Pedagogy of the Depressed

My good friend Jabari said something that I’ve been trying to explain for this entire year. He said, “Firstly, people need Christ. Secondly, people need people.” If that is not The Gospel Truth, then there is none…

I’m sitting here next to a young girl that’s working with us at the embroidery place I now toil at. She’s young, repeating school, working to pay for some dental work she had done. She keeps talking, not always to make sense or share a point. I think it’s to remind people that she’s there. She keeps asking me if I understand her, and every so often her tone suddenly and inexplicably changes to anger. She’s not really angry. She’s just gotten used to not being heard. Or maybe listened to.

On her first day here, she said she has no friends. She’s never had a boyfriend, or has even been close to boys. She’s not particularly close with her siblings either, she hints. She’s all alone, sitting next to a giant sewing machine, staring into space. And she’s used the word ‘depressed’ just a couple times too many.

At some point in the day, I found myself saying that this girl was a bit too much to handle. Not annoying or overbearing, but just not what I wanted to be around in that moment. And then it hit me – that wasn’t just her problem. It was mine, too.

Because we’re the stars of our own stories, we often don’t think about what we need to do and give for the other characters in our lives – how we can cater to others beliefs and desires in order to make then feel wanted and cared for. We need people, to feel wanted and considered and like our thoughts, feelings and emotions matter. After all, in a major way that’s all we are. And, after feeling for a long time the way I imagine this girl felt, I can be more patient with her. And maybe myself. And maybe hope that more people are patient with me as well…

Weird Life Lessons From The Working World

So, I’ve officially been a working-class grunt for the past three days, as an embroidery technician at a place in central Trinidad. It’s not a particularly stressful or bothersome experience, but it is unusual for me. I can do the job (well, I’d like to think I’ve done a decent job), and it’s not something I haven’t been fortunate to get a little previous experience with. But the idea of doing a job, and this job in particular, is doing some interesting things to my personality…

  • Mornings have become more evil – First of all, the day usually started at 11AM for me. Now it’s been starting at 7. And I need to become a presentable human being in literally the first 15 minutes because I already woke up two hours later than expected. Then, I go out of my house to face the perils of public transportation, and face the fact that I’m going to be 30 minutes late no matter what form the universe decides to take. It’s something I’ve faced before at my volunteer teaching job…but that was literally right next door. This, on the other hand, is just far enough for me to fall asleep but just close enough for that to get me kidnapped. After just three days, I’ve already begun to dread the next.
  • I’ve seen the error of my ways – I’ve learned that some of the skills I learned years ago have been completely destroyed now. I had a discipline attached to how I carried myself, what time I’d wake up and get ready, how I would treat my spaces. But now, it’s all about getting the job done and sighing in relief. And, yeah, it gets the job done, but my spirit has always been one of getting the job done and then some. It’s the thing that allows me to do my best and keep my edge when situations seem to unravel, and it keeps me on my feet when I’ve got nothing to go on. I’m always prepared for every single eventuality, and if all goes well I can just sit back and let work do itself. I need to get back on my Boy Scout level…
  • I am just reckless – I screwed up my finger today, simply because I wasn’t focusing on the thing I was doing or what I already did. That sounds simple enough…when I lave out the fact that I essentially shoved my hand into a moving motor, while holding a piece of steel, and passing my hand dangerously close to a rapidly dropping needle. Also, all this was part of a thousands-dollars device that I couldn’t think about repairing.
  • Working people get excited for trivial things – Since I’ve been here, smiles have ended up on my face for sh*t that I would usually shrug at. I was ecstatic for getting up at 4:30 this morning and managing to iron a decent shirt. Yesterday, I was glad that a shirt was embroidered well. Today, I was glad that we have free boxes and that I almost completed an order. I mean, really? It’s only been three days, and this job has already become a part of my psyche…it’s scary.
  • This is how people get fat – every single day that I’ve worked here or even volunteered, I’ve eaten Burger King. Every single day. I can feel my body deteriorating…and, to be honest, I don’t care. My friend and co-worker has been doing this for the better part of a year. Working, especially working near a fast food establishment, does some demonic things to your diet and eating habits. You find yourself eating all sorts of filth at all weird hours of the day, just for the sake of having food. It gets worse – things that you might’ve been able to do before to keep yourself healthy, like a decent breakfast and a job in the morning or some gym time in the evening becomes much harder to do. You spend all this time working that you’re too tired to do genuine exercise at the end of it all, and there’s no time to do it before you truly start the day. So, for folks like me that really want to do some work on themselves physically, work becomes a pretty worrying idea…
  • It really is the thing that you do – There’s a reason why people ask ‘what do you do?’ when they ask what your employment is. It’s because it’s the only thing you’re really allowed to do for the majority of your conscious moment. I am an activist, writer and ‘artist’ at heart. That used to be what I did – activize, write and create. But, today, when I wanted and needed to do some of those things, I was not able, even when I was not doing anything else for the day. I still need to get used to this working thing, and figure out a schedule where I can make things work even if it means a slight stroke. But so far, I can’t say it’s completely possible to juggle this with all the other things I really do.
  • Work is enjoyable – Don’t overestimate me here. I’m amazingly lazy. I hate to have to do hard labor, I can’t stand getting dirty or sweaty, and I’m a big fan of just sitting down and writing. I hate the idea of starting a project, but I damn near get off on the idea of getting a project done. It’s a powerful feeling to know that you completed an objective or get something really heavy out of the way. Today, I had to find, sort and pack 140 pants and 70 belts, in a literal maze of boxes and bags of random unlabeled things. It seemed daunting when I saw the list of things I needed to get…so I rushed straight into it, and managed to find it all before lunch without breaking a sweat. It felt amazing to know that I managed to get the most work out of the way, and got to essentially relax for the rest of the day.

So, in less than a week, I’ve learned some things about myself and how I deal with work that I would’ve never imagined until I found myself in this place. To be real, some of it worries me a lot, but some others are great opportunities for growth for me. Maybe I needed to experience this job to build into the job – and the person – I’m supposed to become?