I’ve spent much of my life, too much really, trying to fit in. Most people do the same thing, but for me that has always been a futile effort. In grade 9 I hung out mostly with other “misfits” and tried to fit in with them, but couldn’t. Just because we didn’t fit in with others didn’t mean that we did fit with each other, or that we were particularly accepting of each other’s differences. Throw in a few other factors of my life in those years and my teenage years were anything but smooth, and rarely fun.
I’ve known that I’m a lesbian since I was twelve or thirteen. I’m Jewish, and while there were enough Jewish kids and teachers in our community that the schools closed for the two major Jewish holidays, we weren’t even close to being a majority.
I was born and raised in Southern California, but live in Saskatoon Saskatchewan where my life and my winters are very different (although as I write this it’s hotter here than it is where I grew up). I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. There is no shortage of reasons why fitting in hasn’t been and still isn’t easy.
I’m a lot more comfortable with that these days because I’m older and care less about what others think (mostly), but I’m also in an enviable position of finding myself in a job that not only allows me to, but encourages me to shake up the status quo.
I work at a university where my job centres around changing how teaching and learning happens. I also lead up and initiative around open textbooks. These are free textbooks, written and released with the intention that they’ll be shared, modified, and combined with other open work to improve access to and quality of education.
This has been the realm of commercial publishers for generations. They, or some group that doesn’t know our students have decided what history should be told, who should be represented in books, what examples should be used. Think of school boards in Texas deciding what goes in a social studies book used in Washington State or a science book used in Manitoba.
Through the open textbook initiative I get to shred the status quo. I get to cause trouble. I get to help increase access to learning materials that are out of reach for most people on the planet because of cost (textbooks have increased in cost far faster than the rate of inflation without increasing the learning outcomes for students).
My boss, my boss’s boss, my boss’s boss’s boss, and right up the line have allowed me to cause trouble, several of them have actively encouraged me to. And I get to do it, not just to cause trouble, but to make things better for a lot of people.
Plus, and this also amazing, I’ve found others doing the same, thrilled to be causing trouble for the greater good, knocking the status quo on its ass. While there are still people in this group of trouble makers who I don’t fit in with, through this work I’ve found people who I don’t have to try to fit in with. We love each other for our differences, for our passion, and for the acceptance and love we offer each other.
I hope that each of you find a way to cause some good trouble and find your people who are right there to cause this good trouble with you while loving you for who you are.
Image courtesy of Tracy Roberts under a CC-BY license