I'm in the final quarter of my third year teaching. Although I still feel like a hopeless amateur, the contexts of my life as a teacher are becoming more and more familiar and comfortable. I used to stand at the front of my classroom, looking at the carpet with different primary colored squares, desks arranged into neat "pods," cubbies bursting with notebooks and papers, laminated posters of sentence starters for math journals and accountable talk written in my own still-shaky handwriting ... Sometimes, I kid you not, there'd even be an apple on my desk. I'd feel coldly out of place in these moments. Every detail so clearly spoke "Elementary School Classroom," and here I was, standing at the whiteboard with a marker in my hand, feeling not at all like the "Elementary School Teacher" that would complete the scene. It felt like I was in the middle of some elaborate playset, and if I could just close my eyes and remember hard enough, all the pretend would fall away and I'd find myself back in a "real" world that was more suitable to the "real" me.
That doesn't happen as much anymore.
Yesterday (Friday) was a big day. J's band was playing for the first time in two years. I've mentioned some of the difficulties that we have getting out lately, so for him to have been able to attend a series of practices AND for us BOTH to be able to go out on the same night was a serious big deal.
The show was at a bar that he's been playing at since we started dating, 17 years ago, when I was only 21. If you want to talk about the "real" me in my "real" life, it doesn't get much more familiar than that booth at the front of the bar facing the right of the stage, where I've been sitting with different constellations of bandmember girlfriends (and boyfriends), acquaintances, and other hangers on for most of my adult life.
(The title of this post is what I would say to bartenders and sound people who, seeing me hanging around before sound check, would ask me if I was in the band. Really, all I carried were amps, and no one got the joke anyway.)
Friday also was the 5th grade dance at school. I'd kind of forgotten they were on the same day and ended up dashing from one event to the other.
At the dance, I jumped and bopped to the worst pop music in the world. I did "The Wobble." I raised my hands in the air and sang "Baby, you're a firework!" with crowds of ten year old girls. I clapped and stomped to We Will Rock You. I crowded around and applauded the groups of boys whose lessons at the local hip hop dance studio had clearly paid off.
At the bar, listening to some of my favorite music in the world, certainly made by my favorite person, I stood with my arms crossed, nursing a beer, and nodding at only the best, best moments of the songs.
The bar felt right and familiar, but these days, now, things that are vastly different and unlike anything that my past self who spent every weekend nursing beers at that bar would have been able to imagine also feel right and familiar.
(Oh, and these days, I have students create my posters. My handwriting never did start to look right on an anchor chart.)