When people find out I’m a teacher they ask me, “Do you love it?” I am never able to give them the resounding “Yes!” their breathless question begs. I talk about the ten-year learning curve for basic competency, all the different hats teachers have to wear. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I tell them. And if someone were to ask me if I love writing, with that same hopeful tone in their voice, I don’t think I’d have that simple “Yes” I imagine they are looking for. It’s hard work. I resist it. At times it feels grueling, even torturous. Sometimes it feels like excavating impacted wisdom teeth buried deep beneath my liver, a bloody, painful process. It is a cold metal scalpel scraping debris from the inside of my ribcage. It is a sightless groping, pawing through my slippery intestines, my fingers brown with shit. It is breathing and writing when I can’t see the edges of my words on the page through the blur of my tears, or being so angry my fingers cramp holding the pen, and I am hurting myself. Writing is an airplane engine blocking all sound, or turbulence 30,000 feet in the air on a dark night flying over Baja California without a single light on the ground to tell you the earth is there below you. It is walking across a bed of bougainvillea branches in bare feet, a basket of stones on your back pressing each foot deeper into the thorns with every step. And it is soaring with the red-shouldered hawk, glimpsing your neighborhood, finding your little garden courtyard far below, riding the thermals, the sleeping cats tiny dots in the distance but sharp and clear with your hawk eyes. Writing is being carried on a bamboo raft down a lazy river, all gliding buoyancy, all clear-eyed effortlessness, the fish and the serpentine rocks below like looking through fresh-washed glass, like beings from another world.
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