Like a lot of people, in the past week or so I’ve watched Nanette on Netflix.
Ostensibly it’s a stand-up comedy gig by “Our” Hannah Gadsby (we Aussies love to claim our successes), but it is SO much more than that… I urge you to watch it if you haven’t yet, and to re-watch and share it with friends if you have.
The lines that struck me most (on my first viewing) have been rolling around in my brain for days. Words that Hannah no doubt honed in draft after draft, and has performed around the world.
I wonder if the thing that struck me landed with others in a big way. These words aren’t from one of her jokes, beautifully, tensely crafted though they were.
What struck me most came towards the end of her performance.
Hannah was talking about being different, about some of her experiences of being, and being responded to as, a lesbian, and the vitriol and violence that she’s endured. And she said this:
Boom. Four words.
Difference is a teacher.
She is so right.
When I think about my life, and the people who have taught me the most, the common trait they share is their difference – from me, and from each other.
I’ve been taught by enthusiastic life guards, school teachers, artists, relatives, strangers, authors, musicians, work colleagues, fictional characters, “mummy bloggers”, crafters, librarians and comedians.
I’ve been taught by Americans, South Africans, Brits, dead Jewish poets, television talk show hosts, and athletes.
Women have taught me. Men have taught me.
Creative souls have taught me. Conservatives and radicals too.
Straight and gay people have taught me. Addicts and abstainers have schooled me in life.
The life guard didn’t teach me to swim, he taught me about acceptance and joy. He was one of my youth group leaders. Thanks Ayman/Eamon (hey it’s been 35+ years), the night I met you genuinely changed my life.
The South Africans taught me about injustice and reconciliation, dealing with deep heart issues and coming into the light.
My uncle and aunt, Trevor and Lea, taught me, as a child, that being different wasn’t something to fear, but something to embrace, even to strive for.
Lessons big and small have come from the unlikeliest of teachers. Some I didn’t recognise, I’m sure.
Difference is a teacher.
In a world drowning in Instagram feeds that are nothing but the regurgitation, sorry, reposts, of other people’s soulless, whoops, stylishly curated photos of blush pink and copper Kmart crap and flat lays of books never read and blankets that have never had crumbs shaken from them after a movie night – lord I’m breaking every rule of sentence length known to man – difference is a blessed relief.
Difference is our teacher, and it’s our gift.
It is a gift I need to reclaim.
I am different, therefore according to Our Hannah, I am a teacher.
And I feel different from other people, so I am also a student.
I have something to offer, and something to learn. Many somethings.
Blogging is pretty hard going when you feel like you’ve got nothing to offer. Lately, I’ve struggled heaps with this feeling, so blogging has dwindled off into “nothing new to read here” territory. It’s bummed me out. Majorly.
I’m a 50 year old with a part-time administrative job and a heart condition.
I’m a single, introverted, medicated, West Wing loving, weekend hermit kinda gal.
And I’m a teacher. Hannah says so.
I’m an adoptee, a refugee from Christian fundamentalism, a deliberately barren, mistrustful of authority, convention mocking, short haired, library card carrying liberal (the small L is essential!).
I’m a teacher, and I’ve lost my lesson plan.
I’m a student who can’t find her class schedule.
But I wrote this blog post. I hope someone reads it.
What do you have to offer? To learn?
Have you seen my lesson plan or class schedule?
Not quite Nanette,