It's true, last night Amanda Palmer spoke to me. Of course she also spoke to the rest of the ballroom full of people at the Grub Street Boston event, but in many ways it felt like she spoke to me directly.
I'm not talking about my Q&A question about how can we teachers and writers can keep sparking creativity in the children for whom we are responsible. I'm talking about her whole premise about how creative people are the ones that, at some point, notice the dots and start to connect them. We are the ones who then get excited and want to share our observations and then are often the ones told to be quiet because now is not the time. She used a metaphor of creative types alone in the garrett starving and struggling while the bustling marketplace is going on downstairs just outside the front door of our building. She spoke of how "new" media is like yelling out the window to the market place to invite up friends and have them bring friends and sharing your work that way.
I jotted down her words: "Once you share your art, it's not about you any more."
There were points during her talk when I wanted to yell, "Get out of my head bitch!" but I didn't. I listened instead because she was speaking to me.
But, more importantly, she was speaking to my sons, who sat next to me in the ballroom. One is a writer, one is a musician and artist. They both have had struggles in this world because they are the kids yelling "look at this, the patterns are emerging when you hold things at this angle!" They are the ones being told to be quiet, this isn't the time.
The one who was listening the hardest, hanging on her every word was the one I have the deepest concerns about: my Pi guy.
Yesterday was a day where time, which has the job to keep everything from happening at once, failed to do that.
Pi and I have taken the Boston Marathon bombings hard in our own ways.
Last week I had my cathartic moment at the Dropkick Murphy concert. For me, two weeks of holding back tears and pushing down the fear of everything came to a head when the Boston Police Gaelic Column took to the stage. I felt the tears streaming down my face and, for the first time in two long weeks, I didn't try to stop them. When the Murphys took to the stage and sang "For Boston" with them, I screamed the words while I jumped up and down and cried. I cried through the next three numbers, particularly when the Irish step dancers took to the stage and I thought of a 6 year old girl who had just started step dancing lessons facing the challenge of life without her leg now. The tears and the screaming were my release valve and I could finally breathe.
I know Pi was still struggling when I looked at the artwork he created this week. I will say this, when I got home from school Friday and saw the image of a skater carrying his board that had "Keep Calm" written on the deck, it blew me away and I knew he was close to breathing again.
Yesterday was the first time I felt like Pi was breathing again. We started by making cookies for our friends on the Roxy's Grill Cheese truck and the Mei Mei Street Kitchen truck and delivered them to them during the food truck throw down. We stood in lines, we ate food and we voted for our friends before deciding to walk through Faneuil Hall to see if there were any free comic books at Newbury Comics. Stopping in at Build a Bear, we mad bears, almost got thrown out of the store for putting pleather chaps on Rainbow Hug bear (seriously... who the hell thought pleather chaps were appropriate clothing item for your build a bear bear AND thought it was a good item when there was a Rainbow Hug bear in stock and people who act like 10 year olds?)
It was a day of laughing and breathing, so having it end with Amanda Palmer was fabulous. It was the first time in almost 3 weeks that the day felt normal.
When the Q&A session started, he hesitated. He looked and whispered, "I have a million questions, how do I pick one?" He did ask her about what do you do to be heard. She gave him great advice. It wasn't the question he thought or meant to ask, but he felt great.
After we dropped his brother off at his apartment and were heading home it struck him and he asked, "What do I do if Amanda Palmer actually shows up at my spot outside the Fenway T stop after a game to listen to me?"
I thought for a second and replied, "Ask her to join you."
I could see him connecting dots in his head in that moment. Amanda's words from earlier in the night struck me: "The impulse to connect the dots and share it makes you an artist." I taught my kids that lesson through out their lives. It's the lesson I give my students. I know people tell me that I should be grown up about working with kids in school but I really do believe my job is not to teach them to conform so they pass the tests. My job is to warp their little minds the same way guys like Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury and so many others warp minds. It's a lot easier to see the dots if your thinking is reformed from a linear view to an organic view.
Last week when the kids at school asked why I was wearing red sparkly sneakers I replied, "They make me smile and that makes me happy."
Most of them could understand that sentiment. I'd like to think it gave some of them, particularly my 5th graders who do worry about fitting in, permission to take that chance and wear sparkly shoes, draw a lion, play the ukelele or whatever makes them smile and be happy, in spite of knowing the rest of the world expects of you.
Last night Amanda Palmer spoke to me and I am a richer person for it.