Now that I know who I am, what do I do with her?
I have always kept a journal. A diary. A place where I could rant and/or bitch. A place where I could place my thoughts about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. This is maybe how I have figured out who I am. I have put onto paper my feelings and emotions of almost everyday if not week of my life since high school (the reason weblogging works so well for me?) As if I was keeping track of my path towards some "American Dream". What is the "American Dream" for an academic female? Man, that's is another paper in itself. Maybe I should start with this: I have always liked school. I have always liked learning, sitting and taking in whatever knowledge my teachers could lend me, and I have loved creating. Letting my thoughts grow into actual beings. Actual products. And, or but, as Steve Ward, my undergraduate World Literature professor (as well as a professor of other classes that expanded me), says: It is in the process of creating where we learn the most. Not in the product.
my whole being is a dark
which will carry you
to the dawn of eternal growths and blossomings
in this chant i sighed you sighed
in the chant
i grafted you to the tree to the water to the fire.
So, my process began, I suppose, as a junior in high school. That is where my need, my desire, to compose started really. My visuality though, a word I have made up in conversations before, began in Intro to Art my freshman year of high school in Wahpeton, ND. It was in junior English, however, with Mrs. Morris that I first remember feeling, actually feeling, that want. I became alive then I think. I rarely remember crap from my middle school years, or the daily tragedies I faced as a pimple-faced, braced-teeth, permed-hair freshman. It is a distinct moment in that class that I remember "seeing" in my blurred old age memory now.
I am sitting behind my best friend at the time. She is gossiping to me about something. Her boyfriend and the sex they had the night before, or the drugs her and her friends got the other weekend ( I was her innocent=boring friend then).. who knows, but Mrs. Morris was talking about another chapter in our Literature books. A chapter on Henry David Throreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. To this day, I still intertwine them with each other and confuse who said or wrote what but after hearing about them, I was hooked. I was alive with thought, passion, and love for words.
I would sit hunched over in class and highlight their words. I would say the word "individualism" and "transcendentalism" and get the largest goosebumps. That's where it began. What amazes me, to this day, is that at that time I put those emotions with words on the back burner. That same year, I took drafting technology classes at the technical college in town and fell in love with the visuality of blueprints, arrows with perfectly printed words, and the designs of floorplans. I urged my parents to allow me to go to North Dakota State, but not because I wanted to be a writer (which should have been obvious to myself at least) but because I wanted to be an architect. A well-paid famous female architect. I wanted to design. I wanted to make my father, a constuction worker, proud, and I wanted to show my mom that I could be more famous/prosperous than she.
a long street through which a woman holding a basket
life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
I have noticed this strange occurence in my life. Every four years, since high school, I have gone through a depression.. large or small. My freshman year, as mentioned, of high school was horrible. Sure, I learned a lot from teachers during that time span, but I also had run-ins with counselors and a mother that didn't want me to commit suicide for fear of what 'everyone' would say about her. Then, during my freshmen year of college, it hit once again. Suddenly, I questioned everything.To more depth than before. I went on a bagel-a-day diet. I napped with a growling stomach and skipped classes. All this in part to feeling SO insignificant on a large campus (although a well-landscaped one!), and to a boyfriend I left behind. [Why is it that love has that type of control?] I met people, fell for another boy, and tried with all my might to reach out of this hole that I seemed to have thrown myself into.
life is perhaps a child returning from school.
life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette
in the narcotic repose between two love-makings
or the absent gaze of a passerby
who takes off his hat to another passerby
with meaningless smile and a good morning.
"They" (still haven't figured out where these people live) say that if you want to lose weight, fall in love. Want to change something, fall in love and have that someone hound you about it. Perhaps it works. Love is insane that way I guess.
So, in Jason, I found parts of myself that I seemed to have lost after high school. My goofiness. My femininity. He brought back a false sense of security for me. Well, at the time I thought it was stable security. Love that wouldn't leave me. I started to depend on him. My studies started to lack, and even though I changed my major to English Education, I still felt unsure about my future. My mother couldn't understand why I wanted to be a teacher rather than an architect, and Jason looked at my writings and wondered why I didn't sound more mature. The only people, at that time, that seemed to have faith in me and my abilities were me, my siblings, and my father.
Could I prove it to everyone? Why did I want to? And, really, what value is there found in saying that your oldest daughter is a high school teacher? Not much of society values that profession the way it is.
life is perhaps that enclosed moment
when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes.
and it is in the feeling
which i will put into the Moons impression
and the Nights perception
in a room as big as loneliness
which is as big as love
looks at the simple pretexts of it happiness
at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase
at the sapling you planted in our garden
and the songs of canaries
which sing to the size of the window.
this is my lot
Teaching was and is still my religion. This is how I give back to society. To a higher power. I told this to the people in Battle Lake, MN as they interviewed me a day in May a few years ago. Whether they believed me or thought I was full of bullshit, I know not. But I do know that they liked me enough to hire me on the spot. I have no inkling of why that was.. was I cheap labor since I was straight out of college, or because I was somewhat pretty, or because I looked like a pushover?
my lot is
a sky which is taken away at the drop of a curtain
my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs
to regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia
my lot is sad promenade in the garden of memories
and dying in the grief of a voice which tells me
I really, truly started to find myself in Battle Lake. I found my "lot" as mentioned in Furough's poem. Jason had ditched me for an ex-girlfriend from his past (eloped with her within a year after our 3 and 1/2 year relationship ended). I found myself alone in a new world. A new town. In a relatively new job, with new students, and a new found freedom. Lots of soul-searching (as "they" say) occurred that summer before I began teaching. I immerced myself in the yearbook program, in the books assigned, in making my inexpensive apartment near the lake MINE. Slowly, he left my mind, and peace entered.
It sounds corny, this I know. But being alone has always been easy for me. Even when I dated and loved Jason, when I hung out in my room or apt. I was happy reading a book or just thinking and writing. I don't know what it is about me. If it's the fact that I am the oldest and was technically alone for awhile before Alisa was born or what. But I could do the Walden thing. I could live alone on a lake without much contact with people and be OKAY. I could do the CASTAWAY movie and not need a freaking volleyball to talk to. I threw my passions and energy into my teaching, into getting to know my students. I wanted them to take away from me as much as I took from them. Some people say that students don't labor for their teachers or that teachers don't benefit from their students' work. I think that is bullshit.
your hands.i will plant my hands in the garden
i will grow i know i know i know
and swallows will lay eggs
in the hollows of my ink-stained hands.
I struggled. I went home at 4:30 most afternoons and would sleep until the next morning. My efforts seemed to be defeating me. And besides all that, my social life was lacking. To add to that fact were the rumors that I was a lesbian since I didn't have a boyfriend. How could I? I just had just been dumped, for one thing, and for another, I had NO ambition to try to keep up with my own dishes- how could I keep a boyfriend happy? Where would I find the time? Parents hooked me up with friends they knew, and I tried to just go along with it all. I started to deal with society's demands on me. The school wanted this.. the students needed something else... my life yearned for something else. I kept trying to find me and keep ME happy and content. Those ideals were in conflict with everyone else almost all of the time.
i shall wear
a pair of twin cherries as earrings
and i shall put dahlia petals on my fingernails
But I couldn't keep up the facade for long. And even after being reprimanded on the last Friday of May that first year of teaching, I went into my summer knowing/giving myself the goalf of having fun. Of going back to the revelations I grew to like the August before. I figured SOMEHOW the next year of teaching would be different. I would defend myself to enough people and teach my with my liberal ways.
Well, life doesn't work out that way most times.
Again, my year seemed to be going well just like the year before it. I rarely heard my own complaints (except for one parent that apparently thought she could teach my classes better than I could), I finally enjoyed my weekends (yes, partying!) with new teachers that signed on that year, and my life seemed to be equaling itself out slowly but surely. The new principal gave me 4s and 5s on my class evaluation the first time, and even though my second time wasn't even in my own classroom (an occurrence I wonder back to now and then), he still seemed okay with how I taught.
Then suddenly, in March, rumors from an older, less-liked teacher went around his classes that a pretty, green-eyed female teacher was about to get fired. I thought nothing of it, but once I got the letter from the superintendent asking me to meet with him and the principal about "next year's curriculum goals" AND when I asked if I should bring books or typed up plans and he said NO.. I knew. I knew. Female intuition kicked in. I was about to get fired.
In pure shock, I sat there as he told me (a man I disagreed with on many things.. plus, I had heard crap about him: Falling asleep in special-ed parent-teacher conferences!) that I, Sybil Priebe, someone who ALWAYS reached her goals.. always had done everything RIGHT in her whole life, had, in fact, not added up to "district standards" as a teacher. Political jargon. I wasn't a male teacher that coached. I was a young female that wasn't about to keep her mouth shut. I wasn't a conservative in a conservative community. I wasn't so many things. I was a party person, I was smart, I was open-minded, and I loved my students enough to want to make learning FUN and not boring.
This was taboo.
But I knew who I was. And I was not about to be defeated. So that same day, after writing an e-mail to all my family and friends (still in a shocked disposition), I took out the Graduate School application that I had hidden in my desk. Filled out the missing parts, found some sample writings in my file cabinet, and used the postage from the school that was about to screw me over to mail it up to North Dakota State. I would go back to the campus that challenged me in the first place. To the teachers that encouraged me to teach the way I needed to. These are the reasons I am such a Bison supporter to the core.
there is an alley
where the boys who were in love with me
still loiter with the same unkempt hair
thin necks and bony legs
and think of the innocent smiles of a girl
who was blown away by the wind one night.
there is an alley
which my heart stolen
from the streets of my childhood.
the journey of a form along the line of time
inseminating the line of time with the form
a form conscious of an image
coming back from a feast in a mirror.
We all have hurdles. We all have to find ways to jump them without blaming others. And even though I say that as almost a hypocrit since I do blame that superintendent and principal for ruining my career as a high school teacher, I know now that I have a path. I don't like them as people, but they placed me on the path that I do, really, belong on. Or maybe they just showed me, in a harsh way, that this the fork in the road that I needed to cross over onto.
Some people are not allowed the chance to realize their path in life. I am lucky enough to know that teaching and writing is where I want to be. I forsee many more struggles, but I am willing to not let them get me down. I will not let people make me question who I am. I know. And only I know.
and it is in this way
that someone dies
and someone lives on.
So now, as I journal online.. I find out new things about myself. Now that I write knowing others will read it, I focus on positive, fun things and situations in life. (So, the public nature of it has actually helpled me in many ways.) Afterall, who wants to read dreary shit? And those were the things I let out of me in my paper journals way back when. Thoreau and Emerson wouldn't have wanted that. They, maybe, would be in favor of weblogging and of the ways I teach. Allowing students to find out who they are. It's hard for some teachers to give up a little of that control.
no fisherman shall ever find a pearl in a small brook
which empties into a pool.
Everything and everyone finds their way, somehow, to their end goals. Through looking back at my life, I realize that it wasn't certain months or huge events on specific days (unlike the main character on Riding in Cars with Boys would claim) that changed me. It was the day-to-day thoughts that evolved my mind. A quote I had on my wall in my high school classroom read something like: "If you are thinking bad/sad thoughts, stop thinking them." I think, too, that's another way that this weblogging thing has helped me. I look at everyday as it's own little eternity. Driving around town, especially up and over the 12th Ave bridge, I know that I am insignificant, but I can make my life significant to me at least. Even if only day by day.
i know a sad little fairy
who lives in an ocean
and ever so softly plays her heart into a magic flute
a sad little fairy
who dies with one kiss each night
and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.
this poem is by furough farrokhazad