stupid stupid stupid
December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
When I am in my office and sitting across the desk from my students, and as I have said before they are older and poorer than most university students, I find myself giving the same advice again and again. This is my job of course – to give them advice about starting and continuing and finishing college. But so much of this process is about motivation and desire, and rage and regret. Theirs and mine. Regret is big. Huge.
Regret is the silencer, the dream-killer. Regret and shame are the stop-you-in-you-tracks, the nip-in-the-beautiful-bud. We feel shame and rage because we cannot control our lives, because things we hate or people we are supposed to love control our bodies, our lives, our pasts. Our pasts become our futures. Our pasts convince us we are train-cars running the one direction on the tracks, and we are not the head car. They convince us our fate is on rails. They convince us that very very little control is no control at all.
The students sit in front of me with the horrors they contain. They sit and the past sits with them, having dropped out of college because of a job or a baby or a divorce, some physical/emotional/economic trauma. Some displacement of self. They sit there and tell me “I never should have dropped out Jen, but I was so stupid.” Sometimes they have very poor study skills, and they are angry about this because of pride, and pride is the only thing that has kept them from giving up. There was an incident. The instructor or another student calls them on that lack. And they explode in anger. They cry. They storm out of class. They come to my office and ask me “why did I do that? It was stupid. I was so stupid. I might as well quit now.”
For me it is always the same advice here. “Don’t call yourself stupid” I say, “it is a luxury. You can’t afford it. Don’t talk about who fucked you over. Bottomless rage is a luxury you cannot afford.”
I have a hard time doing and a hard time completing things. It is so hard for me it is a joke. A sickness. A slow rot. I am fixing this, slowly.
I tell them regret, self-flagellation, is a luxury. It doesn’t matter how much they need to blame themselves or others because there is (I know this) a sick pleasure in taking yourself apart and dirtying each individual piece. They don’t have that much time, I tell them. You can’t afford it. It costs too much for you.
There is no one fix for a life, I believe. And even if you do everything right, nothing is guaranteed. What is granted is often unearned. Still, I tell them (I tell myself) without taking control of what you can, without attempting to assert control over your own thinking you are stuck. Don’t call yourself stupid; it stops you. You are stopped when the world is moving. You are stopped. For a time you are lost.