They say you never really stop learning and, if this week’s Education Issue illustrates anything, it’s the truth of that statement.
Whether you’re still neck-deep in text books or have been out of school long enough to forget what a preposition is, the real education is happening all around us every day, in picking up a few special tasks while a co-worker is away on vacation or leaping head-first into a world you know nothing about — and doing your level best to hinge open that mind.
One year ago today, I interviewed paid companion Emily Marie, one of the most well-to-do escorts in Victoria’s industry. The response, backlash and support from readers was astounding. Next week, we’ll all get another sneak peak into what her life has been like, now that she’s celebrating two-and-a-half years in the biz. It’s easy to jump to quick emotional responses when we learn about something as vulnerable and risky as sex work, but blinking into a world that many people are part of — and arguably many more don’t understand — only helps us to see the fuller, high-def picture.
Our real education has always been tapping on the window at any given time, just waiting for us to look out and see it. Often, we get too distracted by the glare of stigma to keep staring. We balk at the woman making many times our wages while having sex; we turn away from the homeless youth on the street, holding the sign that says “I wish I had a dime for every person who ignored me.” We shield ourselves from the catch phrases that make us sigh and turn up iTunes (gather yourself, here they come: tar sands, global warming, economic drought). We steer clear of reminders of death, murders in the papers, tombstones in the park, news that our parents are getting older. And we do all this under the guise of protecting our peevish curiosity from discovering that time is running out. We latch onto this notion that, if we just look the other way, this fact won’t be true. But it is. Time has been running out for all time. And we have plenty of it, if we chose to use it wisely: to open our eyes to the parts of our worlds — even the exiles — that need our attention; to show compassion for those succeeding as much as we do for those struggling; to give ourselves permission to learn, rather than to know.
Last year, I remember asking Emily Marie what the hardest part of her job was. She didn’t say much, but during our conversation I could hear the loneliness in her voice. She told me friendships were difficult, as many people were uncomfortable with her line of work, but she still preferred not to lie about it.
Perhaps that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned this past year in the School of Life Studies: everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have. And, shiny or not, I think sometimes we all deserve a little extra credit for that. M