Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Directions for Living

I used to be a creative writing teacher until I sold my soul to the devil and became a school administrator. I am being only partly facetious, as I have been struggling lately with what I consider to be the "soulless" aspects of my new job. This struggle comes with crises of conscience and identity, and next thing I know, I am singing a Talking Heads song and asking myself "How did I get here?" Now that I think about, I kind of do live in a shotgun shack...

To stave off these descents into the self-reflective abyss, I am taking action to reclaim the parts of my work life that sustain me beyond my job. This week an art teacher and I began collaboration on a joint creative writing/ceramics project. Students are going to write "Directions for Living" and then create something--sculptural or functional--out of clay that will be the vehicle for their writing. Today after we introduced the writing component we walked to the park to brainstorm and begin writing our own keys to the good life. I shared with students an example I wrote for my seniors in 1998 and shared with graduating 12th graders in my classes thereafter:

life is long--
long enough to try again.
to be wrong and be right and to start anew.
humble yourself.
grow from your shortcomings.

praise not only gods, but People.
find prophets and sages, wisdom and insight
in children, landscapes, birdsongs,
simple folk, the misunderstood.

say you’re sorry, when it matters and
it counts and it’s true.
trace the roots of envy. weed them out.

go great distances for those you love.

sweat. trust. love. accept. give. hope.
bask. assist. embrace. shed. gaze. open.
persist. acknowledge. inquire. donate.




part the branches. open the door.
peek behind the curtain. ask to be let in.

vow to yourself a life of adventures,
however small or big.

you will leave a wake;
must leave a wake.

But lest you run roughshod over the earth
on your path of courage and adventure,
look back every now and again
at the footprints you leave behind.

I can't wait to see what students write. And I can't wait to see what they make. And I can't wait to see what I make, ha! (No experience on the pottery wheel).

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