I sing along to the kids’ Disney CDs when driving. I’ve been told I have a nice voice, and I enjoy singing. I don’t have anything like Idina Menzel’s range, but I can do a fair Kristen Bell, and Mandy Moore is a snap.
My talent is actually more in mimickry than singing. I don’t have my own singing voice. I copy what I hear. Today, I sang these lines from Tangled:
And at last I see the light/and it’s like the fog has lifted./And at last I see the light/and it’s lo,e the sky is new./And it’s warm and real and bright/and the world has somehow shifted./All at once, everything is different/now that I see you.
It’s a love song, thus I naturally think of Odie, especially this time of year. Our actual physical romance began in September in Arizona, so the dry heat of late summer brings back those early days when the world seemed new because I was in love.
Zachary Levi’s harmony with Mandy Moore brought me a startling epiphany in addition to the sweet summer nostalgia of my infatuation with Odie.
I’m a teacher.
Bear with me. You know that. I know that. What’s revelatory about that? Why is Disney being dragged into this non-story?
I’ve never been comfortable in my teacher skin. It wasn’t my identity or my essence. It was my job. I’m a writer. Teaching is how I pay the bills and keep myself in Amazon deliveries. It was temporary while I got my writing career going. Trouble is, teaching high school English and composition doesn’t leave much time for anything else. But I do not choose the word teacher to define myself simply because I failed to find time for anything else.
In a recent therapy session with one of my many siblings (long story, for another time), I remarked, “If you let yourself get all worked up over movie and TV portrayals of [sibling’s neurological condition] then you’re in for a long life of hurt. Look at how teachers are portrayed! We’re either fucking our students or doing drugs or fixing student government elections!”
“But that’s just your job, not your identity. You’re not being erased when a top TV show misrepresents your job.”
At the time, I chalked up my ruffled feathers to the annoyance all people feel when millennials talk. A probable secondary cause was the way my sibling declared my feelings less significant than theirs (see previous comment about millennials talking).
You’re feeling that excitement all people feel when an English teacher makes a grammatical faux pas. Don’t get too excited. It’s intentional. Sibling demands to be a third person possessive pronoun (part of the long story for that other time).
Thirteen years after I did my best impersonation of a teacher in front of my first class, I realized that “teacher” is in fact my identity as much as writer, mother, redhead, sister, vegetarian, or humble genius. All at once I’m not mimicking or playing the part. I had two major epiphanies in July, one during summer school, the other at a teachers conference. What Oprah would call “Aha moments.”
Whatever you call them, the result is the same. The fog lifted. The world shifted. I saw the persona I’ve crafted and been inhabiting all these years and it no longer serves me. I needed Ms. Teacher-Persona for a long time and I’ll keep her on my substitute list in case I fall back into my falsetto habits out of comfort or laziness.
Or if I have to sing.