Go to the Back of the Class

desksOne year ago, I joined Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Building Challenge.  Every day we had a new task. Start a blog, get a twitter account, comment on someone’s post. My writing moved forward. I gained some readers. I became more comfortable with social media. It was challenging and hard to keep up, but overall, a good experience.

Then, something I didn’t expect changed everything.

The writers in the Platform challenge became a collective. We encouraged each other, helped each other out, held each other up, cheered and consoled and supported each other in any way we could. We started a Facebook page, and a website, and called ourselves Wordsmith Studios. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t connected with this group, read their work, shared a joke, some advice, or a hug across the internet.

I was looking for a platform, but what I got was a chair. A chair at the back of the class.

When I was at school, I sat at the front, next to the teacher, always ready to demonstrate my preparedness on command. I was very comfortable with my role. It worked well for me.  But it was constraining. Jeannine is one funny chick – said by no one, ever.

The entire time I was sitting in that front row, however, there was a voice-over narrating events, saying “This is utter bullshit.”  That little part of me always had  a joke, a quip, or a snarky comment to make. I had that “perfect comeback” more often then not, but it didn’t fit what people expected from me. It was also generally inappropriate. So I kept it to myself.

With the Wordsmithers, it was different. I’m not even sure how it started, but I let the smart-ass speak. After years of being held in a closet like Rochester’s crazy wife, she was out and she was ready to burn some curtains. That’s when the magic happened.

People laughed. Okay they LOLed. They ROFLed and LMAOed. A few responded in kind with quips of their own, and after a while, I was  throwing verbal spitballs from the last row of desks  with an awesome, awesome group of writers. I had found my place, and it was where I least expected and always secretly wanted to be.

I joined the platform challenge to be taken seriously, and ended up being the exact opposite. Embracing levity, however, has made me a better writer. I used to look at the pain in my life and mine it for material. I’ve learned, however, that there is plenty of gold in the absurd as well, and often they come from the same source. It’s given me balance–the perspective to write what is real and true because I’m seeing it all, and no longer holding a piece of myself back.

I’ve also brought that joy into my life outside of the blogosphere–with my friends and my family. Viewing the world looking for the humor in it is sometimes difficult. Finding the pain is usually pretty easy. But this way makes me much happier. So I’m not just a better writer. I’m a better person.

So on this anniversary, I propose a toast. To those of us at the back of the class. I’m glad you saved me a seat. I have the cupcakes. Which one of you has the flask?

To my fellow Wordsmith Studio Members with great affection,


Photograph “Old Desks” by Alamosbasement © 2009 Creative Commons

51 comments on “Go to the Back of the Class

  1. boltoncarley says:

    you know i have the flask!! and maybe some whoopie cushions. and you can burn the curtains down anytime! i had no idea all this changed this year. i think you are super funny. but i will give you that finding humor instead of pain – people often think it’s easy, but it takes the rare person to do it. so glad to be in the back of the class with ya! 🙂

  2. Emily McGee says:

    Lovely post! I’d say you’re the ring leader of the back of the class. As a former teacher, I used to have a very love/hate relationship with your kind. 🙂 Cheers to a great year!

  3. Becca says:

    Excellent! Forget the flask! (they are way too small) I brought the whole bottle!! WooHoo!

  4. Julia Tomiak says:

    I love this Jeannine- what a great metaphor! You make a beautiful point, and, as always, you make me chuckle. I’m so glad you let your crazy out! I have recently realized how important humor is it me- when I think of the books and writing I really like, (John Green, Mo Willems, Eoin Colfer), the common denominator is funny. We need funny.
    So cheers to the absurd, and I’ll have a margarita please. Frozen. No salt.

  5. Sopphey says:

    I don’t know about you, but I always knew you were destined to the back of the class from that first day I sent you a tweet. It was destiny! There’s no better place to be than in the place that makes you most happy and you’re looking pretty happy 😉

  6. This was adorable. Who knew writers could be friends and not just snarky critique-rs? You’ve always cracked me up. Ever since the first tweetchat :: wipes tear from eye::

  7. michellepond says:

    Now, lots of us are saying “Jeannine is one funny chick” and we are all better for it. Thanks for sharing your humor with us and Happy Anniversary!

  8. hcfbutton says:

    you are a funny chick. and I toast you there!

  9. kasiewhitener says:

    What a great story, Jeannine! Isn’t it wonderful to find our true selves reflected back at us in such a supportive and caring way. Yay us! I’ll have #morewineplease.

  10. Chris Saip says:

    Now you know why I never wanted to set the bar toooooo high. The back is where the fun is, and I should know. I set up residence there. Another thing to consider is this: In order to be a smart ass, you have to be smart. And WE are!

  11. Anne Kimball says:

    Love this, Jeannine. I also honed my persona through this challenge and the group, so I know exactly what you’re talking about!
    As for what I’m bringing, it’s those little fake teeth to pass out to all the students. You know, the ones from A Christmas Story!

  12. Sabra Bowers says:

    Wonderful, Jeannine. Your post is honest and delightful. I recognized you in the very beginning as a front of the class girl…I think your picture said it was so. I was one, too. Yet, later when I read your posts, I saw this totally different side of you. Front row or back row, you are a great writer and giver of laughs, chuckles, and smiles. Happy anniversay and I’ll have a margarita on that back row. Frozen with lots of salt.

  13. Gerry Wilson says:

    “It’s given me balance–the perspective to write what is real and true because I’m seeing it all, and no longer holding a piece of myself back.” Love it. Love the entire post. You bring us much joy; you know that, don’t you? Cheers!

  14. Oh hilarious!!! I’m so glad we have been blessed to get to know the “real” you! I’d be happy to bring the flask!

  15. Julie Leinberger says:

    Loved this and what a beautiful evolution!

    Sent from my iPhone

  16. Great post, Jeannine! Thanks for exploring the back of the class and letting your humor out. I still get stuck in the front, so maybe you can show me the ropes sometime 🙂

  17. ebeth2000 says:

    This is great, Jeannine! Cheers!

    (Me, too, Jennifer) Hey! What’s going on back there? Looks like fun!

  18. Every time I read one of your posts or poems now, I’m going to be thinking, “This is (not) bullshit; playing with matches is FUN; hey, pass the damned flask!” 😉 Love it!

  19. Gail Kushner says:

    I like to sit in the back and crochet. Lectures can be soooo boring. Don’t worry, when I crochet, I’ve learned to keep my elbows by my side. Is there room for me?

  20. Veronica Roth says:

    Did I ever tell you the story of how at 40 I decided I needed a CMNS degree? Well, I was sitting at the back of the class for four years passing notes, flasks, pens, and smarties with the 20somethings and loving every minute of it. Now I’m older and wiser and still loving every minute of our group, our friendship, and, especially my friendship with you. (Except that my flask has something ridiculously healthy in it these days and I’m usually running late, but I’m happy to share.) 🙂 Love. 🙂

  21. ‘I was looking for a platform, but what I got was a chair.’ Wise and witty, as always, Jeannine. What a gift it has been getting to ‘know’ you through words and shared endeavors. Front row or back, it’s all the same source: community. Thank you and happy right backatcha 🙂

  22. I am sorry that I was away for the posting! I was not surprised that Bolton was the first one to respond. Yes, we have the flask and we are ready to throw out any comment that comes to us. I am so happy to be in the back of the class with you! I am glad that we could get you back here. I unfortunately moved there awhile ago… With age comes wisdom – to go to the back of the class. Thanks for you! You certainly class it up back here!

  23. Claudine says:

    I’m pretty sure you can guess that I ALWAYS sat at the back of the class! Yes I was the class clown and yes inappropriate and sarcastic comments were my thing. I tried the front of the class situation and it wasn’t much fun. I still sit back there whenever I’m able and I usually have a good time! Welcome Jeannine! We’ve been waiting for you! 🙂

  24. mliddle says:

    It is weird how we have let other people’s expectations inform who we are. But you have found your space & the folks to not only like you for how you see yourself but you have thrived this past year. I think many of us have thrived in our own ways this year. For me in the beginning, I loved initially welcoming people to the group and having late night FB sessions with people. The group became friends with whom I interacted daily, & I am happy to be back & notice changes in people. My favorite is reading these anniversary posts.
    Here’s my glass of red wine cheer to you and everyone else: CHEERS!

  25. […] Go to the Back of the Class (mobyjoecafe.com) […]

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