Harrowing (but [finally] in a good way)
But, see, we go to the same church, and we’re in the same profession, and our children attend the same middle school . . . .so “space”? What’s that? Tuesday night, after bible study, folk were hugging and talking, and I noticed that she was on one side of the room, and I was way on the other side. She did, too. Gave me a big ol’ exaggerated wave. I crossed the sanctuary, and she gave me a long hug.
“I was just tellin the girls, ‘Miss V’s angry at me about something,’” I confessed.
“No,” she said. “I nearly died.”
She was serious. It’s her job. Or, rather, not the job itself, but the Halls of Higher Learning (HHL) where she has to do her job. Her job she adores, but the Halls? Hell hole. And I use the term advisedly. Where my friend works, demons and their minions hang out. Truly. You know the kind: folk you’ve known for years in one or another capacity, who protest that they have your Very Best Interests at heart, and then, inexplicably, spend most of their waking moments and energy trying to thwart your every attempt at grownuptitude and success. The kind of folk who hang out in the joint described in The Screwtape Letters. Most of us encounter folk like that only in our families, thank the good Lord, but, alas, that is not the case with my friend.
For one thing, my friend was once a student in these Halls. Some of the very people who are attacking her today were once her professors, her mentors, the folk who stroked and nurtured her intellect, guided her in the way she should go, away from that place to even higher places, and then welcomed her with open arms when she returned to give back some of what she had received.
What happened to the love?
In my not-so-humble opinion, it dissipated in the abrasive air of the place. In that place is a miasma of bitterness, greed, ridiculously ratcheted-up ambition, control-freakishness, and, I’m sorry, but pettiness. TPTB at HHL are really, really, really small. Especially inside. Because my friend is extremely large --but only inside-- (yeah, she’s one of those pear-shaped beauties who actually forget to eat), being around petty folk makes her physically ill.
So she’s had to psych herself into goin to work on the regular (and managing it, too, because she comes from a long line of strong women), bitin her tongue, and, incidentally, yeah, leavin by the back way. She’s finding it difficult to be sociable, even after leaving the Halls at the end of the day. She’s finding it difficult to keep her head up. She’s finding it difficult to be optimistic, to keep a sensible perspective on things, even to see herself clearly. She’s dying inside. This week, she actually thought she was gonna have a heart attack. As she told me this, I noticed that she was also trying not to cry about it (that generations of strong women thang). I wanted to cry myself, but I believe in moral support, so I fussed at her about her potassium.
I liken committing one's self to work in Education to the harrowing of Hell: willingly entering the darkness, raising high an unquenchable light; recognizing and nurturing intelligence, pushing learning and wisdom and, let's face it, thinking; lifting up the damned, the alienated and the underprivileged. (You know there are many ways to define that last word, many having nothing to do with money.) The last thing we need is our colleagues underfoot, creating quicksand.
My girl's gonna be all right, though. She’s praying, she's accessing the tall, dark, handsome, and loving resource that her husband has always been, she’s looking into her potassium levels, she's re-committing herself to her students, and, most importantly, of course, she’s secured a nice grant. Because she knows exactly what the problem is. That’s always the beginning of the solution. Even now, the minions of Hell Hole feel her slipping out of their clutches.
Lord Jesus, my brother, please help the people who hate their jobs and believe they have no options.