it was worth it. I'm often much more proud of my failing students who "get" something or work at the concepts than I am with students who ace it and act like I'm useless. There's a deeper connection between the struggling teacher and the struggling writer, I guess.

I think though, on some level, with people that you revere and respect, it's hard to 'own up' to anything that we're not completely ok with in our own selves. I sometimes think about my teachers from high school and feel embarrassed thinking about them finding out that now I'm 'just' another teacher. I have also often thought about writing to my former teachers to thank them and then stopped myself because I felt silly saying they inspired me to just do the same exact thing they were already doing. I don't think that selling shoes or teaching or any job has any sort of nobility rating, I think it's just that we have the personality types to always feel like we could be doing more somehow - for the world, for ourselves, etc. - and we get tripped up in the ideal version of ourselves rather than embracing the current goodness.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Oh hon, life never takes the path that we think it will. Be patient and give yourself time.

supertiff said...

yeah, i hide from people at the bar all the time.
and it's been ten years since i graduated.

not a good feeling, either way.