Marking Time

My fingers know the key strokes, but are unsure of the words to write. I know how to move through the spaces that I inhabit, but I am no longer certain that this is where I belong. When I speak, I am slightly surprised that my voice makes sounds and I am astounded when the words find their destination. Yet, despite this, no one seems to notice. I have learned how to play this part well, my part of this long running show. It is easier to recite my lines and hit my mark than it is to immerse myself in the role.

I am of that age, I think, when the road behind is, hopefully, equal in distance to the road ahead. But what it will all look like as I continue along? I don’t have profound insights about this spot that I am standing on. I have gotten quite good at dissecting the past but I do not have the promised wisdom to approach the future. I am watching my world move around me, but I am not quite a part of it. This disconnect is amplified by the muffled voices of the people around me and the six feet that fills our spaces. I am not sure that this was caused by the pandemic, but the pandemic has made it unavoidable.

I have always insisted that my students know the purpose of their writing before they begin to formally draft. Long ago, I stole Nancie Atwell’s phrase, “So What” and made it the foundation of my classroom workshop, demanding that students not only dig at their own “so what” but also the “so what” in every text that they encounter. Those two words are on my classroom walls, embedded in almost every mini-lesson, and create the initial conference over any new piece of writing. Once, I even had a student write a poem entitled “So What” that beautifully captured my incessant questioning.

I used to believe that not knowing the “so what” was unacceptable, leading to an unexamined life, of sorts. But now that I am wondering about my own purpose, my “so what” in this perpetual production, maybe Socrates was wrong. Perhaps the unexamined life is comfortable and safe, requiring less energy and minimizing disruption? Maybe it’s okay to float along for a bit, waiting for the house lights to come on and see if anyone really is at home.

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