You Pull One Strap, I’ll Pull The Other…

and together these boots will fit just FINE!!!

I’m super aware that my audience for this reflection is larger than it usually is, so I’m curious to see how this will unfold. I employ a stream of consciousness writing style typically, so I never know where I’m going til I’ve gotten there.

Where to begin? Usually I begin with a question, so check.No, that’s not the beginning I want. Here it is: I pondered a lot in this class about long-term take away/retention from classes. If people tend to, as Maya Angelou proclaimed, typically remember only the ways you made them feel, how we can we really hope to impart knowledge to the groups we teach? Is there any particular set of knowledge people must have to be successful? Or, should we treat ourselves and each other as jigsaw pieces, coming together with our different edges of understanding in order to fit into a single shape and create a collaborative society?

This idea strikes me as being at odds with the “American” paradigm of rugged independence, of the self-made man (fun fact: my high school art teacher referred to me as a Renaissance person in a recommendation he wrote for me). This is one piece of information I remember learning about in elementary school on; American “heros” of old made themselves great. They didn’t rely on their communities–their communities were backwards, stuck in old ways, or not as exceptional as they happened to be. So I do remember something I was taught to believe, and I’m not sure if that’s because I also was compelled to feel it in my bones for so long.

Growing up, and even now to a large extent, I valued the model of living your life in a state of almost complete and total self-reliance.To this day, I still keep my mental struggles contained mostly in my own head. Sometimes I share them, but immediately feel pressured for them to resolve before the eyes of the onlooker who has come to my aid. I can’t let someone think they’ve failed to help me, or I will feel either more inept or guilty for having wasted their time.

My conclusion is that our community arts collaborative goes directly against the dominant American narrative of achievement, in which one singularly propels themselves forward against all obstacles. We are rebels, collectively writing a new story. Maybe we are helping to blaze a fresh trail, one that celebrates and memorialize groups instead of just individuals. Maybe this will help bring about a true restructuring of society that promotes a fairer world for us all.

I think now of Rosa Parks, a true hero to many–and with good reason–but I’ve also heard a counter-narrative that she wasn’t really the one who pioneered the peaceful protesting of segregated seats. Someone else (and I just googled this, to be real with you all) refused to give up her own seat first, and her name was Claudette Colvin. This historical truth feels like an alternative fact, as it throws a wrench in the common narrative. To me, this all suggests that we should look at people we admire not in isolation of their surroundings and their community, but see how they in fact worked to make up the larger whole of a movement. Does anyone know much about whom Mother Teresa talked to when she needed support? None of us really do things alone. When we learn to celebrate groups and communities of people, perhaps then the whole idea that we should “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” can die at last.

Does everyone need to do everything by themselves? Obtain their own living space, car, and all the fixings of an “independent” lifestyle? Can we stop shaming people in their twenties for living with their parents and instead celebrate the idea of working and living together?

While I will likely struggle to “let people in” for most of my life, I have to say that working with Prescott on the Snoop and Martha skit was a wonderful experience, one that would not have happened if I had been left to think of something completely on my own.

-that being said, Catherine, you did great, kid. (Week 3’s class reflection) 


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