Last Fall, I accepted a part-time job as a dance instructor with the local park district. My primary responsibilities is to teach dance (as well as other little life lessons, such as hard work and discipline) to early childhood students up to first and second grades. In the beginning, I was very nervous, because even though I have a background in dance, I’ve never taught the little people before. Not only was I unsure how to construct a lesson plan that was conducive to that age range, I was worried how I was going to be perceived…..by 5-year olds.
Months went by and not only was I totally relaxed with the job responsibilities, but I was having fun! There is something so refreshing about teaching dance to the little people. They don’t take themselves seriously, and they laugh at themselves all the time. They also give out random hugs. There are times where I am a little taken aback because of the spontaneity, but I welcome them just the same.They just feel good.
Pookie entered Rainbow Bridge on Tuesday, May 10, just four days after commemorating his 20th birthday. I guess he decided to take matters into his own hands and arranged for Tuesday to be his last day (I originally planned for Friday, not realizing it was Friday the 13th). His ethological perception is his legacy: the ability to be excessively in tune with both surroundings and hominid emotions. The fact that he met his demise on his own accord does not surprise me, but I made sure he was not in any pain. I rushed him to the animal clinic after he was found listless on the floor.
Going to work the next day was extremely hard for me. My emotions were on thin ice and had no interest with any small talk that had nothing to do with anything (I generally avoid small talk altogether….in the end I’m always left wondering what was the point of that conversation). I especially avoided any potential for cat conversations by keeping to myself and focused on my work. No one outside my inner circle has any clue what happened the night before. I can’t help but wonder if deep down…..do people really give a shit about a 20-year old cat?
To most people, it was a 20-year old cat who used up his nine lives and then some…..it was his time to go. Sure, they will look to ways of comforting with the usual “I’m sorry for your loss.” But not everyone are cat people, or even pet people, so I can’t take their comfort to heart if they’re only saying it as if they’re doing some sort of good deed. I refuse to oblige. To me, Pookie was more than just a 20-year old feline. He was a highly loving creature who reacted to emotions, he was my best friend, and he was all-around a spectacular feline.
Later on that day, I had to attend a dress rehearsal for a dance recital hosted by the park district. I was exhausted, my makeup was smeared from crying and my hair was a bit disheveled, and didn’t have the usual ebullient spirit my students normally witness. All that changed when I walked into a classroom filled with my students. They jumped out of their seats and was excited to see me, and yes….gave me one huge group hug. They have no idea what happened to my cat, or have any knowledge about my crappy workday. They gave me a hug because they wanted to, with no reason other than they find me admirable and that we spend our Saturday mornings doing tendus and laughing the whole way through.
As we enter adulthood, all that becomes lost. Somewhere along the way, the childlike innocence dissipates and replaced with routine idioms. I tend to take people more seriously by their actions anyway. Anyone can say “I’m sorry for your loss” and think they’re being sincere. Suffice to say, maybe they should express something so they don’t look like a total asshole. It will eventually redirect to giving yourself a good name and a pat on the back for the good deed.
Since we are talking about a cat, I don’t expect anyone to be totally sympathetic. However, how meaningful would it be if someone were to inquire about my well being post-Pookie weeks (or even better…months) later. To me, that would be the equivalent of a group hug from a bunch of 5-year olds. They are not doing it to give themselves a good name. They do it because they genuinely care.
If there’s an anomaly in all of this, it would be this: the genuine benevolence towards fellow man is a very hard attribute to find in people. As children, it exists. Somewhere along the way it gets lost, and gets submerged even deeper with any form of narcissism in general. It’s about time we stop taking ridiculous photos of selfies and connect with our inner child.