Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I recently reconnected with a camp counselor on Facebook. He asked me how I was, and I wrote him a very long, emotional letter about how much he meant to me. Money quote:
I didn't know who I was when I met you, Marcus, I just knew that I wanted to be like you.
When you imagine the motley crowd of misfits that are better off for having known you, please picture me among them.

His response? A sweet and casual thanks for saying that and glad I could help and seems like you're doing well which is good because I always liked you. Lovely, really, and perfectly appropriate. Far more appropriate than my epic diatribe about the past and youth and wisdom.

I don't know what I expected, something more melancholy, maybe, a kind of meditation on the magical time we shared. But this particular person has helped and inspired many many people in the course of his life, he probably gets letters like this all the time. He was undoubtedly more important to me than I was to him, which is the exact nature of the teacher-student (master-apprentice, counselor-camper, shrink-patient) relationship.

I have had a number of relationships with younger people, as a counselor or teacher, and more informally, as someone a bit older who has experienced things. A young comic comes to mind, my friend's aspiring filmmaker little brother as well. And I've listened to them, shared my experiences, hoped to be some sort of guide or resource. Thinking of these relationships now it seems that the joke is on them because, what the hell do I know about anything? I feel that I know less and less and less.

I asked Marcus about this in my letter, since I realized he was only 23 when I knew him, only seven years my senior, and he seemed to me like he knew everything. His response:
I was learning how to be grown up too and shared that to the best of my ability.
Teachers always say they learn as much from their students as they teach them, but maybe this means something different from what I thought it did. Maybe, in teaching, we make ourselves aware of what we know and what we have still to learn.


N-onymous said...

I like your insight and I've been in that situation as well.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, this was lovely. There's something so odd (if common) about the way that someone can play an enormous role in your life, when you're nothing more than a footnote in theirs.