Two people are speaking in this blog post. So keep up.
For almost a year now I have been an intern at a nearby K-8 fine arts magnet school. It has been nothing but a great experience for me in many ways as I help the students (and their teachers) integrate music into the general classroom. This year so far has consisted of individual testing on students’ basic music literacy, which means I spend the day pulling 2nd and 3rd graders out of their classes to play rhythms, sing pitches, and other things. Not too long ago, I was waiting for a class to return from recess so I could pull another student. Lines of kids would meander through the halls like ants in an anthill, led by teachers who continuously stopped every few meters to quiet them. As I waited, a specialist was having a particularly difficult time with this. Me and my extra height was of no help; one look and the kids’ focus was out the window. To make things easier, I walked off purposefully into a nearby stairwell and waiting for them to get quiet and finally pass through. In that stairwell, I leaned against the window and listened to the voice of the specialist struggling with the voices of the students for several minutes. That was when the thought occurred to me: do I really, really want to teach elementary school? How much have I enjoyed what I do thus far? When it was just me with one kid, nothing could make me frustrated. Students weren’t stubborn, and I found none who did not cooperate. A paraprofessional sat and watched as her autistic student sang correct pitches and quickly notated rhythms just by listening to them, and another student with severe brain trauma only interrupted by asking if I liked to watch wrestling. Not a problem.
But that, that commotion down the stairwell. It defeated me.
I experimented bringing different philosophies in with me each day, but my calm place was inevitably my iPod on the bus ride. Don’t get me wrong. This still falls under the category of a great experience. Wouldn’t you consider it great to know when something you do isn’t something you enjoy, and that you’ve just narrowed down the search for what you want to do for the rest of your life? Obviously, scratching elementary education off my list for the time being is not as drastic as realizing — oh, say — you want to be a priest. No, it merely means that in my current life position, I would prefer to teach a different age level.
And then there’s Laura. If you haven’t met Laura yet, you should make it a goal for yourself. At her school 500 miles away, she walked away from an auditorium where she moments before had an acting audition. In her head were only four words.
I feel cramped sometimes: in my room, my dorm, my school, this town. But if I let myself be cramped, throw on my sweats and stay in my room every night, I’m not seeing what little bit of world I have at my disposal. Even the smallest of interactions could make or break a day, and just passing someone walking to class and striking up a conversation counts as networking. When I wake up in the morning I realize I could throw on a sweatshirt and go to class, which I do some days. But most days I realize putting on the clothes I love, no matter if they fit in with today’s trends, are going to make me a lot happier than if I don’t. After going through a lot of rough times last fall, and letting too much of my mood be determined by other people, I realized what I need is to “see and be seen.”
Coming into this semester, I knew I wanted to do something different. I had always been the girl who knew what she wanted and went after it with vigor, and I had lost that part of me in recent months. When I read the script to our first play of this semester, I knew what role I wanted and I knew I was going to fight for it. At auditions, our director handed out readings for the quiet, unassuming, awkward lead (not my type at all) to all but five, myself included. I am not a nervous person by nature, but when he handed the rest of us the monologue for the crazy mother the nerves finally kicked in. I have hardly any confidence in my ability to play comedy, though if you hand me a dramatic piece I could perform it without a blink. Literally, as I walked up front I was still debating on whether to throw a Long Island-esque accent on this piece, and I decided basically as the first word came out of my mouth. The monologue went swimmingly and to see my director and every other person in the audition room rollicking with laughter made my semester. After callbacks got out I was so on cloud nine I didn’t even care if my name was on the cast list the next day, because I had done exactly what I wanted to in the audition—I was seen.
And I got the role.
“See and be seen.”
When I see that cast list tomorrow, she said during one of our latest weekly-ish phone conversations, and I see that I’m on it in the role that I want, I’ll be happy because will be seen. But if someone else gets the role, then I will at first be a little frustrated. But I’ll go see the show and see why that person got the role instead, and then I will see.
I think of it as a very concise way of looking at what you do in life. “Be seen” doesn’t simply mean drawing attention to yourself, though I think you already understood that. Likewise, “seeing” is not just silently observing without evaluating, pondering, learning. It makes the best of the best and the best of the worst when we try to be successful. And you know what else is fun about it? It’s a cycle! Every time you are seen, you help others to see. Whether or not that was your intention.