My collection of weird teenagers during our final Comedy Club meeting. I thought we were done with this teacher shit. I mean the feels. Do you smell something burning? On this particular and currently post-work and pantsless evening, I am having trouble focusing. But when I returned home I had only one thing on my mind: But what shall I write tonight? Will it be door number 2, a few hundred words of my 3rd memoir that I believe will be the key to unearthing myself from my seasonal depression?
Or maybe even door number 4, a few minutes of stand up comedy related to the incidents leading to door number 3? Just as I begin to open door number 1, I decide I really should clip my fingernails… But then there was the matter of a second dinner and engaging in a glass of wine session with my roommate proved to be of utmost necessity.
And then I had to check my email. And then I had to Google a few things really quick for no apparent reason other than to convince a private investigator in the future that I am a complete sociopath. And then I absolutely needed to check my Instagram. Now before I lose you, this is where shit gets interesting. See, because there was a tiny little notification in the corner of my Insta informing me that somebody had left me a message.
Now, this former student is a very special former student to me. A student who I spent many after schools with, typing away into a miniature Chromebook as she talked at top speeds, trying desperately to capture her genius.
This was how we wrote her papers. Me at the keyboard and her getting her thoughts into the air as quickly as possible before they left us both in the dust. I fucking love this student.
Of all the students to hear from at this hour, I am NOT mad about this one popping into my little inbox. Not only was she always in that front row ready to listen to whatever ridiculous thing that came out of my mouth every single day, but she actually heard me.
She heard me and she understood me. And when I learned that she was struggling with a neurological disorder I was all over that shit. I was on the phone with Mom consistently, pestering her other teachers about letting her take her tests orally instead of on a scantron, I mean I'm pretty convinced I'd hide a body for this young lady, okay.
About a year ago I revealed my social media accounts to her and some of my favorite students in the wake of the news that I was quitting. Maybe I really did just want the followers, who the hell knows. Every few months I get an email, Facebook message, or Snapchat from a kiddo. The majority of them are innocent and not weird. So here she is, my sweet, sweet girl. And what does she have to say this evening?
September 27, I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I see how much you care and wanna help these kids. You have such a big heart and I can see that! The way you are about us is unbelievable. You deserve so much from life and I hope you get that. We have the same passion and visions for the school and just life in general. You can see the beauty of life as I do. I aspire to be like you and keep hope for change.
I have so so so much respect for you. Thank you for your letter! It really meant a lot to see that someone cared when I had nothing from anyone and was losing hope and strength. I want my life back and I will get it back. You are so important to a lot of people and I appreciate you. She wrote them actually.
Which is a big deal considering all those modifications we made to her History papers. She wrote the words on a piece of paper during what I can only tell you was one of the most terrifying and life-changing weeks of my life alright second only to brain surgery. It was actually the very week I first had the thought to move to New York City. Now is that some cosmic shit or what? And most of all, mourning the loss of all the kids those two years who made me feel like I was a person who mattered.
Not some face in a crowded subway to be squeezed past or just another name on the lineup at a comedy show to be quickly crossed out at the end of my set, but a person who fucking counts. But I was suffocating. My classroom had no windows. I was literally gasping for oxygen every single day for two whole years. I was at my lowest low when this KID decided to open her notebook and tell me that I was real and that I mattered to her and to many others.
What had I said that day to deserve this little love letter? You know what, I honestly have no clue. My guess is something brain-related. A story about maneuvering a wheelchair or learning how to do 3rd-grade math problems in rehab perhaps? Or something less recent? Teaching and sharing and encouraging like I always have. Making stupid jokes and telling people not to give up even when every fiber of their being is telling them to abandon all hope.
I thought I was running away. I emptied the entire contents of my classroom into my car and then into that storage unit and shut the door tightly behind me, hoping to never look back for fear of confronting my deepest and darkest insecurities. Not only was I tough enough, but I was SO tough that I had to quit so that I could give everyone a god damn breather from how intense I was. So what am I doing now you ask? Yes, I literally teach comedy writing classes on the Upper West Side on Monday nights, but I actually teach every day of the year.
I teach when I get on a stage and share a story. I teach when I write my books. I teach when I tell people about my life.
I teach when I blog. I teach when I podcast. The proof is in the handwritten letters. This is not an outlier. There are at least letters much like this one tucked away just waiting for my blubbery eyes to discover; some back in the storage unit and about 50 stacked up on my nightstand right now.
I am a teacher. My notorious 5th Period cheesin' during our Civil Rights Museum project day