There is a quote, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I’m not sure where it comes from, maybe it’s Steven Covey, or maybe it’s from the Bible, but I feel like that is exactly what I have been doing for the past four years.
Seeking first to understand.
It’s in my quest for knowledge, for understanding, either by asking questions or reflecting upon their answers; or even giving people the benefit of the doubt before judging, that took so long to get here. Well, other than having to recover physically and/or emotionally from each odd or awful thing I had learned and/or experienced.
People expect everyone to be on the same path – follow the same rules at the same time according to today’s homogenous societal norms – and it just doesn’t work that way.
The people that fall outside the paths most travelled are not just ignored, but marginalized, ridiculed, persecuted and, in some cases targeted for much worse.
I remember having this very conversation with that guy, Parker, from Portland. We were walking down the road shopping in the Hawthorne district, when he pointed out a homeless man that he knew.
“He’s well known around here. Schizophrenia.”
“Oh, wow. Poor guy.”
“How do you think he got that way?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know.”
“It’s all about choices,” Parker said, “cause and effect. Make poor choices, and eventually…”
Well, I wasn’t sure what he meant, but it sure sounded philosophical. Incidentally, he also taught me what “420” meant. No really, he did.
I choose to believe that my path of choices these past four years was a journey to gain a greater understanding of this phenomena.
The Summer of 2010, I was happy to still be teaching. I was getting the hang of things, and learning more and more about my content area with each course.
I was eager to see my colleagues at the University, as I had taken Spring Semester off in order to focus on teaching. My first real teaching position, and it was important for me to get it right.
A school colleague and I had agreed to attend a picnic at my Professor’s home together. She drove, and we each brought something to drink and a summer salad.
It was quite fun.
It was good to see everyone, we chatted, threw a football, commiserated and generally had a good time.
I had brought along a bottle of wine to share, and a six pack of coolers.
My class partner, Brian, had arrived and introduced me to his wife. Then, he asked what I was drinking, so I offered him some.
“Please, have some wine. It’s in the refrigerator.”
So he left to, what I assume, was partake in some wine.
I never did chat with him again after that – as he and his wife left shortly after.
I also met (face-to-face) a gentleman that I had an internet class with, Romeo. He was a PhD student, originally hailing from French-speaking Africa, Cote D’Ivoire. We had chatted several times during our online class and on skype, as we were in a project group together. He seemed quite amiable, and even agreed to help me with my conversational French.
Okay so. This is when it gets weird…
I remember kneeling down to introduce myself to another classmates young son – almost falling over.
I shook my head and rose up, swaying, and walked into the kitchen of Dr. Dingleberry’s house.
I saw the finished the bottle of wine sitting on the counter, assuming that my classmate, Brian had taken a glass, and figured I had only drank three at that point.
Now, what you need to know is – I can drink a bottle of wine and not be able to drive. But certainly, I can still carry on a conversation, and certainly NOT be falling over, running into things.
I got a glass of water, and opened a wine cooler.
I thought maybe I should eat something more, so I did.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a tiny bedroom, with one of my female classmates.
She was asking me questions. To which, I can only remember replying:
“Why does he have to be so mean – why are all of you so mean?”
I’m not sure what that meant.
I remember Dingleberry coming in and getting my iPhone.
I remember getting up and changing into my swimsuit, not realizing what time it was.
I remember Dr. Larch coming out and talking to me while I soaked in the hottub – to wake myself up.
…and then someone yelled that it was time for everyone to leave.
It was fucking 2:00 am in the morning!!
I think, all-in-all, I had lost 5 hours during the whole ordeal.
My friend had left, but I got a ride home from one of my classmates.
The next day, I was devastated. So embarrassed. I had never blacked out before. Well, except for when Tom drugged me and I got pregnant.
I wrote a letter to Dingleberry, apologizing for my behavior. I didn’t know what else to do, or how else to explain it.
It certainly wasn’t made out to be a big deal, except for in my own head.