Oh beautiful August, you are nearly done. School is about to start and the beautiful children will soon latch themselves onto my brain (whether they want to or not) and I will once again become something not unlike a pod-person living in the Matrix -with access to wine.
It's been a good summer so far. The best one I've had in a long time. After five years of working through the summer, I finally took the entire month of August off, and like Peter Gibbons said in the film, Office Space, "It was everything I thought it could be." And it's not over yet! It's not over yet, it's not over yet, it's not over yet...
To start it off, Kenny and I took a little road trip where we sat on a balcony and stared at boats in a dock. He DeeJayed, we ate ice cream on cones, shopped at outlet malls and frolicked in a park and on the streets of San Diego. Since then I've been painting, doing yoga on a regular basis (for the first time in forever) and editing some writing. I cut my hair, ordered bifocals and bought some new shoes. I realize though, that I'm not going to have enough time to pull off all of what I planned for this month, but that's okay. (I'm still hoping to draw and post a "summer-summary" style WHAT I DID LAST MONTH before September.)
The most important thing is that my brain has been my own for the past few weeks and I've been thinking a lot about art, consumerism, currency, Los Angeles, power, crafting, histories, etc... things I'd love to write about, but it's too much. It's all swirling, boring stuff I always think about that is better explored by way of my new visual art project (that has to do with shoes, of course).
As a human being, the social/internet-addicted animal that I am, I feel the need to share something, while at the same time being a blissful hermit, so I'm choosing to post one of my graduation speeches today. It addresses the thing that will soon consume my life (being a teacher). In it I write about coming to terms with that part of myself, but make no mistake, without my own independent work and practice, I am not able to teach.
One of my favorite things about my day job is the fact that the kids choose teachers to speak on their behalf at their graduation ceremonies. I wrote/read three speeches this past May, and was thankful and honored to be asked by those students, whom I worked so closely with over the years. I'm always grateful to be selected. It's the one time of the year I not only have an important reason to spend time on creative writing, but I also get to read my writing to an audience, which is something I love doing. I'm posting one here that was written for a student who graduated from middle school and is about to enter high school. I chose to post this one because it received some laughs from the audience. The other two were for graduating seniors and therefore a bit "heavier." I want to make it clear that I value all three of them (speeches and students).
P.S. I make references to RuPaul because the kid is obsessed with the show, Dragrace.
*Names have been replaced by underscores to protect the "innocent."
[directed to audience]
Hello Everyone, I’m Linda and I’ve been one of ______’s art teachers here at ______ _______ ______ ______.
[directed to student]
I have one thing to say... Just kidding I have a lot of things to say, now get ready for me to start talking about you like you're not sitting right here.
[directed once again to audience]
______ makes me crazy.
______ has that thing that artists need in order to be a true artist, and that is to have, within oneself, not only a big heart, but the heart of a troublemaker and I use that term with love.
As an art teacher, it is my job to try and help kids learn how to harness and use what I call, "the inner beast" (side note, my spell-checker changed that to "inner beans").
It's from this place where creative risks are taken and where innovation is born. And ______ is filled with inner beans.
That being said, I relate to ______ and though you will not catch me admitting this outside of this ceremony; I adore him. He's good kid with a big energy who likes to have fun. And he works hard! I've seen it! In the homework cafe with _____ working patiently with him while other kids are creating irresistible distractions like plotting to add clothing dye from our tie dye kit to the plug-in air freshener liquid (that actually happened).
Whether he becomes one or not, ______ is an artist. I know this because everyone marvels at his work and he comes into my class with his sleeves rolled and at the same time he figuratively and literally bangs his head against my table, stating that his artwork deserves to be burned and that he would never, ever want to be an artist. Of course only an artist says these things.
[directed to student]
Whatever it is that you end up doing in life, ______, just know that after receiving my masters degree in fine art, I traveled to a woodland mountaintop and fell to my knees and said, "please Goddess, let me never become a middle school art teacher, if anything, let me teach college students and get paid sabbaticals on floating islands where I write books about the relationship between my love of Godzilla and fine art," and Goddess responded. She said, "Linda Lay, anyone who says 'goddess' and chooses her clothes based on whether or not it reminds her of wallpaper from the seventies is a middle school art teacher whether she likes it or not." And here I am. You can't deny who you are.
A long time ago ______ tagged me on Instagram and I saw on his bio that he considered himself as interesting as a baked potato and as much as I appreciate his statement as someone who values a good joke, you are most certainly not a baked potato. You are my favorite vegetable, an artichoke, which is actually a giant flower with a big delicious heart.
[directed to student]
______. I have one thing to say–
Sashay away... from the middle school and into the high school. Have a great summer enjoying your inner beans and I'll see you in September.
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My name is Linda Lay and I'm an artist, a writer and a teacher.