Us Ed Zeds had an event at the Walker Art Center on Thursday evening, and it was quite the experience!
We created a visual map of sorts, with islands of all shapes, sizes and colors that were labeled with different words; words that we feel incorporate our personal high school experiences or the high school experience as a whole, both positive and negative. The purpose of our project was to get people to walk the map to see what words specifically resonate with them; either remind them of an experience they had in school or hopefully (!) they are able to describe their journey through high school using the different islands. At the end, we asked that they call our hotline from the island of wherever they landed on, and tell us their story.
A lot of people seemed interested and felt that we were making a bold statement, of course we ran across our share of people that had very specific instructions for us to run back into school as fast as our legs could carry us. I had a very interesting encounter with a rather verbally oriented older gentleman.
I approached him cautiously, I have found that older people don't like to be bombarded with the eccentric loudness that is my personality at times (if not all the time), and explained our project. The first words out of his mouth were, "You seem to be incredibly intelligent. Why did you drop out?" At first I was very taken aback. Needless to say I have never felt like I was an unintelligent individual, however it's uncommon that anyone's first reaction to me is my intelligence. I began explaining how I felt restless and unhappy, coming from a large family left me feeling pressured to do well, etc. And immediately we bonded over our mutual frustration with the institution of public education. He reiterated several times how intelligent I seemed, and how I had the tools to go absolutely anywhere in life, and how school really is about paying your dues. He said that school is what we have to go through in order to get o where we want in life, that it is merely the price we have to pay so that we can get to a place in life that makes us happy. The longer we talked the more I really started to like him and his views. He basically told me I should go back to school, not because I'm an idiot for leaving, or that staying out of school would ruin my life, but he kept telling me how intelligent I was, and how school could help me nurture my intelligence and that basically, it is just the dues we have to pay.
I have to say that talking to him resonated with me the strongest, his words really stuck with me. I definitely feel inspired by how complimentary of me he was, and his tactic to get me to go back to school and finish my education was not to scold me or to judge, rather to be supportive by understanding and relating to my frustrations, but giving me a dose of reality that I'm sure I needed.
The evening was a great success, and I really feel that we all have come a long way since this journey started. I never would have guessed that I would have had the guts to go out on my own if it hadn't been for this project or what I have learned about myself along the way. As cheesy and cliche as this may sound, I have learned that I have a lot more strength and intelligence than I realized.