If you’re lucky, you get to take a class from an amazing teacher while you’re in school. If you’re very lucky, you are forever changed by your interactions with such a teacher. I have had two such teachers in my lifetime, in 5th grade and in high school. (And, now, to some extent, a third teacher in this journey.)
When I first met Alice Ann Eberman, she was dressed in costume as Beowulf’s mother, in an effort to make the teaching of Beowulf as enjoyable as possible. Later, as two of my good friends and I shared lunch with her on a weekly basis, and I traveled to Italy and Greece with her after graduation, I came to regard her with great respect as an amazing spirit and teacher. I have been thinking of her a lot lately because she had a sign which hung over the door to her classroom with a saying on it that, more and more, fits with my experiences on this journey.
“Enter with a willing suspension of disbelief”
This journey has carried us to some amazing locations. It has introduced us to generous and fascinating people. And it has taught us to hold our own expectations at bay.
When we were getting ready for our presentation in Tucson, we spent time thinking about some of the lessons we’ve already learned on this trip. For me, the biggest one is perfectly embodied in the quote above… nothing is ever what it seems, your assumptions and expectations will always be questioned, and it’s best to keep an open mind and open heart and let things unfold as they will… because the more you’re able to drop your presumptions, the more you’re able to see someone the way they want to be seen, and experience a situation in a way that you will never forget.
When we went to Slab City, I was expecting a sort of dusty hippie commune. I found evidence of community, but not nearly as much as I had assumed would be there. At first, I felt rather disappointed and let down that it wasn’t what I had wanted it to be. But, the longer we stayed and the more we explored, I was able to appreciate it for what it was.
Now we are in Bisbee, Arizona. We are hiding out from the “storm of the century.” And it has afforded us the great opportunity to see and experience this funky town. An old mining town, it was once one of the largest cities between St. Louis and San Francisco. It used to be home to brothels and saloons. Now it is home to a variety of hardened workers and artists and folks with intriguing backstories. It is rough and beautiful and best appreciated by letting it be what it is.
The longer we are on the road, the more I am relaxing into this role of vagabond. I’ve never really been a “girly-girl” but I have always cared about appearances. And I have a habit of saving things for the “perfect” moment. As the days go by, I am slowly dropping my presumptions that my way is the best way, and I am learning to just be where I am and let it change me as it will.
And I am realizing how important the concept of being “willing” is to experiencing serendipity. The more I want to hear the stories, the more people open up to me. The more I accept the quirks, the more I appreciate them. The more I suspend my disbelief, the more I learn about myself and the world around me.
Many thanks to my friends McHale, Samidh and Ben, who together helped me remember the exact wording of the above quote.
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