We had a music rehearsal yesterday for my high school show which generally means that I sit and observe and offer crowd control. It gives me a bit too much time to think, and to miss my favorite musical director, one who controls his crowd by making us all just love him and respect him too much to set a toe out of line. The kids were singing “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” and I realized that I still can remember all of my alto lines from singing in the ensemble of that show at Company, fifteen years later. And it’s not because I’m a good student of music; I’m a great big faker when it comes to music. It’s because my teacher is so extraordinary, and made us all excellent. He does not settle for less. It was all I could do not to jump in and teach the song as he taught it, diction and dynamics and really solid ending consonants. He spoiled me for every other music director ever.
While not sitting on my hands, I also had time to ponder the ways in which I find and lose so many amazing people in my life. The best and worst part of all of my jobs is the fact that I get to know people so intensely for such a short time. Some, I keep, but it’s so incredibly rare. I can only think of one person who started as a student and stayed a friend. (I suppose this has something to do with the fact that I can count on one hand the number of real friends I have now that I’ve made since college - that’s twenty years now.) I meet such extraordinary people as a teacher, and in the moment when I know them, I am so filled with awe and appreciation of them - as human beings. It’s never about their talent, interestingly. Sometimes they are in a show because they happen to be talented, but that never has anything to do with whether or not I feel drawn to them.
“Kindred spirits are not so rare as I used to think,” says Anne as the world begins to open to her. It is such a gift to have one wander into my life, but I am always so sad when they wander out again. I know there are so clichés about people leaving footprints on your heart or how some people are meant to be with you for a moment or a season or whatever, but still…There are so many careful levels of appropriateness that must be maintained, which I understand are there for a reason, and I always err on the side of caution in that regard. But I think about the students I’ve known, and truly loved, and I wonder what happens to them. I catch them in the midst of becoming who they’ll be…I wish I could get to know the final product sometimes.
There’s Facebook, which I’m grateful for, but it’s not the same as being able to sit and have a cup of coffee with them. I wrote that play last year based on four of the sorts of people I am talking about, and even that was something I had to handle carefully, working hard to honor them and how I saw them, while trying to avoid anything like a creep factor, even though they’ve all long graduated. There are four students in this current cast who I feel that way about, people that I wish I could know forever. The truth is that they’ll graduate in a year or two and go about their lives, making room for new teachers, which is as it should be. There will be occasional Facebook messages or something, promises to get together next summer, but it probably will never happen.
I am not a stagnant person. I grow and change and evolve all the time, so this doesn’t come from a sense of being left behind, or inflating how important I should be to them because of the title of Teacher. It’s not even about trying to reap what I sow in the energy or guidance I give them. (Or that they give back to me.) It’s more about the profound blessing I feel from knowing amazing people, or people who are on the brink of becoming amazing. They take their amazing selves out into the world, and I have to be content with just knowing that they’re out there somewhere, finding and recognizing other kindred spirits, and connecting us all in a web of light, however briefly our lights may have shone together.