I have been thinking a lot lately about what things my mom taught me kind of inadvertently throughout my life. I’m taking a break now from writing my letter of interest for my reapplication to my TAship and so I have been thinking a lot about the value of education and why I think it’s important for me to both teach and learn at this point in my career.

I love teaching, and for more than just the money involved (at this point in my life, the money that I can get from teaching is actually rather significant in comparison to what I could be doing for money). I like the way that a look of realization comes over a student’s face in the midst of a lecture, or when someone asks a question that I don’t know the answer to, or when another student has a better answer than I have.

I was also talking with Paige last weekend about how I learned so much about how to deal with other humans from my mother, in ways that prefigure the work that I did at Michigan with the Program on Intergroup Relations. I used to spend my days off from school in her special education classroom, drawing pictures with her students, who I more often than not had nothing in common with. But we played the games that she made up together. It wasn’t like I was doing anything that unique or groundbreaking then, but I think it taught me that people who are not like me, and are assumed to be inferior, have plenty to offer, if at the time only as playmates.

My mother also taught me that you can’t go wrong with another book. (And also that sometimes people like to be read to.) She taught me that if you prepare yourself you can go as far as you want to go. She also taught me how to deal with the crazy things life dishes out with confidence and grace. She also taught me that forgiveness — not blind forgiveness, but rather the kind that jumps at the chance to mend relationships if the opportunity presents itself — is the most important characteristic you need in creating healthy relationships with others.

Not all of these things were learned through positive example-setting. Sometimes I saw the things she did and thought, I hope I never do this like that, or there has to be a better way to do this. But maybe the most important lesson she taught me is that if you think about it before you do it, you’re less likely to mess it up. And at the very least you can defend your choices from your critics.

Maybe this is all a bit cheesy, but it meant a lot to me that my mom came here for Thanskgiving. She got to meet my roommate and some of my friends from school, and today I took her around Buffalo and showed her some of the sights as well as my home at school. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways she got me to where I am. It also — weirdly enough — makes me want to have kids. They’re only going to get better, right?