I wrote last time about how most of my memories just seem to float away and that I have some how lost capacity to track them. What is even weirder to me is when something so (seemingly) inconsequential floods back into my brain. Here’s one example.
I had, to the best of my memory, a completely decent teacher for seventh and eighth grade at my private Catholic grade school. Her name was/is Mrs. Baumann (sp?). While I can recall more than a few instances from those times, most are so cringe inducing to me that do it in print would just embarrass me to the point of never leaving the house again. I am assume I was a decent person at that age because my dominant memories that come first are the super embarrassing behaviors and I assume, maybe wrongly, that this means they stand out because of their uniqueness. It is shocking to me in retrospect how desperately I wanted to kiss girls and how that desperation prevented the very attainableness of that feat. If I could go back in time to 1988 me, I would just say “Michael, Jesus man, just show a little more confidence and a little more aloofness. Take it down about fifty percent. You can’t do that just a little bit?”
Anyway, a memory that came flooding back the other day that actually relates to Mrs. Baumann in some manner was the very simple matter of seeing her outside of school doing her grocery shopping. I cannot stress this next sentence enough. This simple act blew my mind. Why was she shopping at the same Remke’s market my mom shopped at? Who let her in? Didn’t she live in the basement of the school with all the other teachers? We had an implicit pact, I thought. We will interact with the sacred halls of good ole Blessed Sacrament and then we would never see each other.
So what did I do when I saw her grabbing her box of oatmeal (probably…who knows what teachers eat?); I hid. I think she saw me but I can’t be sure. I spent the rest of the trip spying down aisles praying that we wouldn’t some how check out at the same time. This was so stupid.
Flash forward to my first year of teaching at the University of Louisville. I was teaching foundation drawing. I walked out of my office between my sections to fill up my water bottle and I saw one of my students from my later section at the end of the hall walking towards me. What did I do? I pretended like I didn’t see them, decided I could live with a half-empty water bottle, and took off like a rocket in the opposite direction. As I power walked away I thought, “This is the act of an insane person. You are their teacher. If you can’t say hi to them, what are you even doing?” I decided then I had to say hi to my students. I had to fake confidence, even if I didn’t feel it. I thought I would be devastated if things were reversed.
Flash forward to today. I still pretend to not see people all the time. I also pretend to not remember things some times, which, coincidentally, plays havoc when I actually forget something. I think it all comes from a lack of self-confidence still. I saw someone I knew fairly well the other day on the sidewalk and pretended to look at my phone as I walked by. Why did I do this? I was convinced at that moment that if I stopped them to say hi they would think, “Oh, great, you” or, more often than not, “They won’t even remember me.” Immediately I regretted not stopping them but then I figured it would look psychopathic to run back to them and say, “Sorry I was fake ignoring you by looking at my phone. How have you been?” I have the sneaking suspicion that 2038 me is going to be really embarrassed by 2013 me. I’m going to be forty before too long. Why do I still behave like a 7th grader? Ugh.