More choices

So I am thinking. What is it about the good things that happened in the past that made them so good I could go on? I think I felt I could go on when Nata was alive. Life was wretched, but I think I could do it. There was some reason for hope.

Then she died. I lost the friends I had with her. Was it the intensity of the love we had for each other that helped so much? It might be. I don’t think that will happen again. I can’t create that to make life bearable for myself.

What does give me joy? The puppy outside gives me joy. C gives me joy. There are periodic moments of joy in the classroom that are genuine and real. But I was leaving the classroom and surrounded by PP students who wanted high fives and fist bumps and the special Class IV I love you handshake and I realized how exhausting it is—just to give all of this love and warmth to kids every day. I like my job, but it’s also this mask I have to try to hold up every single second. I would like it a lot more if it weren’t like that.

So what is different about C? What’s different about the puppy? The difference is that it is genuine and natural and I chose it. My students I care a lot about, but it is duty. It is my duty to teach them. It is my duty to develop a connection with them so that feel safe in my classroom and can learn. It is even my duty, perhaps, to give fistbumps to little kids so that I can work in some English with them and give them an idea that English is fun.

But C is not in my class. She has never been in my class. She didn’t even really ask for my help. She complained she didn’t have time to study and seemed very distressed about it all one day and later I told her I wanted to help her. So then eventually she told me how I could help her. I really don’t need to go out of my way for her. I didn’t need to tell her I would meet her at school at 7:30 in the morning every single school day. I told her that because I wanted to. I came to care about her naturally and gradually over the course of two school years just because I observed her mostly being a good person. Not a perfect person. Not a Bhutanese 2×2, but someone with her heart in the right place.

It is different even from my relationships with my colleagues here, whom I also care about, because I have relationships with them in part because I need them. I need to not be completely isolated. I need to have people to small talk with and give me company. I do care about them and I like them as people, but of the staff I am closer to, it’s sort of handful of people out of a slightly larger handful. But I don’t need to have friendships with students. I don’t need to have any relationship with C at all. My relationship with her is entirely chosen.

And maybe it’s this idea of choices that makes a difference to me. It’s completely, entirely genuine. It is with the puppy too. Loving C and the puppy are the two things I do every day that are immediate, real-life, real-time I absolutely do not have to do.


4 thoughts on “More choices

  1. ridicuryder August 15, 2015 / 8:24 am


    You’re wonderfully analytical. I can see that C and the puppy are choices you make more freely than others, but I think you choose lots of the other stuff. Maybe the fist bumps feel a little routine, but you choose to mentor, motivate and impact young lives. I think the turns you make with your students lack the life and death stuff you lived with the girls, but you are a natural at being there for someone the way several of your friends were there for you.

    These routines we play out are played because we need to find certain dimensions in being who we were then and to some extent now. Please, please don’t get cynical about your role in young people’s lives. I suspect many of them sense you are there for them in ways that are not clearly understood (by anyone) and sense a kinship they may not feel in other classrooms. Don’t diminish the gifts you have for being gentle and earnest with kids…maybe they are not flashy, but I see you are huge in ways that largely go unnoticed.

    I think the impressions you leave shape people in interesting ways…maybe even years later. That you have that “different” energy will be remembered, I think that’s very cool and I see you as choosing to put yourself into the world as “less common”. It maybe what the girls chose for you, but I think it is also what you continually choose for yourself.


    • Ashana M August 15, 2015 / 6:43 pm

      I don’t really know what I think of it now, but when I was thinking about it, I started to see that things that are choices or that ought to be choices really don’t feel like choices. Maybe they derive too much from my value system or come from an emotional place I feel I have no control over, but they don’t feel like choices. They feel like a long series of obligations–this obligation to be alive with everything that goes with that. I was trying to tease out the things that feel absolutely freely chosen–not my duty, not my obligation, not to meet anyone’s need that I feel must need meeting. I see what you’re saying, but I really don’t know what I think of it.

      • ridicuryder August 15, 2015 / 10:27 pm

        I understand the “I have to” obligation tendencies and you likely have some doozies, but we choose obligations…even passively. Determinism says we have no free will so there’s another way to look at this stuff. I suspect you see merits for both (like I do). The thing is to see that you can “stop Choosing” if these situations seem to be selected unconsciously. I’ve been looking at stopping a few choices lately…it helps to consider them as choices – it seems easier to let them go this way.

      • Ashana M August 15, 2015 / 10:35 pm

        I think the unique aspect of torture is the element of emotional compulsion. You can choose otherwise under conditions of torture, but the emotional impact of that choice is simply unbearable. You can’t choose to act freely when the consequences of that act will affect someone else’s safety or even life, because you can’t bear the emotions of that. And I think the situation of being alive in itself mimics that feeling of extreme emotional compulsion and loss of choices. I can’t simply choose to be dead, even though that might be the preferable choice at the moment, because I feel this enormous burden of responsibility I can’t get past. So there is a sense of being in the same emotional prison, of not having been able to leave it behind, because my choices still feel constrained to an extreme degree in the very act of living and breathing every day. I think there are people who have this huge will to live that survive situation like mine. They are alive because they want to be alive. Living is not always bearable, but it is this thing they keep choosing. I think I am not one of them. It’s obligation. So on that particular day it helped to see that there are, in my life, at least two things I am not doing out of either necessity or duty. It made a crack in the prison.

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