Life · Parenting · Teaching

Universality

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I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. As a fat person, everyone always just expects me to want to lose weight as a resolution, and I find it disappointing. I am terrible about other things, too! I have lots of areas to improve upon, but no one focuses on those. Oh well.

Still, this new year have been a time of reflection for me. I think that I am accustomed to professional reflection being a requirement of my job, and without that job I have found myself ruminating about life. I know that I’m “only” 40 and that I shouldn’t really have a right to spout platitudes as truth, but I’m going to anyway because I have noticed some things that seem to be universally true. Or, if not universally true, they’re at least true for me, and that’s my universe.

  1. Kids are totally the same around the world. Now, I know that every single kid isn’t exactly the same, I mean, I clearly don’t have experience with all of them, but bear with me here. I’ve been teaching online for a bit now, and I have noticed some remarkable similarities between the kids I’m teaching English to in China and the kids I taught in a physical school in the US. I guess I should say that I have collected some data that allows me to conclude that many kids in developed nations have similar tendencies. I hope that makes the PC police happy. Oy…                                                                             First of all, kids pick noses without any sense of shame. They just do. They are also always curious about the contents removed and if they are edible. You and I both know that they are not, in fact, edible, but kids are willing to try and see more often than not. At a certain age, they’re also fascinated by their bellies. Showing you, a stranger, the belly is paramount but patting the belly-making a resonant thump-is also desirable. They like to hear themselves yell, too, but that doesn’t always go away.                                                                                    To be honest, this same generality can applied to parents. Not that they like to hear themselves babaloo on their bellies (that would make for some interesting conversations) but that they are sort of the same all over. Parents are sweetly terrified of letting their kids fail. As a teacher, I would always get so frustrated by this and beg parents to allow failure at the elementary age, telling them that it was the best time to fail because the consequences were so small. As a parent, I totally get the need to protect them anyway. A crestfallen child is like a dagger in the heart of certain parents and I am among them. It’s lead to some interesting issues with my online teaching, and I’ve said phrases like, “Oh my. Mommy knows so much English! What does Jake know?”
  2. Some platitudes are also totally true. Let’s take “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I really hated living where I was living. The long winters, the general cold, the feeling of being isolated from all the things that I loved about populous places… I could go on. But now that I’m not there, I romanticize. “Oh Husband! Remember walking arm in arm cuddling back to our car on date night?” He remembers, I’m sure. I’m also sure he would be the first to point out that we were not cuddling so much as I was hanging on for dear life because I consistently slipped on the ice and fell giving myself welts and bruises which would not allow me to sit comfortably for a week.   “Revenge is a dish best served cold” is a platitude I’ve been thinking about a lot for about two years. I honestly used to think that the phrase meant that you should wait before exacting your revenge because then the revenge-ee will not be expecting you. Really. I actually wrestled with wanting to take my revenge on someone. Though I try to be a good person overall, I still struggled with picturing egging a house. Toilet papering the trees. Sending one of those anonymous glitter bomb letter things. I honestly really imagined doing these things and wanted to do them under cloak of darkness.                                                                                                      Moving away and not having taken any revenge steps, I realized that the expression doesn’t mean that at all, silly. It’s more about waiting it out until you no longer feel the need to take the revenge. I get that now. And most days I feel like I did the right thing. Every once in a while I wish I had done a little minor mischief, but only on my off days. By the way…. a glitter bomb. It would be a glitter bomb.
  3. A long time ago in a galaxy far away I had a friend who told me this and, though I’ve not spoken to her in many years,  I will never forget it. She said, “hurt people hurt people.” People who are hurt and afraid can be completely awful to those around them. My mother is very ill, and those who love her are scared and wounded in their hearts. There have been instances in which people I grew up admiring have loosed the venom of their broken hearts on my siblings and me, and it has been utterly depressing. People are yelling at others, saying that my m other’s cancer can be blamed on her children, anger and disgust the likes of which I’ve never seen displayed in public, just not in front of my mom. At first I was appalled. I cried and I felt guilt and wished I had just done all the right things (which were impossible to know to do) at all the right times. Taking a step back and gaining some distance, I was able to see what really was happening. My friend had been right that hurt people hurt people, and that was true of the people attacking us. But here’s what I also noticed: it’s just not true of everybody. My siblings and I have not said a single mean word to each other, and we are certainly hurting. We’ve come together and taken turns with care, celebrated holidays all together for the first time in ages, emailed regularly, and been joking with each other more than I can remember ever happening before. So here’s the thing. People really can be the same everywhere, and platitudes can be true for reasons. But the biggest universal truth I’ve discovered in my New Years Reflections has been that family can conquer all. Family is the universal love. And mine, full of crazy and weird and no one alike, is the best one ever.

 

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