I had the joy of visiting my hometown of Logansport, Indiana recently. In fact, I’m still sitting at the kitchen table, under skylights. Might have just finished dancing like a muppet with my father to adamant piano music. I came primarily to see my parents, but also to see how my aunt is settling into Grandma’s old house, and how the forrest of magical privilege1 is growing. My mother also asked me to speak to the Rotary club. Which is amazing. As you may know, I see service, especially to one’s less-well-off origins, as an important component of maintaining the social fabric.
Which of course meant I couldn’t just talk to Rotary. I also reached out to the high school principal. Could I come and speak to some classes? Some perusal of the high school schedule later, I had some classes picked out. I’d present to the Advanced Placement Speech Class and all of the 8th graders at one of the two middle schools.
First, I landed from Ireland via Chicago2, hugged my parents, took my melatonin, and passed out. I woke in the morning, nervous but excited to head to the high school. I remembered the route from my house, driving my mother’s car like ye olde days.
I sometimes have these dreams where I’m back in high school, and I’m running late. Never naked, I suppose because I don’t care, but often late. Well. That actually happened. I arrived into the parking lot, a full 20 minutes before the class started, to an email that said “Hope you’re ok, sad to miss you in class.” Dear timezones. Dear, dear timezones. Drat.
Rotary was another matter. We ate, I caught up with friends’ parents, I talked about technology and collaboration and disaster response. The response was “we’re still not quite sure what you do, but we’re impressed!” Sigh. I must get better at this! I rewrote the presentation, laid it out differently, and prepared myself for the next day, with 6 rounds of 8th graders in a class called College to Careers.
Then, I took questions. Any question. One class was stuck on “hacking,” one on “celebrities,” but nearly all the questions were good ones. Once it became clear that I mean “any question,” more interesting ones started coming. “Why is your hair blue?” – because it’s supposed to be. “Why do you wear a tie?” – because it looks good. “What’s the worst place you’ve ever been?” – looking for invisible populations in Far Rockaway that we knew would freeze to death because they were scared to be seen. “What’s your favorite color?” – grey. “50 Shades of Grey?” – terrible fanfic of a terrible book. “Twilight?” – yup. *Gasp*
Each class had its own flavor. A blind kid was incredibly adept at translating into “kid speak.” Another, pink hair and poised nature, wanted to know where I went shopping. Two kids and I riffed about motorcycles, and how they were terrifically dangerous and here’s my scar but of course I still have one, but wait until you know how to sit still before you think about getting one yourself. And the instructor was incredibly gracious about me essentially telling kids who had signed up to a class for clear purpose and direction that I was still winging it (and loving it).
It was a great opportunity, and I’m glad to have a better understanding of what I do. Maybe other people will now, too. At least 120 kids out there are thinking that “hack” might not be a bad word.
1. My parents have taken to buying lots on their block that tend to be held by negligent landlords, tearing down the house, and planting trees. While this is a rather strange form of gentrification, as you can still easily get a house in any area of my hometown for under $30,000, I don’t feel so bad about it.
2. The first flight Diggz and I have ever been on together in 3 years of traveling!