being in tune with oneself

as i began this post several days ago, i only had a sense of where the story would go. i have an image in my mind of a young man looking at me with incredulity as i was hanging out in the afterschool program where my research team and i spend a few afternoons a week facilitating an arts and digital literacies project.  on a recent tuesday, we were continuing some work with collages that we had begun the week before. collaging is one in a long line of expressive practices that we have been incorporating into this series of workshops, that has included designing movie posters, camera work, reading and scripting lines of a play, among other practices. i first met the boy who i'm thinking of -- i'll call him derek -- a few weeks back. when i was introduced to him as a professor by a graduate students, who is also part of the team, derek immediately referred to me as "the OG." i liked him instantly :)  he wondered aloud what my relationship was, in terms of power and authority, to eric, who he referred to the man in charge. admittedly, eric does appear wise beyond his years and is a founding member of this project, but we both laughed at derek's characterization of his presumed age as he is almost the youngest member of our team.

but i digress... last week, as i walked into the program, derek announced my entrance by noting that "triple OG is here." (when eric entered a short while later, derek noted, "here comes double OG.") in addition to reminding me so much of one of the boys who was a part of my dissertation project group -- cyrus -- derek's countenance, wickedly shy smile that breaks into a grin, surprise when i call him by his name (and that i know his name at all) -- all of these little glimpses suggest some of the many layers that comprise the life of this one young man.

last tuesday, we were discussing events around the world -- and reminding ourselves to remember that the world is both local and global (and all the lovely bits in between) -- with the help of photographs depicting images of the devastation following the earthquake in japan, somali refugees in tunisia, citizen soldiers taking arms in libya... derek, who was sitting next to me, launched his body nearly out of his chair on more than 4 or 5 separate occasions. he was still very much engaged and participating, as his writing and conversational contributions from that day reflect, but he needed or took moments to swing himself away. i described this interaction in an email to a friend this way:
"I think... of this week's discussion with some young people whose great desire to be heard was palpable; a hand laid gently on a shoulder was all it took to invite a young man to join our discussion. This in contrast to a similar moment in classroom where delayed participation may be read, in a moment, as disengagement, and the weight of many previous moments of impatient judgments flash like a halo of garish neon signs."
in sharing this moment, i was recalling the suggestion made by jay lemke who notes that "moments add up to lives," and wondering about the many moments that adolescents experience in schools that rush by without attention, and yet build up with the residue of false or lowered expectations, disappointments, sacrificing relationships for content coverage, reinforced messages that kids must fit schools and decidedly not the other way around.

while i was thinking about all of this, and wondering how derek's sense of self - his very personhood - might be supported, i received an email from my friend e, whose beloved piano had just been seen by a tuner after a very long time. because of age (close to a 100 yo) among other reasons, the piano, e wrote, might only ever "be in tune with itself" and not, as it were, perfectly tuned. her email and the turn of phrase made me think instantly of derek. and cyrus. and ed. and travis. and brite. and christian. and eric. and myself. all were adolescents at some point, either now or in the past, who may not have been seen for who they are, only for what and who they are not.

to be in tune with oneself -- a formidable task in it own right! how often do we hear adults striving for a sense of balance and harmony, and yet why do we eschew these same qualities in young people who have not conformed to norms of behavior, practice, action, performance, engagement? the pursuit of being in tune with oneself may be where human flourishing comes alive and perhaps lies in direct contrast to an insistence on developmental markers of identity, progress -- redolent of what varenne and mcdermott artfully illustrate in successful failure about the social construction of labels that emerge out of judgment of a child's lack of being in tune with others, even while she may be perfectly in tune with herself... capable of playing, in key, with those around her.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Reading this made me smile.
I'm going to post a line(quote) from this post onto my tumblr blog! :)