I was surprised when the phone rang around 10:00 last night, even more surprised when I looked at the Caller ID and it said “District Q.” It was obviously an important broadcast call at that hour … and an important reminder that, whether physically together or apart, I really am part of the community at District Q and District Y.
It turns out there was a problem with the gas line. School would be open, but students were encouraged to bring lunches and water. A cold lunch would be served, but there wouldn’t be any hot meal options.
I’m glad I knew … and I’m glad I was able to tell the District Q Latin Family that I knew. All of them were there today, too, which both did and didn’t surprise me. At Former School, if that had happened, a good percentage of students would have stayed home if the school had opened at all. And if it had opened, angry parents would have called the Various Powers That Be to demand to know why it was open.
It also struck me that I was added to the Official List so quickly. About two years before I left Former School, I had requested to have that Official List updated; I hardly ever receive calls on the landline phone anymore, and I wanted the Official List to call my cell phone instead. “I’ll see what I can do,” the Relevant Person had said, “but it will probably take Them a while.”
I was still receiving Official Calls from Former School on the landline number when I left for the New Opportunity. That’s a small thing, of course, but it speaks to the very different organizational culture in Former District compared to that in District Q and District Y. For the last several years that I worked for Former District, I felt apart even though I was physically together; now, though physically apart, I’m feeling together and connected in important ways. And I’m not actually a “regular employee” of either District Q or District Y.
Yesterday was the first Thursday of the month, Labyrinth Walk day for me. And my friends the M’s, who have been in charge of Labyrinth Walks since the labyrinth was built and opened, wanted to know how things were going for me. I was glad to give them a good report. “It’s really strange,” I said, “but I love what I do again. ” I didn’t hate what I did before, but there were important pieces of it with which I was deeply unhappy, deeply dissatisfied … and I felt apart, though together, when I interacted with students and colleagues. Now, oddly enough, I feel together, though apart, from the students and families (and even the faculty and administration I know) at District Q and District Y.
Community is important, and community requires a kind of sharing that I hadn’t felt for a very long time. To be fair, I did feel it in my daily interactions with students, in the joyful learning communities that we built and sustained together. But when I spoke with colleagues or Various Powers, I didn’t feel it. “You have to do what’s best for you,” somebody said last spring, “and not worry about loyalty to some institution.” And that’s not bad advice … but it’s not a great foundation for sharing or community. It is a great foundation for the kind of fragmented feeling, the sense of apart, though together, that I’d been feeling for so long … but it wasn’t until I had left that I could see the full picture.
B sent me a private message this morning as her fairly large group was working on creating their mystery. “May We Three make a smaller group?” she asked. B was pretty sure that Those Three had a more serious vision, a greater willingness to engage with the material than Those Others. “Yes, of course,” I said, since it’s easy enough for me to make an extra virtual “breakout room.” So Those Three moved … and, as I had suspected, Those Others realized they’d need to work harder. By moving apart, Those Three helped their classmates move together. And by offering some different options to a few Latin Family members at both District Q and District Y who’d struggled with the Minor Assessment process, I helped them pull together, too.
Apart, but together. Together, but apart. In some ways, I suppose that sums up the human condition. No matter how close we are to our closest friends, families, and life partners, we’re apart from them in important ways … and no matter how isolated and separate we feel, we’re still together with others in undeniable ways. As the Latin Family at District Q and District Y forms ever stronger joyful learning communities, we’ll continue to wrestle with these issues of apart and together, and as we go deeper into the hearts, minds, and experiences of the Tres Columnae Project characters, we’ll explore the ways that culture, history, and life experiences link “us” to “them” even as they separate us. I wonder what other discoveries and insights await us all in the days and weeks to come!