Freedtopia

….it just might exist

I WENT TO THE WOODS…(AKA PRESENTLY)

When I was a kid, I wanted to live my life recklessly, irresponsibly, defiantly…because I thought that was how one eventually lived peerlessly.

When I was 21, I wanted to live my life unconventionally, autonomously, misanthropically…because I thought that was how one eventually lived artistically.

When I fell in love, I wanted to live amorously, fervently, vulnerably…because I thought that was how one eventually lived happily ever after.

When I realized I wanted to be an educator, I wanted to live intellectually, authoritatively, pedagogically…because I thought that was how one eventually taught.

When I began gardening, I wanted to live organically.

When my children were born, I wanted to live paternally.

When I began getting middle age chubby and sedentary, I wanted to live calorie-less-ly and aerobically.

When I…when I…when I.

When the world began to turn on itself, to stop listening, to continue killing, to ignore the promise to pursue truth and instead commit to righteous ignorance, I began to live silently, distrustfully, cynically…because I thought it all too much…

When I knew there could be no more when…I learned to live.

THE HISTORY OF FREEDMAN’S NAME (i.e. MATTHEW)

Okay…full disclosure: Sitting down a moment ago to write you all a reminder for this assignment, I was struck by the realization that this blogging prompt is the only one I’ve never answered myself. Usually I get pretty excited about writing model posts for blogging prompts that I create, but I guess subconsciously I simply did not want to answer this prompt. Is my name that traumatic a topic? Is its origin, its story, something I cannot bear to hear? No it is not. That said, I don’t know how this one flew under the radar, but here it goes.

So, according to a text from my dear old mom, both my brother’s name and my name were taken from the Old Testament; my brother “David” (meaning “beloved” in Hebrew) after King David who slayed Goliath with a sling and stone, and little old me, “Matthew” (meaning “the gift of God”, also in Hebrew), after one of the 12 apostles. (By the way, my guy was a tax collector…my brother’s a warrior king – I got the coolness shaft on that one.) On top of the religious reasons (I come from a Jewish family), my brother and I were named after my parents’ friends that were killed in Vietnam. While this injects a dose of sorrow into our names, I like knowing that life, in some form, can come out of tragedy. 

So, what is my impression of my name? First off, this is completely detached from the meaning and history of my name, but I have to admit that I have a bit of a meh/hate relationship with it…or at least I used to.  When I was young I went through periods of either not caring about my name or abhorring my name, and that seemed to be the roller coaster of emotion that I was on through high school. When I was in middle school I frequently romanticized changing my name to something formidable and dramatic like Artemis or Leopold or Spike – but honesty, I probably would not have had the courage to change it back then, even if I could have.  

I think if I were to change my name at this point in my life it would just be confusing and awkward. But, if I had to – like for the witness protection program – I would definitely choose Spike. Spike Freedman! It has a comically ironic ring to it, like an 8lb chihuahua named Bonesaw.  All that said, the truth is that at 51 I have become quite resigned to the name “Matthew” – I suppose that’s why I prefer to be called “Freedman”. 

Not to use what some call “lazy logic”, but it is what it is! Matthew is my name and I’m indifferent to that reality. Sorry Mom and Dad (but you could’ve named me Spike).

FFF (Fun Final Fact). Since 1880, more than 1.6 million Americans have been given the name Matthew. That’s the population of Philadelphia…or should I say, Mattdelphia!

THE BEGINNING OF FREEDMAN’S END

Image result for you're lateIt began when I woke. The thick, oppressive eyelids of a long, summer hibernation. The feeling that a lead apron had been dropped over my face. Then, limited focus. Not a blur, but the unwillingness to wake and be conscious. Then, the heavy head. Then, the inhospitable air. Then, the face, not mine – unsmiling, though not angry – muted with the look that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That face, that look…that was my mother. It was the first day of my senior year, and I was late.

The first day began inauspiciously: late to Mr. Waxdeck’s first period biology class, one black dress sock and one purple rugby sock, summer assignment incomplete, no believable excuse at the ready. I had been warned about this, too: Mr. Austin, guidance counselor, smiling in disbelief as I performed my “no college, only work and travel” monologue at the end of my junior year. “You know, Matt,” he said with that irritating “I know what’s best” look, “the pursuit of college will keep you in line your senior year. Without that Grail you will be without purpose. I don’t recommend it.” First off, I don’t like Holy Grail metaphors; but here he was comparing my senior year, which had not even begun, to the search for the cup Christ supposedly drank out of, and it really hit home….and not in a good way. “But I’m Jewish,” I blurted, and shrugged my shoulders, and walked out.

Image result for sleeping in class black and white photoSo, sitting in Waxdeck’s class, listening to him drone on about his precious syllabus, the California fog rolling in through the Eucalyptus trees, the first period of the first day of the last year of my high school career, Austin’s words echoing in my head, I began my “pursuit” in a slightly different way than Sir Launcelot: I fell asleep.

I would like to say that after that imprudent and unpromising start that I pulled myself together, screwed my head on straight and banged out the last nine months of high school like an academic rock star, but I can’t. My senior year was hard! Unforgiving! And seemingly never-ending!!  And to this day I still remember the mistakes I made in 1988 as if they were an unappetizing snack from an hour ago; and to this day I still remember the apologies uttered and the looks of disappointment I earned from my teachers and parents and friends who pleaded with me to right the ship and finish. That, I won’t lie to you, was not fun to bear.

And now for the happy part: 

I graduated….and with a hideous dent in my overall GPA…but….I graduated wiser, more mjfgradconscious of how I dealt with stress, challenges, expectations, closure…the whole bag. I learned way too many things about myself that year to consider it a waste or a failure. And to this day I gladly share this story with my 12th graders because at one time or another over those potentially dangerous last nine months of high school, their senior year will challenge the complete human, not simply the academic, and finding themselves in that middle ground between those two identities is the best graduation present they can give themselves.