Movies can change lives for the same reason books can: they contain stories that make us feel that we belong somewhere; that what we feel and how we feel it is not so strange. They contain wisdom that we should have found for ourselves but the cloudiness of life and routine and disappointment and hardship sometimes obscure the way…
When I was a young girl I dreamed of becoming a doctor. My mom was a nurse, you see, so I stole every moment I could to wander the passages of that hospital. I’d fantasize about having to drink unhealthy amounts of coffee to stay awake to be with my patients. I dreamed of helping and curing and healing.
It felt like Divine abandonment when I failed to get into medical school. The universe would not give me a chance to matter.
Many years and interesting stories later, I’m here…a university lecturer in a discipline that could arguably be seen as noble and helpful. But the thoroughly debated generation gap and the pervasive changes in the design and needs of the modern student made me hate my job. I’m 97% sure I don’t reach anyone in class and I my next step in teaching will be to learn to tap dance or mime. I’m a desperate dancing monkey trying to hold my audience’s attention…
With each passing year I told myself to distance myself more and more from the students. That – I told myself – would soften the blow of not reaching anyone; ease the disappointment that inevitably comes with teaching.
Then a funny thing happened.
A young girl asked me for something to eat. She wasn’t even in my class but she told me she saw me walking around in our faculty and I looked like I was a nice person. She was hungry. So she asked me for something to eat.
After I had helped her out she asked me:
Do you have kids ma’am?
No, I said.
That’s a shame. You would have made a wonderful mum.
I cried when I got home. I immediately watched the movie Seabiscuit because there it was…the answer to what I have been yearning to do: matter.
I’ve always want to help, but I was so stuck in narrow ideas of what I was called to do in life I became blind to the remarkable opportunity I have each day to bring relief to young people.
The thing is, I live in a country wrought with socio-economic difficulty and human rights abuses. Then again…don’t we all?
Young people struggle so much. I have, for example, a young male student who struggles with overwhelming and paralyzing panic attacks. He does not come from a family with means, but when I learnt of this struggle, I was in a better position to help him.
Oh, thanks for the good thoughts, but I deserve no credit. I could have done better a long time ago. And the truth is – hard as it is to admit – I get more from helping the odd student then they do…
Whenever I connect with one of them, I experience relief…the warm, welcoming feeling that I am no longer alone…
I’m not proud of my motivations and, believe me, I still struggle with the suspicion that students are not human beings, but I continue to allow connection in the hope that someday, somehow I would have made someone else feel un-alone in this world.
That is how we get through this shitty life, I guess…one relieving connection at a time…