Something surprising happened this afternoon. Not a big deal or anything. Nothing life changing for sure. But, it gave me a smile. Someone took a risk which we should take a moment to admire.
My school email account becomes inaccessible to me regularly throughout the year. Our passwords expire after a few months. If we don't change them in the two weeks before the expiration then we get locked out. This happened over Christmas break. I didn't bother to fix it because I was on vacation. Today I grit my teeth to face the wrath of bitter students and the emails I knew awaited me. In order to gain access to our emails we have to go to campus (contained within an urban highrise) down to the basement where the Help Desk and its minions reside. I went down to the lab and had my password reset. Thinking it best to deal with the emails right away, I sat down to read and respond to the angry messages I expected to have received.
There weren't too many of them. Some people need to schedule a make up exam, and there was some confusion with some incomplete grades. My favorites were the emails from the smart obnoxious kids who made teaching hell for me last year. They wanted to know why they didn't get the A's they expected. I guess they forgot to notice on the syllabus that 25% of their grade is participation. Then I read this:
Just wanted to extend you my wishes for a happy New Year, and it was a pleasure to be your tutee.
[Part of email withheld from publishing.]
<>Anyhow, I'd like to meet with you again sometime, if the opportunity presented itself. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx if you'd like to get together sometime.... ;-)
When I first read it I got annoyed. I was trying to formulate my standard response giving my office hours and telling the dissatisfied student to come see me if he/she needs me to explain his grade. But I couldn't tell what this student's problem was and why he wanted to make an appointment with me. I was about to send a reply asking what the student needed to discuss but then I read it again.
Wait a minute, he doesn't seem to have a problem with his grade. Why does he need to see me? Huh. It sounds like he just wants to see me for me no reason. Why? Could he be asking me out? Ohhhhhhh... yeah there goes the winking emoticon at the end. The little flirt! He is asking me out. This guy always sat in the front row of my night class: nice student who participated, good attendance, did an extra credit presentation and was friendly to me after class. I think I remember him winking at me once. But one time he told us some long story about his girlfriend whose family is in the Mafia and how they drove her uncle's tinted caddy down to West Virginia and got harassed by the local bubba cops....
Girlfriends aren't permanent. He's not jailbait at least, unlike this student. Whom I ran into last November one night on the way to class. I was so embarrassed to see him that I blushed fiercely when he started talking to me. Lucky for me it was night and dark enough that he shouldn't have seen that. (He filled out since the previous year.) He said he knew I didn't still remember his name but I surprised him and got his name right. Though I'm sure I stumbled the words. Good thing he didn't have his glasses on or I probably couldn't have talked at all.
That's the end of this little story. Nothing major. I had a small yet pleasant afternoon shock. This guy stuck his neck out in a cute and polite way. I'm not sure how to respond yet.
Why did my weak resolve break down on something so insignificant? Because it wasn't insignificant to him. I imagine he spent some time working out the words or wondering when he should send the email. Maybe he was nervous. I've done the email asking out myself and it's not as easy as you might think. And how bold is that to ask out your professor? While the grades are still wet no less. Good for him.
As a youngish single female whose stir-crazy hormones punish my body daily, (I'm actually going to the doctor tomorrow about that), a major part of my life belongs to the romantic vein. The single person carries the burden of a desire to be with another person and that desire colors everything around her. Every encounter may present a new opportunity. Every outing holds the possibility for love; whether to parties, the grocery store, the laundromat, church, class, the subway, walking on the sidewalk... each corner we turn offers a tiny sliver of hope--that on the other side is someone for you. And the phone. Everytime it rings, a small part of you thrills at the possibility that someone is calling for you. When the phone remains silent, we secretly sulk.
Even when you tell yourself you don't care and you aren't looking, that's a lie. You can subdue the desire and hope, you can ignore it, you can direct your attention elsewhere but it doesn't go away. No matter how busy, how happy, how fulfilling your single life may be, the nagging 'little' need never goes away. So you never really shut down the search engines. You're forever looking for something that will tell you who or how or when the need will be fulfilled.
I had to learn that the hard way. In my earlier years I decided marriage wasn't important to me because I had other things to do. So dating was a recreational sport I didn't take seriously nor bother much about. I thought that I'd be just fine living solo for the rest of my life thank you very much. And I worked on that and lived with that belief. Until my 25th year, my first time teaching. I had no roommate at the time so I lived alone. For the first time I had a kind of professional validation, gained from teaching. It was a sign that I was on the way to being successful and achieving my goals. I expected to feel some contentment or satisfaction. But I did not. I came home night after night to the empty apartment. I had no one to call. No one to talk to. No one asked about my day. And I realized how meaningless it was. My success seemed no success at all. At the end of the day it didn't matter what I accomplished because there was no one else who cared. I had a crisis over this. I had to re-adjust my life goals and priorities. I had to accept that I had been wrong. Accept that I really didn't want to be alone and that this wasn't ok. For someone as stubborn as myself, this was hard.
Now, four years later I still struggle with this. Because you can't dwell on it. You can't afford to focus all your energy or time on the hunt for love because that's not healthy. Nor do I like dwelling on it which is why my boredom surfaced. I'm working really hard at the moment to return to functional human being mode, which means re-adopting my life coping skills, such as trying not to care too much about the love life.
Alas, here is the cruelest joke of all. The most basic and essential need of the human soul, the want of love from another soul, must be subdued in order to be fulfilled. The desperate person is unhealthy and unattractive. The obsessive person is scary. The harder you look, the less you find. Singletons must get on with life anyway. We work to fulfill our lesser needs. But the truth is we live each day with the omnipresent hunger gnawing at our souls. Yet we go on. And on. And on . . .