Photo from Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Welcome to the next episode of the Wise Not Withered Show! I’m going to start calling it a Podcast again though, because… *triumphant trumpet fanfare* I finally figured out how to make a Podcast! Or rather, I asked one of the writers from my Global Collaborative Project team who has a Podcast, and she referred me to Podbean! The first episode with Karen Joy Fritz is now up on iTunes, and all subsequent episodes will be up there, one week at a time. I’m still going to be uploading all of the episodes of Season 1 with partial transcripts here on my website, at least the first ten episodes. Once Season 1 is complete, I’ll figure out exactly how I want to tackle Season 2!
Anyway, back to this week’s episode! I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. McGuirk, who was my counselor in high school ten years ago.
On her relationship with her mother: “I love her, and I have enormous respect for her, but sometimes I might have wished she could’ve just you know, not been quite so involved in everything [while I was growing up]. … I would say now, it’s good. Being adults, it’s easier to see where she’s coming from. Versus when I was 16, 17, 18, I was like “Why are you all up in my business?” And now I’m like “Oh okay, I understand how that works!” I would say now, we’re pretty close, which is pretty cool.
On something she’s learned from being a counselor over the last twelve years: “First of all, I think I’ve learned… The older I get? Or if it’s just how much the generations change. Kids’ lives are so much harder than it was five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago. Whether it’s ‘you need to be in this, that, or the other activity’, or ‘you have to maintain this presence in your social media’, and you have to deal with people’s expectations for your body, your gender, your cultural expectations, for your family: what’s an okay job for you to get after high school, or if it’s okay to go to college. I think it was a lot simpler when I was graduating from high school, plunked out a couple of applications via type writer. I think their lives are so much more complicated, and a lot more complicated than I think a lot of people give credence to, which I think is kinda hard.”
On what she learned from a previous relationship: “I had internalized the fact that he was never gonna want to have kids. And I stayed because I was like ‘But maybe he’ll change!’ You know, the stupid weak woman, ‘I can change him!’ or ‘Maybe I don’t want to have kids.’ At some point it was like NO, girl! … No matter how much we loved each other, it wasn’t enough. And that was an incredibly hard thing for me to wrap my head around: how can I love you, and you love me, and we’re so good together… And we don’t want the same things. It was hard to let that go. … Things worked out better than I ever could have imagined, but I think letting go of the fantasy of it was really hard.”
On what she learned from becoming a mom: “I would never have said I was a patient person before I had kids. I think I’m wired for impatience, and children of all ages, shapes, and size really force you to slow down. … We will stop, and we will wait. And I think you notice more that way. … [My son] used to love to go out and just cruise around when it was raining. My pre-mother self would have been annoyed, like we’re getting wet, and why can’t we just get to where we’re going!? It teaches you to really slow down, and notice. He noticed worms on the sidewalk, and we floated leaves in the gutter. As an adult, you miss that stuff, if you’re like me, always impatient and in a hurry. The act of slowing down and being more present is pretty magical.”
On her greatest success in life: “How I was raised, being a good wife and a good mom. I think my family is—and I’m totally gonna cry—the most important. And they know that, and they can count on me. Our kids are good people. Mr. McGuirk and I have a successful marriage. All that stuff… I think that’s the win! And I know that’s not the uh, feminist answer. (laughs) But there you go, girl!”
On her greatest failure: “It’s not a singular, specific thing. But especially growing up where I come from, people look like Barbies. … Singularly, they’re dumb things. Like trying to straighten my hair so I could look like everybody else. Or trying to be skinnier, or not doing this sport, or that activity, because it wasn’t ‘cool’ or ‘appropriate for women’. So a million of those little choices. … As an adult woman, I can’t believe I was that person.
Because now I talk to girls all day long, and I’m like ‘You don’t need that BS! You don’t need to look a certain way, or act a certain way! You should raise your hand, and be the first person to volunteer for things, and you should never squash your ideas!’ But I was totally in that mindset that you had to be this image. It took a long time to get to adulthood and be like… No. Actually, you don’t. Fool, you don’t! … At some point I was like, no dumb ass, there are no ‘cool girls’! There’s just a bunch of women doing their thing. Do your thing, girl! It’s embarrassing to think how long it took me to realize that in hind sight.”
A piece of advice: “It is okay to be who you are, and in the end, you don’t have to apologize… Because no one is honestly paying as much attention as you think they are. And I think that was one of the big aha moments: oh my god, no one cares! No one cares what I am doing. And I don’t mean it in a malicious way. If you wanna have those clothes, or that hair, of if you want to choose that career, or if you like that type of person… No one cares. As long as you’re kind to people, as long as you’re a good human being… Nobody gives a shit.”
On future plans: “Honestly, I want to stay healthy enough to be able to enjoy the life that I’ve built. I dig it! Honestly I’m super happy. I love my life, I think it’s good. I’m sure I should have some other aspirations, but… I’m pretty happy. Trying to run a little faster. But cool if I don’t too!”
Mrs. McGuirk dropped so many amazing truth bombs on us during our interview, and I’m so glad that she agreed to talk with me on such an intimate level about so many things. There’s nothing specific in our interview that I wanted to expand upon, since I think our conversation was pretty complete on its own, and I did ask a lot of followup questions during the interview, rather than thinking of them after.
One of the most interesting things about Mrs. McGuirk for me right now, and her husband Mr. McGuirk, who was my math teacher for both junior and senior years of high school, is that their 10-year-old son was actually one of my first students. I remember how she was pregnant with him while I was still in high school. It’s insane to think about how I could have walked up to her, while I was still my incredibly shy and reclusive 17-year-old self and told her, “Hey, I’m going to be your baby’s music teacher in 8 years!”
And they’re not the only ones! There have been quite a few other teachers I had in middle school or high school who are now the parents of my students. I was their student, and now their kid is MY student. It’s just one of those weird… Cool… Ways of blatantly seeing how time has passed and how people—specifically myself—have changed.