For the past five weeks, I have been temping as a file clerk at an office in downtown Modesto. This office is populated with great, kind folks, most of whom have been there for 5 or more years (many of them 10 or more). Their jobs before this company were, for the most part, also office jobs — administrative, payroll, IT, problem management, compliance, audit, HR, etc.
The company itself is not a “creative” company — it was built from a home business that focused on general labor, and now has many, many permanent sites and does work across the US. There is a layer of conservative feeling that surrounds the place, and so I have never talked politics, and always made sure to be very vague and generic when addressing real world issues. Politics isn’t fun to discuss anymore, anyway, and it no longer seems to enlighten or inform. We’re all just shouting into a void. At any rate, I don’t do it at this job, where I am unsure where alignments would fall.
I am definitely one of the few “creative people” I have met at this company. I do not mean that I am the only person who is creative or who appreciates the arts–that is simply not the case (many of my coworkers have expressed appreciation for the arts). What I mean by this is that I am seemingly the only one to have dedicated my life to the arts and the pursuit of sharing the arts with others. That is not the work that is being done at this company. The company’s work is useful, it helps others, it is necessary, and there’s a lot of folks there doing great work. But I am definitely a bit of an anomaly.
Tomorrow (Friday, Aug 11) is my last day, and my supervisor and my supervisor’s boss have been periodically wishing that I were not moving, that I was staying and could continue working — perhaps even be hired on, rather than remain a temp. They have really liked and appreciated and been impressed by the work I’ve been doing, which is gratifying, and I’m happy that they are satisfied. When coming into an unfamiliar environment like that, and trying to create order where there was none, or taking over the organization model that someone else started….it makes a person doubt. I’m really quick, though — I pick up on things swiftly and fairly accurately: new terminology, hierarchies, workflow, the connections and relationships between processes/procedures…
It was this skill and my imminent departure that my supervisor and another employee were discussing with/near me today. This employee — I will call her Cee — was someone I really liked from the moment I met her, and so it was nice to be up on her floor while I helped my supervisor clear out an office there. I haven’t gotten to be around Cee much since that first day I met her, but she has learned that I am leaving for school, and that I am involved in the arts. She asked me about the program and what I would be doing, and the few minutes that followed produced a lightning bolt of clarity and certainty for me: I am on the right path, and I am doing what I was uniquely made to do.
I told Cee that I was going to pursue an MFA — a Master of Fine Arts — because I want to teach at the college level. I told her the MFA would help me secure a full-time theatre teaching gig, but more than that, the MFA would help me expand my toolbox so that I can better serve myself and my future students. She wanted to know more — what about theatre and teaching drew me in?
Simply and easily, I told her that theatre is one of the great healing arts. Unlike any of the other art forms, it deals with the abstract in concrete ways. It allows us to see ourselves in ways we otherwise cannot. It is unlike the other art forms because it IS all the other art forms — dance, music, poetry, painting, oration, sculpture, etc. — and it does something different to our brains than other mediums. I told her about mirror neurons, and how they work, and how theatre directly engages those mirror neurons and helps rewire our brains for empathy, critical thinking, and active listening. I told her that Joel and I want to come back to Modesto after our time in school because this place has a strong, vibrant theatre scene that deserves to grow and reach more of the Valley’s residents. Theatre is needed here.
After this brief, but knowledge-laden spiel, she immediately said “you just sold me. I feel like I just got a little taste of it all.” She pointed to her arms to show me the goosebumps: “tell me that term again — mirror neurons? That is just wonderful–I’m so excited for you!”
Cee is a truly beautiful woman who looks like she was sculpted by Degas; she possesses a loving, warm soul that literally lights her whole being up from within. When she said this, I tell you truly when I say that I suddenly felt like crying for joy. She had just given me a benediction for the future. In that instant, I got to see her instantly connect to the core truth of my message and my passion; I got to watch as knowledge sparked from the Universe to me to her, igniting that already glowing light within her, making it burn brighter and bigger as she grew bigger to take in the new information.
Teaching and healing are intertwined practices. Today the Universe, living and breathing in the form of Cee, told me once again “you are a teacher and a healer — keep moving forward into this great gift.”