In one of many hats I wear, I teach English and literature at a small liberal arts college just over the hill from my home. When I was first assigned one of the core, required (read: nobody actually wants to be there) classes of Writing 101, I struggled with how to make it come alive, focusing on the idea of passion and voice. I tell them they will be better at everything, from cover letters to love letters if they are strong in their voices. I believe if I help students find their writerly voices by connecting them with topics they care deeply about, maybe we'll all enjoy or at the very least, survive the process. So each term I ask them early on to identify what they are passionate about. I ask them what would they leave the comfort of their bed and home for, sleep out in protest against, or in support of? The answers sometimes depress, ("Black Friday sales?") and other times inspire me, ("To be a voice against teenage domestic violence").
Inevitably, the students turn the question back on me--what am I passionate about? I answer, "Propagation of species."
Obviously, first and foremost, it is the propagation of my species. Motherhood--nurturing and educating and feeding the souls of the three little people J and I brought into this world.
But then, in a series of Venn diagram overlaps, there are my broader environmental leanings--propagation of our human species. Smaller footprints, kindness to animals, horse gentling, supporting local agriculture, backyard chickens and gardening, clean ocean initiatives, thrifting and recycling of everything from plastic to textiles, challenging myself to live with less, and experience more.
And finally, this passion trickles into my teaching life. It is present in the very fact that I am standing in front of a classroom of fifteen nineteen-year-olds who might wish they were anywhere but here, propagating the next generation of our species through education.
I tell them this passion is why I show up with agendas and essays, throwing authors like Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie and Elizabeth Gilbert against the walls of their resistance to reading, and hoping-hoping-hoping something sticks.
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