“This world is your sanctuary and if that world comes in contact…
Yes! It blows up.” From Seinfeld
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that church and state needed to stay separate so that the government could stay out of church business. Before y’all think I’m about to break it down politically, I will, but not how you might expect. In my life, church is also a metaphor, specifically for the dance communities to which I have belonged. For over a decade, I was a club kid and my church was soulful San Francisco house music. Church is when the music is perfection and you feel the Holy Ghost. It can involve gospel-style vocals and the dancers engaging in call and response but basically it’s what we hope to achieve anytime we’re on the dance floor. When our favorite DJs were spinning, we were in church many days/nights of the week.
For the last three years, I have been taken part in #sambachurch. When the bateria gets going and we are all feeling the music, we are elevated to a new level of movement and joy. This can happen in the dance studio, at a community event, or during a parade. As with my original musical church, it is the experience of heightened positive energy.
State is how bills get paid. State is structure. It keeps the day and my way of life moving forward most of the time. It includes my job, my obligations as a citizen, consumer, etc. So church is needed. Church is sacred and holy. Why would I muddy up my solace, my inspiration, my freedom, my alegria by involving my clients? Y aunque no estes de acuerdo, I will henceforth(don’t you love that word) refer to my students as my clients. My clients, while I may like, respect and even care for them, are people I’m ENTRUSTED and PAID to serve. I’m using all caps because these are two important facts I literally can’t afford to forget. The state has given me the duty and responsibility of overseeing these young people in their parents’ place during my work hours. I am liable for any harm that may come their way. The state pays me a decent wage to do this work. If I jeopardize my job, I will not be able to provide for myself and my family. Because it’s such an important job, I would and should not be able to continue working in this field if I were to jeopardize the physical, mental, and/or emotional health safety of my clients.
I will be the devil’s advocate. What to make of my longtime friendships with two former clients? These women are both in their 30s(!) now. They are grown women with careers and lives entirely of their own. When we first socialized as friends, they were adults in college, and we certainly did not meet up at the club. Church and state do not mix.
Recently, these two worlds almost collided, through no fault of my own. Hell no, I thought. I have worked too hard to become a person of good judgment and good health. I’m not about to jeopardize what has taken years to build. I value my privacy.
I made mistakes as a young educator of putting too much of my private self into my public work. Thankfully, my mentors slapped me upside the head and reminded me that my professional identity was worthy of protection. As a matter of fact, I willingly shut down my original blog. In time, I developed the ability to express myself in various settings. More importantly, I realized, after lots of reflection and experience, that my primary task at work was to teach, not to parent and befriend. These days, my task has changed but my resolve to keep church and state separate has not waned. I owe it to everyone involved to keep those worlds apart.