(2) REMARKable

“Please tell me you didn’t really think you were a descendent of a pirate Mr. J?” asked Nel through the computer screen.  

It was now Monday and we were set to begin week two of our school year.  Last week was…unusual, but we survived.  All of us (all five of us; my four students and me) had done our best to figure out this technology stuff and were now comfortably staring at little boxes of one another ready for another class to begin.

I spoke to Nel, but also to everyone else that was probably wondering the same thing after reading the article I had given them before the weekend, “Does it matter?”

“Fuck yeah it does,” (yup, she was here), “there is no way that really happened?” said Lauryn from her cube.  

“All stories are sprinkled with truth,” I replied, “parts of this one included.”  

Not letting it go, Pras jumped in, “Did you really think someone could have Pirate genealogy though?” 

Pras was very intelligent.  Of course there are all types of intelligence but here I’m referring to book smarts.  I did not know much about him before last week but in just a few meetings I recognized he was bright.   Which meant he was probably having a hard time believing that a teacher, me, could think such a thing.    

“Well, why not?” I answered.  “If someone had great-great-great-grandparents that were discovered to be pirates wouldn’t that person be allowed to say that they were descendants of pirates?”

I did not give him time to respond, instead I continued, “Growing up I was always called gullible by family and friends Pras.  No one thought I was stupid…but gullible, definitely.  Many times over the years my gullibility made me look stupid though.”  Memories of the past played in my head, and I smiled looking at the students on my screen before concluding, “Let’s just say that in the quick second my father told me the pirate thing I did really believe him.  Because why shouldn’t I have?  …. But the whole Facebook thing was made up.  I needed to entertain you with a story to get your attention.”

We talked about it for a little while longer.  The conversation eventually turned into one discussing how valuable humor was; not only to entertain, but to educate; something I was very glad they had come to recognize so soon in our class.  

Eventually I was able to pivot our conversation by asking them if they watched the news every day.

They all ‘got the news’ every day, but no one could say they ‘watched‘ the news every day.  Watching the news was ‘boring.’  Not to mention, ‘depressing,’ ‘upsetting,’ ‘sad,’ ‘scary,’ ‘stupid,’ and ‘divisive’- as the list we created describing the news was now a separate document appearing on our virtual class screen to remind us.  

This list was their creation-not mine.  But I could not have come up with a more fitting one if I tried.  Negativity was a virus however and I could tell that this conversation was going to sway that way quickly unless I took control, “Do you realize how lucky we all are to have news available to us in the way we do nowadays?” I said.  

That class went extremely well.  I dare say the whole rest of the week went pretty well in fact.  Before I knew it, Friday was upon us and I was ready to give them another article…


Week 2- (9/18/20) – “REMARKable”

Last week’s article was probably a little unexpected.  ‘One percent pirate!’  What an idiot!

Just because I am called a teacher please do not think I am any different than you.  We are all lifelong learners as far as I am concerned.  Please remember this moving forward. 

With that being said, laughing at ourselves is going to be important.  Appreciating that we all are mistaken sometimes and being able to acknowledge when we are is going to be key to surviving what lies ahead.

For the record, there is no official nationality called ‘pirate.’  A lesson I learned, obviously.  

Speaking of not knowing everything, as someone that is ‘living in recovery,’ there is one question people always want to ask me, “What helps you stay sober?”

Personally, I very much dislike this question, as there is no profound answer that I can give.  Recovery is not a vacation.  It is not always wonderful.  It is not always fun.  It is full of difficult times that cannot be overcome with a strong ‘work ethic’ or with an unbreakable sense of ‘dedication.’  Our brain chemistry has changed.  Dopamine levels have been altered (please research this if you want more information).  As many people would tell you, “The real world waiting for you after living in a mind altered state is not all sunshine and rainbows!”

Life can feel boring.  It can be sad.  It can be overwhelming.  It can feel pointless and empty.  To be honest, most of the time, I have found that patience is the greatest asset one can have in recovery.  Not only do I believe this is true for someone living after struggling with drugs and alcohol but for someone living after most traumas you can think of.  The problem is that in the world today, where everything is ‘one click away’ and so much is expected of us right now, who can truly say that they are allowed to be patient?

I’m not here to give you excuses however, so let’s slap ourselves in the face with a little reality for a moment by stating the only logical question one would ask right now, “even if we were allowed to be patient, would we be able to?”

As you think of how to answer that, I’m going to move on…. 

We have challenges ahead of us in this class-there is no debating that.  There are many important things for us to discuss.  With this being the case, perhaps you are thinking back to last week’s article and wondering why it was simply one long joke? 

Well, the answer is simple:  I needed to create something “REMARKable.”

Let me explain.

The title I proposed when I created this course was ‘Social Recovery 101.’  Early on I realized that the title was very intimidating to people.  After many failed attempts to get public support for my idea I recognized the one thing that would be pivotal was timing.  So, I had to become patient.  (NOT EASY TO DO!)

While I waited, I researched.  I read.  I listened.  I watched.  I thought.  I dreamt.

The question that haunted me the most was this: “With so many people vying for your attention, so many worthy voices wanting to be heard, how could I present something REMARKable?”

Meaning: What could I do that would be worthy of someone making a remark about on social media? Because, let’s be honest, if people aren’t talking about what you’re doing there then you really are not making much of a difference.  

Early in my research, I came to the realization that what got people’s attention most nowadays was money, power, and sex.  Unfortunately, I had little money, no power, and I understood clearly that no one would want to see me naked.  So, I settled on the fifth best thing: Humor.  (Drama/conspiracy/mystery was ranked fourth on my list by the way.)

Which is why I started this class by telling you a funny story.  Hopefully this approached worked.  Hopefully you’re still paying attention.  

But if it failed and I was on the verge of losing you I had to be prepared.  I needed to be be ready to say or do something that would ensure that you did not give up on me this early in our journey.  

I decided that what I would have to do is tell you a secret about myself.  Something that would get you talking.  Something that would make you say, “HOLY SHIT, can you believe he just told us that?”

Immediately I knew the secret I had to tell you.

It is something that I have kept to myself for as long as I can remember.  Keeping this secret has caused me to be self-conscious, paranoid-riddled with anxiety and shame.  

If I’m wrong about what is happening here, and my future is not what I expect it to be, telling you this secret will forever haunt me.  

But life is not worth living unless we take risks, right?

So, here goes nothing.  Are you ready?

“I am (BLANK).”

Okay, so unfortunately, I have decided that right now I just cannot risk my job by telling you my secret. (Drama/conspiracy/mystery-check). 

If this class is a success, I promise to fill in the blank at the end.  Let’s hope that it is the mind-blowing, show-stopping, Exit-Ticket this class needs.  

And with that disappointing end, class is dismissed for today.  I look forward to seeing you all next week.

Have a great weekend, and be safe!

–Mr. J

Week 2- Question for Reflection:  

What do you think ‘The Secret’ is?

(Click here to continue to next chapter of the journey)

Music for Transcending Minds:

“I must be looking for something….”

—  The River of Dreams by Billy Joel 

Follow us on Facebook: @SocialRecovery101
Read our story at: RecoveryHighSchool.com

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