Class consciousness

There is so much of it, and from an early age it was all about the work, working hard to climb a ladder, and we are all climbing ladders, of some sort, hoping for something better, and too much moaning doesn’t help, but it’s there, sometimes hard to put your finger on it, it’s there, less visible sometimes, in one way or another, how I tried to disguise it, changing my voice over and over, from working class Northern Irish to working class British and then just plain small town American, where the accents don’t give you away so easily, and then changing my clothing, trying to pass for middle class, and then feeling guilty, what am I really, if you like too many comforts you are becoming middle class, but that’s a narrow reality, all those small boxes of our identities. But yes, it was there, in London when I worked at a private university, as an adjunct/fractional instructor, and most of the other lecturers and professors had posh accents, and I felt out of place, tried to change my clothes and dress more conservative, and after over six years of working there I was never fully comfortable, feeling like an imposter teaching classes at a university, and I have that dream often, with variations, the imposter.

Now, here, a high school teacher, it feels more natural, but for so long I wanted to teach university, I saw the pictures, a professor in a comfortable chair with lots of books surrounding them, a pipe in their mouth, comfortable in their existence in a world of ideas and art, but that was not the reality, and high school teaching is more of a grind, but less pretentious, and I never felt at home with the university bursting with their self righteous theories, but, and yet, I did, I loved the chance to think and read and discuss, and then later, do some creative writing as a graduate student, that was something I could never have guessed existed, living breathing artists and writers, and my university days as a student were filled with wonder, especially as an undergraduate, and in America, since I went to state universities for eight years of education, I felt the class consciousness less often, although it was there too, during graduate school especially, there were quite a lot of upper middle class people there, and I tried to fit into that world, but I didn’t. What am I even talking about, I like middle class art, cinema, poetry, music, novels, and I don’t want to be confined to some narrow definition of the working class narrative, from misery to redemption, or just misery forever, and I probably wouldn’t refuse money from some fellowship or other, if it was handed to me, and I am enjoying comforts, like healthy eating, sunshine, and meditation, but my background is fully working class, for generations upon generations, but maybe I am climbing out of it, in mind, not income, and is that so terrible, and what is middle class anyway, and what am I even talking about.

Now, here, one of many foreign countries I have lived in, trying to find a sense of place (impossible), but at least somewhere I can survive financially and psychologically and create my art after a full day of high school teaching, and it is happening, I can do it, you can do it, if you make time for it, if it is really necessary. Never Mind the Beasts, an experimental working class novel, my debut novel at age 46, has just been published, and that feels like something, and I feel lucky to have it with a press very aware of class consciousness, with the editors from working class backgrounds, and very little money, and still finding a way to put out books that other publishers pass over, because it doesn’t fit the dominant middle class aesthetic and readership, and that is really something. I don’t have time and money to attend exotic art colonies or travel around on reading tours and I don’t win fellowships and prizes, I am not connected. I just work for money and survival and make time for my art when I find it, and it is a good life really, one fully chosen consciously, to attend university, despite the overwhelming odds against it, and make time for reading and thinking, even though no one I knew went there, and creating art, and to do that, since I don’t come from the money, and can’t become a bohemian with something to fall back on, I have to live a minimalist existence, no car, property, children, savings, retirement, just simple living, full time work, and great love, and that is how I make time for the art/writing, and it is the only thing really keeping me going, it is not a luxury, or a commodity, it is a necessity.

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