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,
8 thoughts on “Viva La Difference”
Beautiful wonderfully different Nettie, you are my teacher. You challenge my thinking. You encourage my dreams, hopes and goals. You give me feedback when I write something. You cleverly make observations of ways I could improve without discounting what I’ve brought. That is a very good teacher.
And though ours is a friendship grown over many many years, I imagine there are people who’ve only known you for a short time who would say the same things. Perhaps not in our ‘shorthand’ but still the same. Encourager, listener, challenger. These are great teaching qualities. You have them in bucket loads.
Keep ‘em coming.
Love ya guts
Just the encourager I need, you’re awesome Sair. We have been teaching each other for decades haven’t we? Long may it continue. I love you. xxx
I so love this post. Difference should be celebrated. I try to tell my kids this all the time – don’t try to be like the others, it’s too boring. Also, I feel you on the blogging front. It’s hard. I contacted my hosting company to shut the blog down. I didn’t think it was worth me paying the $140US for the year – then in a moment of madness I renewed it. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ve got something to say after all. You most definitely do have something to say – I love reading your posts – please keep writing. I’ll definitely put Nanette on my watch list. xx
Thank you Collette!
Even when my blog is nothing but tumbleweeds, I can’t imagine not having it. Same for you perhaps?
Nanette is brilliant stuff, let me know what you think of it.
This was a lesson you taught me. Thank you Annette. Your words drew me to read very very carefully. I watched Hannah and I had never heard of her nor seen her. I found watching it so overwhelming I had to take a break. The part which got to me most, and there were many others of course, was when she said her mum admitted she knew about Hannah’s lesbianism and wished she had let her know much earlier. That struck me about how hard it is to get things right as a parent. In the past year I have learned MANY lessons (not all from cancer) about being truly honest about myself and my part behaviours. Prior to Mother’s Day 2017 (which is such a mixed emotion day) I wrote letters of apology to both of my adult kids. There were many things I got wrong – and yes some I got right – but it was time for me to do that. Thank you…and blogging like this is your forte. You are a teacher! Denyse x
I’m so glad you watched Nanette, Denyse.
That letter you wrote your kids is bloody great parenting! Gutsy, aware that like everyone else ever born, you parented your imperfect kids imperfectly, yet wanting to make it right.
That is so impressive!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 All teaching and growth, all CHARACTER development only requires our openness.
I thought ‘Nanette’ was quite extraordinary. Beautifully written and paced, heartfelt and exhausting. Gosh, I wanted to give her a big hug at the end of it! How shit some of her life has been. We must all keep our minds open to hear stories of difference to enable ourselves to grow and build empathy. Vive la difference indeed.
I agree wholeheartedly!