one of the best stories i know about me is from my glory days of 3rd grade. what happened was mrs. winegrad (my nemesis for many, many reasons) told the class to write in our journal. every day we had to write 5 sentences in our journal and on this particular day when she said “class, take out your journal and write 5 sentences,” i wrote these: “i saw curly sue. i lost a tooth. this is 3. this is 4. this is 5.”
(i’m writing this story and it’s making me think i wrote about it here before. maybe i did. it’s still my favorite story.)
mrs. winegrad wasn’t impressed. even though i was not only showing some serious creative thinking AND a deep grasp of what exactly a sentence WAS, mrs. winegrad punished me by making me write 3 extra sentences the next day.
lucky for me, my laziness and contempt for authority were too strong to be destroyed by one overly-pregnant 3rd grade teacher. which is why i was thinking about this story today.
oh there are actually SO many reasons.
1. i’ve been thinking about what stories are lately and this is a perfect example of a story i tell myself about myself. was i the person i am now before i wrote creative sentences for mrs. winegrad? or am i this person because of how i’ve spun this story? i mean, i really hated mrs. winegrad and all of my previous teachers were people i loved. maybe it was just her that inspired my rebellion. really, who knows why i mocked this assignment one day in 3rd grade? who cares? now it is part of how i define myself to myself. like, look, i’ve ALWAYS been an obnoxious student who challenges everything. and it’s GREAT. for me this isn’t a story about having trouble adjusting to a new school (it was a new school) and it isn’t even necessarily about a power struggle (even though obviously it was). instead it’s about how i criticize the system and how i am smarter than teachers.
a. boy that’s pretty irritating. but i am just using it as an example of self-definition through selecting and editing memories.
i. which is also irritating. sorry.
2. less theoretically: today in my fiction class i brought up the fact that i am against writing just for “the writing community” by cutting yourself off from the rest of non-artist american culture and immediately rejecting it as worthless. which was just an extension of my usual crusade against super niche specific writing such as african american lesbian fiction that is only accessible to african american lesbians. this is a hard thing to explain because i don’t mean that african american lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to write about their experiences but that african american lesbians (and jewish pacific islanders and cowboys and whoever else) should write as humans not as a member of the tiny group they have confined themselves to. (a discusion made harder by the african american lesbian in my class. so i used asian diabetics as my example. it wasn’t a good example.) this cuts people out; it doesn’t educate them. and it removes the writer from the interconnectedness of humanity. all of which is my take on emerson’s idea of being “man writing” instead of being “a writer”. and which (here is the less theoretical part) seemed to come off as “mfa programs in fiction are possibly pointless”. which is how i get back to mrs. winegrad because the teacher didn’t seem to be too into my idea. like he took it personally. some times people have this problem understanding how i can criticize something that i like and that i am obviously invested in (i hated mrs. winegrad but i loved school and i’m getting my mfa in fiction right this minute). i always talk shit about everything i do, or that is how some people see it. and i do i guess, but the thing is, i am just talking (or writing). that’s how i figure things out. school might be pointless. or it might be full of meaning. san francisco might be awful. or it might be amazing. but how am i going to know unless i think about it and work out how i feel? i’m testing things out. my opinion is always changing. that’s what stories are for.
a. where am i going with this? what does this have to do with mrs. winegrad? i think i am trying to say: in 3rd grade and in graduate school i am commenting on the system and i am questioning it. but that doesn’t mean i am rejecting it.
3. i wonder if i will be able to be a teacher. most teachers i’ve had don’t like it when people doubt the relevance of their job. will i be able to handle it? will i be able to convince people that i know anything about anything?
4. even in 3rd grade i liked writing about movies.