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The Magic of a Mentor

For some reason, this morning I woke up thinking about my eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Eastman.  Maybe it was triggered during the gab sessions with my best friend who came in from Nashville two weeks ago.  We talked a lot about high school, reminiscing the good and bad times. Both she and I have similar backgrounds, parental problems, and trust issues. It doesn’t surprise people that we’re still close friends. Anyway, I remember being rather candid with her, saying, “I wouldn’t have survived high school without Mr. Eastman.”

The first time I saw him, I was sitting in the front row of my eighth grade homeroom.  He came bumbling in the door, with a shuffling walk and huge feet that reminded me of a clown.  His shaggy brown hair hung down into his eyes, and he constantly shook his head like a dog to see better.  He introduced himself to the class as our homeroom teacher, and also our Earth Science instructor.  In the rinky-dink Elk Lake Jr/Sr High School, he stuck out like a horse in a herd of goats.  We all immediately recognized the fact that he was a new teacher; in fact, he admitted to us that it was his first year teaching.  Some of the nastier kids smelled blood, and tortured him thoroughly for the entire year, even going as far as spraying foul smelling liquid onto him as he walked by.  I don’t know how he put up with the blatant disrespect.

Before morning announcements, I would sit at my desk with headphones, rocking out to 80’s hair bands and death metal, while reading a book to calm the rage that was a constant companion in those days.  Music and literature were my escape from life: parents who flip-flopped back and forth between overbearing and absenteeism, sexual abuse at the hands of someone I trusted, and the depression that kept me on the edge of the cliff, about to step off at any moment.  Not to mention the normal teenage anxiety about appearance, weight, and where the next insult was coming from.

So there I was, thirteen years old, with my own year of torture behind me from the seventh grade.  I’d developed a bad attitude, and believe me, I wasn’t afraid to use it.  I barely spoke, but if I did, it came out as a snarl, like a dog that had been starved for years and suddenly offered food.   I sat silently in his class for a few weeks, responding only when spoken to in my typical hostile way.  One day, I had been particularly rude, and was asked to stay after class.

Instead of giving me the lecture or referral to the principal that I probably deserved, Mr. Eastman simply talked with me as though I were a real human being.  I wasn’t used to that sort of thing, and it made me uneasy.  I remember looking everywhere but at him. Then, I happened to catch a glimpse of the cover art from Def Leppard’s Hysteria.  That album was, and still is, one of my absolute favorite albums.  Back then, it was one of the most important collections of songs that helped me survive.  Now, it is simply a great album with both good and bad connections to my past.  I made a passing mention of it being a great album.  My jaw dropped when he told me he saw them live when they toured for the album.  Suddenly, a connection was made.  We spent the rest of that year blabbing through homeroom about great albums and songs, and talking about Greek mythology while he taught us the science of constellations.

After my eighth grade year, I made it a point to stop by his classroom every once it a while to shoot the breeze about a new album that had come out, or a novel I had just read. Eventually, we started talking about things that were more personal, like when I met my dad for the first time the summer after eighth grade. Life was still really bad at home, but by the time I hit eleventh grade, things had spiraled out of control.

I remember going on an after-school trip to a college fair my junior year.  Mr. Eastman was one of the chaperones, and I spent the entire ride home talking about colleges with him while my friends made out with their boyfriends, or talked about where the next party was going to be.  I confessed to him that I was scared of never being anything, of always being insignificant.  He told me, “Trish, you’ll make it. Get out of here.  Go away to school and never look back.”  Later, I remember how he went to bat for me, making it possible for me to stay in the district during my senior year when I got into a serious bind for skipping school, and how he fought to get me into the National Honor Society, even though I was into some trouble.  He also steered me through the mysteries of college application essays, and financial aid paperwork.

At the time, I appreciated him as a friend, but that appreciation is nothing compared to how I feel now that I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I set out to a long time ago, even with a few bumps in the road.  I realize that what I had was magical for an unlucky kid in the sticks.  I had a mentor.  These are the people that foster and encourage growth, hold our hands when we’re down, and point us in the right direction on the road up.  They reach out to someone in need, forge a connection, and expect nothing in return.  They are truly heroes.  As I  move on, accomplishing new goals that I’ve set for myself, and keep reaching up for those constellations in the sky, I’ll keep that in mind.  Maybe the best way that I can repay Mr. Eastman is to follow his example, and reach out to others in need.  Maybe if we all did, this world would be a little more kind.  Who couldn’t use a little kindness?

Did you have a mentor?  How do you feel about them now?

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Life

 

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No Fear Cavalier

Is there anything better than laughing about how silly you were as a kid?  I recently bought the greatest hits album released by R.E.M. and while I was listening to “It’s The End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine),” I started thinking about the times we listened to that song as teenagers.  I even wrote a new poem about it, complete with the No Fear Cavalier.  Anyway, it got me curious about how the change in my listening habits affects my writing…

We all know I’m a metal-head, a fan of the hardest rock out there.  Ripping riffs and clashing chords, chilling melodies and harsh male voices dominate my playlists on my computer and IPod.  I guess this makes sense, since I’m generally a serious person.  I haven’t had the easiest life, and I’ve felt alienated from my family, friends, and the world for a really long time.  However, I have also had a lot of really good times, and good friends.

For my senior project, I’ll be completing a book of poetry about loss.  Is there any greater-felt loss than the loss of childhood?  It’s a universal theme, even though it can be good or bad.  I have to admit, I love being older.  If I had a chance to go back, I’d never take it.  I can’t accomplish anything back there.  I can only accept it, and move on in the now.  I’ve learned a lot, and I’m such a different person now, but it’s still fun to remember.  I’m looking forward to the poems about growing up.

I’m also looking forward to hearing a lot of great tunes that I’m embarrassed to admit I know every word to.  I’ve recently bought a lot of albums I used to own before my mom went on a religious spree and burned all of my music and books.  (That’s for a different blog, else I sit here all day accomplishing nothing!)  See the weird quirk about me is I have to have music to write.  I can’t come up with an idea to save my life without it.  When I start to write about something, I have to have the perfect music to accompany it.  I just made a new playlist especially for these poems about childhood/adolescence, and honestly, I can’t believe how eclectic my tastes were then.  I mean, I know a lot of songs, and bands, and genres, and listen to a lot of different stuff, but this playlist is just incredible to me.

Picture it:  I’ve got Tupac Shakur after Meatloaf but before Nirvana…Collective Soul next to Van Halen and Mariah Carey…and Alanis Morissette with Nine Inch Nails before Cypress Hill.  My God, how crazy is this?  Each of these songs/bands/artists have some memory, some significance to me, and I love it!  I love remembering how I felt, and how far I’ve come. I wouldn’t go back for anything, but I don’t think I’ll forget to remember how much fun I had either.  Maybe there were a lot of bad times, but I always had some pretty cool tunes to see me through. I’m really excited to see where this project takes me, and how different my views of life now are from those back then.

How far have your listening habits come?  Have you broadened your horizons or are you stuck in a rut?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Music, Writing

 

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The Music Lives On

I finally got to see Def Leppard the other night.  I have followed this band and their music for the better part of 24 years.  They are part of the reason I’m still here today; their music has gotten me through a lot of hard stuff in my younger days.  I really enjoy all of their music, but in my humble opinion, their best stuff came out with Hysteria in 1987.  That album just does it for me.  It lifts me up, rocks me out, and takes me away to a better day.  It always has.

Anyway, seeing them in concert was like a milestone for me.  I finally got to see these guys put on a show, after believing in them and their music for most of my life.  And man, what a show!  Their energy after 30+ years is incredible.  Their music is still amazing without the over-dubs and studio layering; in fact, it’s more honest and real in concert.  It touched me deeply. 

I was also amazed to see a lot of the younger crowd there, crowding the stage, hovering on the lawn, excited to see a band that started before they were born.  It’s neat to think about how some bands develop a following, and live on, while others who have had the same success go into the wind.  What keeps these bands living on?  I was thinking on that when I ran into my cousin, Al, at the concert.  I told him, “I should have known you’d be here.”  After all, he’s the one who introduced my sister to Leppard, way back in ’83 with Pyromania, and she in turn introduced them to me.  I remember the four of us, (Al, his sister Lesia, Becky, and myself) rocking out to Leppard in the back room of the trailer where their dad would let us play it as loud as we wanted.  Even when they went softer and more mainstream, the four of us kept on loving them.  It was awesome to remember those good times, even though they layered over the bad stuff that is not my intention to blog about.  It was also really awesome to get to talk to his son, and hear him tell me that he loves Def Leppard.  The tradition of the Fidler family and Def Leppard lives on!

I suppose what I’m saying in my round-about, random sort of way, is that it is beyond describing how much it meant to me to be able to see Def Leppard in concert.  It touched me deeply, and even helped me to see a little bit through all of the bad things.  It connected me to my past in a good way, and for that I’m grateful.  This band means so much to me, and I hope they continue to create music and put on shows until, (as my husband puts it) they are onstage in their walkers, wheelchairs, and oxygen masks!  Rock on!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Music

 

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If I Had 7 Wishes

So I went old school this morning, and threw my favorite vinyl album on the stereo.  Night Ranger’s 7 Wishes is a great record.  I remember the first time I heard it.  My ex-boyfriend popped it in the cassette player in his ’85 Escort that he had spray-painted a dark blue.  The drums from the title track poured through the sound system that was worth more than the entire car, and I was totally hooked. I tried for years to find it on CD (remember, this is before the internet, people!) but never could.  The first time I saw it in a record bin at the flea market, I snatched  it.  As those same drums pounded through my house, I remembered my ex telling me that it was one of his favorite albums, and how his mom introduced it to him.  This was a big deal for him because he didn’t have the greatest relationship with his mom.  Who does? 

Anyway, that first time I played it alone, I remembered the way we shared things.  This ex was my best friend in the entire world.  Was I trying to re-live an intense relationship from my past that ran its course?  Perhaps.  I don’t regret the relationship, just like I don’t regret the break-up.  It was long overdue.   We even talk once in a while, and he’s stayed in contact with my family.   The coolest thing about this memory is that it coincided with the song, without me even realizing it.  After all, I was so young when I heard it the first time. 

Here are the lyrics:

 If you were handed seven wishes
Would you turn your back for more
Would you hold on tight to what you have
Would you try to change the score

If you were given back a lifetime
Would you find some room for me
Oh, won’t you take my hand and walk away
Know it all was meant to be

Heart aching
Heart breaking
Hearts changing
Never want the same thing

Rise to the sun with seven wishes
Will you turn into stone with seven wishes
And your eyes on the run with seven wishes
Seven wishes

If we could travel back in time now
When I handed you the key
Oh I know you learned your magic well
Would you use the magic on me

Are the changes for the better
Do the lonely ones agree
I see you handing out the promises
That were meant for only me

Heart aching
Heart breaking
Hearts changing
Never want the same thing

Rise to the sun with seven wishes
Will you turn into stone with seven wishes
And your eyes on the run with seven wishes
Seven wishes

Heart aching
Heart breaking
Hearts changing
Never want the same thing

Heart aching
Heart breaking
Hearts changing
Never want the same thing

Rise to the sun with seven wishes
Will you turn into stone with seven wishes
And your eyes on the run with seven wishes
Seven wishes

To me, this song means a lot.  The other day, I ran into another ghost from my past.  The one who changed my life.  There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I couldn’t.  I just couldn’t bring myself to reach out to him.  And it made me realize what this song is really all about.  It’s about the way we always try to go back.  How we live in memories, how we hang on without moving forward. I’ve done this for so long.  I’ve been trying so hard to change, to open doors with the keys that he gave me. But, I didn’t understand that I was still trying to go backward.  Back to him.  With every move, I tried to show him that I’m different.  Seeing him the other day, I realized that he is my past.  He belongs there. 

If I had seven wishes, I wouldn’t wish to go back.  I’m moving forward.  “7 Wishes” was a reminder.  And, it’s a wonderful piece of music.  Check it out!

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Life

 

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