Monday, February 23, 2009

Rage and Frustration, Part II

This morning, I woke up telling someone off.

I don't remember everything about my dreams last night, but when I woke up, I was just about to get it on with a hot blonde guy that I used to know back in Springfield (no, not that one.) This guy I used to know, that nothing ever happened between us, because he was a nice guy, and the only guys that ever came after me were assholes and losers, so I just have this nice memory that he existed, and was friendly, and chatty, and wanted a "real relationship," and never showed any real interest in me at all.

Oh... maybe there's a segue here? Anyway, I was just pulling him by the tie, when I woke up! And then... in my mind, my eyes not even open yet, I heard one of my old college professors asking me a question. When I was halfway through my reply, she screamed the answer in my face. And I said, out loud, disturbing the cat, "Why do you ask me something if you don't care what my answer is? Was that a trick question? Was I supposed to read your mind and know what the right answer was?"

"Who you talking to in there?" G asked, sauntering back into the bedroom. My eyes were closed but I could tell he was sauntering. He's a pretty satisfied guy, and he generally saunters when he walks. I pried open my eyes just a crack. "I don't know, but I'm awake," I muttered, letting my eyes re-seal shut. "6:30 in the morning and I'm wide awake, this is ridiculous."

"I guess I can turn the light on then," G said, and this blast of light knocked my head off my body and burned my eyeballs to dust in my sockets. AAGGHH! I groaned, holding my hand over my eyes. G laughed. "Ok, sorry!" He turned the lamp to low, and I pried my eyes open again. G was rummaging through the closet for his button-down du jour. I rolled over and tried not to think about anything. The cat meowed.

That actually happened, with my old college professor. She yelled at me in front of the class, ALL THE TIME. And she didn't yell at everyone. There were maybe one or two others in the class that she disliked, but nobody got raked over the coals like I did. My classmates pitied me, and they told me so, approaching me quietly in the hallway, looking around to make sure nobody saw them saying something nice to me. And I was enraged, every week. And there wasn't much I could do about it.

I met with her after class to discuss why we weren't working well together - at least, that's what I wanted to discuss. She instead used the time to lecture me on why I'm not performing well, and that I don't communicate well. I told her I thought communication was a two-way street. If looks could kill, I wouldn't be typing this right now.

That was it for me, really. I went to my other teachers, and asked them for advice, is there anything I can try doing differently? They all shrugged, and expressed their sympathy, and looked forlorn and helpless. "When someone's upsetting you like that," one of my teachers said, "you're not going to be able to do much."

Everyone told me the same thing: just endure as best you can until the semester is over. This professor was the queen bee of the department, with the most tenure, and a personality so intimidating that the faculty would never speak out in defense of any student she terrorized. I knew I wasn't the only one - there were so many of us. One gal I knew had dropped the major, knowing at the tender age of 18 that she didn't have to put up with that crap. She became a music major. She was brilliantly talented and doing very well.

If only I'd had professor bitch when I was a freshman, like she had. Instead, I had the nice teachers freshman year. It wasn't until later on, when it was really too late to switch majors, that I had to eat shit for breakfast at 10AM on a weekly basis. The last two years of college, largely because of this teacher and the stranglehold she had on the department, were hell for me. Nobody would help me, they just said to endure it, I'll graduate eventually.

Halfway through my junior year, I declared a minor in English, so I'd have someplace to go where my professors and fellow students made me feel wanted. It was the smartest decision I made while in college. Well, that, and calling the cops on that abusive prick I dated briefly. Funny how those two thoughts share this space in my mind.

In my last year of college, I had a private meeting with a professor who was teaching an "auditioning class" for graduating seniors. This guy was new to the college, and he wanted to have these meetings as a way of getting to know us a bit. I have to admire the effort.

I don't remember everything we talked about, but I do remember the confused look on his face as I tried, calmly, and in what I thought was a generous fashion that was supportive to the school, to answer his questions about my experiences, my "college career" in the department. He never seemed to really be satisfied with my answers. Then, finally, he said, "why are you still here?"

"Because someone in the registrar's office at Julian Hall, or maybe in this department, decided my tuition money was more important than the wasted resources of teaching me," I said, flatly.

The guy blinked. "That's not true," he said. "It can't be. These people wouldn't waste their time if they thought you weren't any good."

"After everything we've just discussed, do you have a better explanation?" I asked.

We sat there, alone in a classroom, looking into each other's eyes. He was a handsome man. I hoped with all my heart, that he would recognize my humanity, see this girl half his age, and understand that I wasn't a lost cause, that I was filled with hope, and desire to please, and that I was starving to be taught.

I once saw a short film about rescuing Greyhound dogs who are discarded from the race circuit. One dog, who was particularly hard to train, who never won a race, was "discarded" into a trash heap after being nearly beaten to death. When the rescuers came, and saw the dog was alive, rather than snarl and foam at the mouth at the appearance of a being from whom it had only known abuse, the dog thumped it's tail, and whined softly. It still had hope.

As I lay there in my own trash heap, my heart pleaded. I saw my teacher's brain working, saw the gears turning behind his forehead. Then something clicked into place, and his eyes cleared, and his jaw set.

"If that's really what you believe," he said, "then all I can ask is that you give me a chance." He sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and legs, and looked over the top of a razor wire-topped wall at me, soundproof brick and mortar and sharp, deadly blades.

"I'd really like to," I said to him through the wall, my voice suddenly seeming so quiet, so breathless. At least he knows I'm here. Whether or not he lets me onto his side of that wall, or came around to mine, or helped me tear down that wall, remained to be seen. But I was hopeful.

It never happened. I gave every assignment in that class everything I had. I worked at being open, honest, Simple, attributes that were valued in that place. And he snarked at me no more or less than he snarked at others. A couple of the male students in our class, he treated quite badly. He fit in here, I thought to myself, with profound disappointment. I guess that's why they hired him.

It wasn't just Professor Bitch that threw me on the trash heap. She had a couple of cronies who also treated me badly, but their strategy was more to ignore me, just give me menial assignments, and when I got up to show my work, they checked their watches and wrote in their day planners. And there was a couple of very nasty cliques of students who treated me exactly the same as those bitchy little kids had treated me when I was growing up in Springfield. So I can't blame it all on one person. It just was, to paraphrase a friend of mine, an unsupportive, backbiting little place. I'd gone from the frying pan of Springfield into the tightly-enclosed pressure-cooker of college.

I did have a few friends, and we clung to each other for dear life. But I wasn't very good at creating a bubble for myself, where I could just ignore the bitchitude being dumped on me from whatever source, and just concentrate on the goodness. I wasn't teflon-coated. I'm still not, although my skin is much thicker. That's inevitable, after years of walking on glass, your skin adapts. But up until age 25, I was still tender and soft on the outside. I was like a man-of-war who wished it was a lionfish. I was afraid to use my stingers, because I knew I would only be blamed for causing harm to others. Nobody would ever believe that anything I did or said was justified. I would never get the self-defense plea.

Thank god I didn't give into my rage. Where would I be now, jail? Dead? Or simply expelled from school, without a degree? That B.S. I got from college (haha) was the only ticket I had to a decent paycheck. So I'm glad I didn't stab that girl with the scissors like I fantasized about, that one night in the costume shop. I'm glad I didn't push that other person off the stage into the orchestra pit. I'm glad I didn't start an all-out brawl that one time I saw the Clique treating someone badly, and I wanted to stand up for them, start throwing punches with all my might, How's that evil mouth of yours working NOW, BITCH?

Yeah. I'm glad.

Sort of.

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