There are times I wonder what is truly important in this world. I think about this not just to try and fight my depression, which is a constant battle that I seem to be losing lately, but also to raise my daughter properly. She is a teenager now and starting to really think about the world around her.
At first I thought one of these important things would be finding something you love to do in the world, something to base a career on. I thought I was doing that twice in my life. I even saw the a cappella musical In Transit this past weekend that had that message in it: “Do what you love and the money will come.” It turns out, though, that this is bullshit. I went into film because I loved it. Despite the six-day, eighteen-hours-a-day weeks, I loved making movies. But I wasn’t satisfied with my life when I wasn’t at work. I had little life when I wasn’t working, which led me to eat poorly and drink too much. So I found a new passion. I took a risk.
I became a teacher. I tried the New York City Fellowship program and started teaching at a middle school in the South Bronx. Day four of school was September 11, 2001. At least 80% of my students had witnessed gang violence, including shootings. I loved it, but I didn’t know what I was doing and no one at the school or district I was working in would help me figure out how to be a teacher. So, I left. I went to grad school to learn how to be a teacher before trying it again. But I wanted to try it again because I LOVED IT!
I knew teachers weren’t paid all that well, but that was fine. I would make a decent living, have good hours, and a secure pension when I retired, right? Well, I was right about the hours. Having grown up in a family and at a school where teachers were respected, I had no idea how much people really hated teachers. Oh, they say how much they need good teachers and praise the good work that we all do, but then they blame us for the weak test scores, even though they correlate more to poverty than to teaching ability of teachers, and work as hard as possible to keep our salaries as low as possible, even to the point that teachers in my district have been making LESS each year than the previous for the past five years. Why? People don’t want to pay more tax and think school is just something one has to get through in order to get a job. So, our pensions are in trouble too because the state seems to think other things are more important to spend money on, like more standardized testing. I still love teaching, but I have come to absolutely hate the environment that I have to work in.
Then, then I come to doing “good works” as being important. We try to teach our daughter to be kind and think about other people, be empathic, help people who need it more than she. Yet, what kind of public examples does she have in the media? A president who bombs a country that he won’t let people escape to the US from. A Congress that feels it is more important to save huge companies and rich people money than to feed the poor and uphold programs for the underprivileged. A society that seems to be working against her gender, her friends’ and family members’ livelihoods, and, even, her. Why do good when it all gets undone in a much larger way by the people who “run” the country you live in?
So, here I am at forty-five years old learning, finally, the lesson my father really wanted me to learn. All that matters is money and making as much of it as possible. My father, who was an immigrant to this country, an art teacher and artist, and a bitter misanthrope. That last description is probably the only one that truly matters in this world. Hate everyone and collect as much capital as you can because everything sucks and then you die, probably young from cancer. He was 65 when he died of lymphoma.
So what’s the use? Where’s the hope? My therapist keeps telling me that I should hope for things because, even if they don’t happen, that kind of positive thinking will give me a more positive feeling. I can’t. I can’t take being disappointed constantly. The only hope lies in my daughter’s generation, the generation of my students. I see them not caring about a person’s sex, gender, religion, skin-color, or intelligence even though some of them are mouthpieces of their Trump-voting parents. The so-called youth of this country MIGHT just be able to turn things around when they grow up and become adults. If my generation doesn’t completely destroy them with our greed.