Monday, March 13, 2006

Finding Authority

There are a few things I've learned over the last dozen, maybe fifteen years of my life. One of the most important lessons, though, is about authority.

Strange, for me at least, child of counter culture bohemians, but authority is a big deal. I was raised to distrust "the man." "The man" was out to get us. It was us against "the man." I've always had problems with authority because of it. And then add in the fact that, while my dad was railing against the injustices of those in authority, he was also the authority in our house-- and he abused his power.

Authority has always made me uncomfortable. I have always been comfortable living my life in the shadows, out of view of "the man," unnoticed, just messing around with the things I like to do. Tralala lala, I am just a little girl making art and writing, on her own, don't bother with me.

However, it turns out, that you can not hide from authority your whole life, particularly when you have ambitions to do or be anything.

The hardest authority to deal with is your own.

I ran smack dab into my own authority when I started teaching High School. It's funny, really, I went in there, trying to convince my students that I knew what I was talking about... no, not trying to convince, no, I was asking them to give me permission to be the authority in the class.

Now, anyone who's had any dealings with teenagers knows that's not the way to get teenagers to listen to you. The first day of teaching, and instead of the kids worshipping at the altar of my genius, they were trying to convince me that they knew more about teaching, about school, about English, about reading, about kids, more about myself than I did. Day two, and I had to start all over again.

It must've taken me a year or two before I realized that you don't sit around waiting for someone to give you authority, you take it. You ARE it.

Power is one thing. Someone else can give you power-- as a teacher, I had the power to pass or fail kids, the power to give them detention. I didn't have the power to make them do work, or stop talking, or try at something that scared them.

Authority is inside, it's believing in yourself. Authority is putting yourself forward as one who knows, one who creates, one who sets down the rules that keep us secure in our own being. Authority inspires others into action. Authority isn't the scary thing that I thought it was as a girl.

I want to draw on my authority as a writer and artist more. I want to believe that I have a right to be that creator. That I have a right to be read and seen-- that I have something to say that people should know.

It's the same thing. I can't wait for some body else (editor, publisher, dean, boss, boyfriend,)to say, yes, Rowena, you are the authority (writer, teacher, mom, artist, etc.)

Authority comes from inside, from belief in yourself and your skills. Authority is how you take control of your own life. Authority is about authorship. I am the author of my own life.

1 comment:

Renée said...

"I want to draw on my authority as a writer and artist more. I want to believe that I have a right to be that creator. That I have a right to be read and seen-- that I have something to say that people should know."

I love this paragraph! Well put. I have a similar goal.

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