As I was up to my elbows in muck at work today, I thought about the notion of “redefining normal“.? I spent a good chunk of my morning recycling hundreds of pounds of clay for my ceramics class.? And, laugh all you want, I suddenly realized that while this was a perfectly routine thing for me to do, it was probably not normal for the rest of the civilized world.? And it dawned on me that fairly soon, it would not be normal for me either.
While I won’t call it a skill, there is a certain aptitude in digging clay from a bucket and working it into usable condition.? I know this only from watching my students, who approach the container with dread and lower their fingers in slowly and cautiously as if they’re reaching into a basket of vipers.? And they look away and wince, every time.? Before they touch the clay.? I’ve never understood.? And then they dig out a couple of fingernails full and pretend they’re done.? I reach in and slap another grapefruit-sized chunk on their hands with a cheerful “there you go!” before they have a chance to walk away.
If this wasn’t going to be my normal, I tried to think of whose it would be.? I did a little mind game, trying to think of as many other professions as I could.? I got as far as my friend who is a ceramicist, then nixed it because she probably has a machine that does this for her.? Nope, really — none that I could think of.? Then I tried to think of all of the other crazy skills I had learned in this job, and where those might be useful, but discovered that they’re really pretty “niche”.? For example, I am quite good at telling if a kid is really going to throw up, or just wants to get out of his next class.? And if they are going to throw up, I am rather adept at getting them escorted out of the room fast enough that it doesn’t happen on my territory.? I am also darn good at fake-remembering my students’ names.? Quite good, actually.? I can either get them to think I know it without actually remembering it, or stall them long enough that it comes to me.? Either way, they leave with that charming little “she does remember me!” smile on their face, and I breathe a silent sigh of relief.
The biggest change I will have to my “normal” is the sheer number of people I am surrounded by.? I’m a pretty shy person, so dealing with 150+ people each day was a decent system shock when I first encountered it.? Forcing myself to interact with each one individually daily, in two-minute chunks, is kind of like the teacher-student equivalent of speed dating.? To go from that to being solo will be a pretty big adjustment.? I guess being self employed is not just a matter of economics — there’s a social and emotional paradigm shift that goes along for the ride.
Still bracing, and making sense of it all.
[For the record, the above picture is not me recycling clay, but up to my elbows in muck after cleaning out a clogged downspout drain pipe a few months back.? One “normal” I’d redefine quite happily.]