Nobody Said it was Easy

Hello from the acre on a cloudy, but busy, day.

This morning as I went to water the garden, which up until now my fence seemed effective, two of my tomato plants and a squash planted has served as sustenance for my roaming deer. I am not sure if the two tomato plants will recover and the squash plant is not too damaged, so I was out with the deer-be-gone bottle attached to the hose. Hopefully it will do the trick. I also sprayed the yard and everything around for about 20 feet, so we will see what happens. In addition, I had plumbers here this morning to manage servicing both toilets in the house as well as the hot water faucet in the downstairs bathroom. For the first time since I have lived in the house, I think everything is working up to par. That is a great thing. I should also note that both of the service plumbers wore a mask as did I while they were here. I also went on a cleaning frenzy in my kitchen, watered plants indoors, and have now sat in on a Covid Response Presentation from Geisinger Health System over the last little more than an hour, which was profoundly informative. Last, and certainly not least, it seems I have a bit more of an idea of what my classes will be during the fall. The story behind all of that is an entire post in and of itself, but I will refrain. Suffice it to say it has been taxing (and that has nothing to do with the fact that tax day this year was July 15th).

I continue to be more profoundly affected than I expected by the death of Naya Rivera and my listening to the music of the show has been a way for me to mourn, or pay tribute, in my own private manner. I felt some of that when Cory Monteith passed and again some when Mark Salling, so I do not know if it is a cumulative thing or it is because I feel even worse because Ms. Rivera was able to provide entre for so many others because of her ethnicity and the character she played as well as like the others, she was incredibly talented and lost far too soon. Perhaps it is also that it appears her passing was the consequence of trying to save her son. Each time I write that, focus on that aspect, I have literal shivers in my body. What I realize in the case of each of these incredibly talented individuals all the fame, success, or other consequences of being on a groundbreaking show did not make their lives easier. Perhaps, in fact, it can be argued it did exactly the opposite. Making in the neighborhood of 80,000 dollars an episode, which is where some of them were, is a responsibility. It requires someone in their mid-20s to mature, manage, and understand things few are prepared to understand. And while the success is perhaps admirable, there is little doubt it causes monumental changes in every aspect of that individual’s daily existence. Our consumer society flashes around them like an unlimited candy-store, and now they can buy most anything they want. Yet, it is fleeting. While the main characters on the show are well-known, and they have experienced something few do, how long does it last? More importantly, can it be replicated when the the final episode is done? I do not think any single one of that cast (who were not already established and beyond their twenties) has been able to see themselves as simply the person for whom life merely continues. It is not easy to be seen as something different than or other than a member of the show choir, New Directions, from McKinley High School. The cost of fame is steep; the responsibility is never ending. Is that reasonable, I would say, “Certainly not!” But we foist this because of our national obsession with the biggest star, the most incredible athlete, the most (you fill in the blank).

It also got me thinking beyond. As I noted in the last post, there was a time when life was simpler. Simpler was have a sense of security it seems; it was knowing that you could count on coming home and it would be there; it was believing that your parents would take care of the things you needed, and even if things were a bit tough, you were not aware because they would not let you know of their struggles. Yes, we learned about the things of the world; we were aware of the difficulties in the bigger world; and yet, most importantly, we did not worry about them because of the list that precedes this one. Whether or not we were aware of the larger struggles, we somehow believed that it would all be okay. Yet, why can I write this? That is an important thing to consider and ponder. I am able to write it because I grew up in a white, blue-collar, basic, middle-class family. As I noted in a recent blog, I did not worry about the discrimination many of the black and brown people lived with on a daily basis; in fact, I had no clue what they dealt with. I need to be honest about that. Life was not simple for them; they all lived in one section of my town, but I did not realize that. More importantly, we seldom stopped in that section of town. I realize now what that means. I realize so much more now about how I believe we worked to make our own lives simple, or at least I thought so, and yet we seldom worked to imagine the life of the other. It was not a conversation that would have even occurred to me. What I am so much more aware of now is easy is a relative term. It is what we believed we should have, what we were entitled to, what supposed hard work and keeping our noses clean, as my father would say, would accomplish. What makes life easy? This is not an easy question.

What I realize now, at least for me, easy is about contentment; it is about a sense of peacefulness; it is about believing in the possibilities or being able to chase a dream. Easy does not come easily, however. As we get caught up in accumulating, seldom are we content. When we believe there is more to do, more to accomplish, more to complete, seldom are we at peace with ourselves or those around us. As we are worried about living out or dream or seeing possibilities as simply that, merely a possibility and not a requirement, it is easy to lose sight of both. If we only understood more profoundly the consequence of choice at an earlier age, then, perhaps, we might find it more possible to see where we might go or what we might achieve. Again, what happens when someone is born into a situation where the ability to accumulate is not likely? What happens when strife because of a lack of basic essentials makes peace merely a concept? What happens when dreams become more a realization of what will not happen? Even in my own part of town, where there were few who probably lived much more than from paycheck to paycheck, there were some who struggled to even have a regular paycheck at all. I had a Sunday School teacher whose husband made probably little more than minimum wage or certainly struggled to make a living wage. It was all the more difficult when they had 5 or 6 children who ranged from late teens to barely in school. They seldom had a working automobile and they lived on a dirt street and often they walked to church through the rain and the mud. And yet, my Sunday morning teacher seldom complained, always had a smile on their face, and would give to another when they barely had something for themselves. To this day, I marvel at this individual. I believe they are still alive and in their 90s.

I have noted in a number of blogs that I seldom dated in high school. During my senior year we had newly built schools and a reorganized school district. Where I attended my senior year, the majority of minority students in my town attended that same school. During my senior year, I had a number of classes with one particular classmate. She was intelligent, personable, thoughtful, beautiful, and black. I did not really think of her as a black student, I saw her as a friend and someone who made me laugh. One day she asked me if I would like to go to a movie. I was stunned, not because of her ethnicity, but rather because she was so beautiful and I was not that amazing. It took me less than a second to accept. When I got home that night I told my parents I had a date. They were also stunned, but for a different reason; I only when out maybe three times my entire time in high school. My dad even allowed me to use their second car. I did bring my friend home to meet my parents, and they were cordial, but when I got home that night, my father told me that I needed to sit my ass down. Yikes!

He asked me, What I was thinking?
I asked, innocently, “What?”
His response, “You went to the movie with a black girl.”
My response, to which he was not amused, “She was?”
Again, he told me in no uncertain terms that was not acceptable.
My response, even then, was, “She is my friend. I would have probably been okay had I stopped there, but those of you who know me, know that was not the case. I told him that I would promise to go out with her three or four more times before I would propose to her. He was not amused. I tell that story because I did not consider my parents as racist, but through that as well as a later statement by my father that stated, “I have known black people, but I have never been friends with one.” told me just how bigoted that generation was. Indeed, life could never be easy when that is what the average white, middle-class, person held as a common attitude.

As I noted in my last blog, the passing of Naya Rivera has been a difficult and emotional thing. As I have pondered the rationale for that, I believe what has been so significant for me what how this amazing six year run of the show so honestly considered the complexity of what many people face in their daily lives and dealt with it in a forthright and thoughtful manner. There is nothing easy about growing up, and as we are in the midst of a global health crisis, any misperception that it will get easier is a pipedream. I have gotten a regular stream of phone calls over the past couple weeks from students asking my thoughts and advice about what might happen concerning our coming semester. I have been thoughtful and honest with them. I tell them what I have a sense of, but also remind them that I am not part of a university committee who are considering the complexity of what coming back to Bloomsburg entails. I also advise them to contact their landlords if they are living off campus. I remind them that communication is essential if they are to prepare for whatever the fall might bring. For those who are coming to college for the first time, I can only imagine what might be going through their minds. For those who are about to graduate, their senior years are much more complex than they imagined as freshmen three years ago. For those who have been teaching or working at the university, life as it was seems unlikely to return anytime soon, if at all. Indeed, no one said it would be easy, but I am quite sure we were not prepared for this. We need a strategy, but we need that at a university level, at a system level, at the state and the federal level. Such a take will never be easy when what we are attempting to manage is nothing like we have tried before. It will never be easy when we seem to have a national situation that is fragmented and seemingly dishonest. There is no easy silver bullet, and, again, to believe there is will do little to confront Covid’s complexity. Leadership is not something that can only be initiated publically, it is well-evidenced these past five months that it will take each of individually doing our level best to get in front of this deadly situation. Anything less is a failure and cheapens each individual life we have lost. Again, this is not about easy, it is about what is right, what is moral, and what is necessary. Finally in honor again of the loss of a mother and a talented person, I offer another song from the series Glee.

Thank you as always for reading; I wish you each health and safety, a sense of peace and hope.

Michael

Published by thewritingprofessor55

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

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