I was one of the Six Troublemakers.
My senior year of high school was my second year of marching band color guard. If you’re unfamiliar, they’re the people in the marching band swinging around flags and other implements and running across the field all crazy-like. My first year I had nearly quit, but my instructor quickly turned from adversary to mentor, inspiring a fierce loyalty. My senior year, I was the only senior given too rookies to mentor, and both of them were difficult in their own way. I couldn’t tell you to this day if this was done to me out of a sign of respect or trying to get to me. Frankly, my paranoia from years of being bullied was pretty high.
There was a rumor going around that someone complained about or instructor being “too harsh.” Then there was the rumor that who our instructor wanted to be captain was overruled by the band director, who wanted the donor family’s kids to have dibs. Then our instructor was fired, our captains* showed up with “Captain” on both of their sweatshirts and six of us conspired to protest. We were defiant. We got together at one of the members’ houses and worked to sew our “ranks” onto our sweatshirts to wear at the next competition.
I was Sergeant.
It wasn’t about perceived rank, but more just pointing out what we thought was an unearned absurdity. Our stunt earned us being called out of class into the bandroom, where we were lectured (because we “threatened” the Captains), and the director looked at me and told me that the instructor I was defending didn’t like me and wanted me out in the first place. My response was that she told me that, and since that time we had become friends.
It’s true, me and some of the others actually hung out at her apartment.
Today was an incredibly rough day for me. As our guests were getting ready to leave for the evening, I had gone down to the basement to check on laundry to realize I had inadvertently drained the washer onto the floor of the room, where there is of course no actual drain. About an inch of water had collected in a pool, soaking a few boxes. One of our guests helped get stuff out of the way, and I wished them goodnight, and then set out for cleanup.
I used a squeegee from Daiso, a bucket, some towels, a mop, and a Muchkin branded flexible pitcher used to pour water over a baby’s head in a bath. After about 35 minutes of work, I had gotten the mess down to a single wet layer on the concrete. I thought about the story – likely apocryphal – of my Appalachian grandmother in the middle of winter, her husband away seeking work, chopping wood for the wood stove in the dead of night, to keep the family warm.
I figured I wanted to get an axe tattooed on me ASAP. Even ask for it as a gift, because I don’t have that kind of free money right now, too be honest.
I told Jon and he said that he didn’t want me to aspire to that – to the struggle. I said I aspired to the fortitude she had. I look at what the women in my family have done and survived, and my survival is thanks to their survival and sacrifice.
I know it has come at a cost.
Failure is not an option.
I know the pressure of late is starting to get to me. The flooding of the basement is evidence of that. My fatigue is making me sloppy. My attempts to offload some of the tasks I need handled have been unsuccessful, leaving me to feel like I’m fighting alone, even if it’s evidently not the case.
The thing is, for me, there is no question that I need to sleep, but that when I get up, there are things I must do. They aren’t just things that would be nice, they are set in stone. They are essential. They are uncompromising. They have to be done, and to be done right, most of the time, I want to be the one doing them. Whether I’m sick, or sad, or injured, the list of things that must be done does not go away, and my need to do them (or make sure they get done), does not go away. It is a mandate. What is good, what is right, what is just.
And my knees buckle. My basement floods.
I push myself to exhaustion because I want to wake up to see that the day is fresh and there’s nothing left undone. I push myself to exhaustion, because in my life I’ve never really trusted anyone else to do what I do. It is how I survived, even if I never wanted the job I’m so damn good at when I’m not falling apart.
I know how to survive, but I’m not sure if it’s a way to live.