Today is the birthday of one of my favorite teachers from high school- Judith Grimes Priebe- affectionately called GP or “Jeep” by some of her students. She passed away in 2010 during my second year of graduate school and the reaction was huge. over a thousand girls organized a Facebook event to share our memories and favorite pieces of wisdom from her. GP taught AP psychology to Xavier seniors. She was instrumental in me choosing Pepperdine over ASU and she had a number of life lessons that I and many many others still think about and hope to pass on to others. When I talk about wanting this to be a year of brilliance, I think of GP and not only of her genius, but of her great light that she let shine for all to see.
So without further delay, a few pearls of wisdom and why I love them:
ON BEING HUMAN:
“True empathy comes from… connection on a human and emotional level. Anything else is sympathy.” This is one of my favorites and I think it’s the key to the way I approach acting, directing, and life. Sympathy is shallow. Empathy allows us to connect and can breed change. Strive for empathy.
*”There is always an explanation, people are never a mystery”– I also use this all the time in acting and directing- it’s easier in theatre because you get all the lines and can make up the rest and be correct. it’s a lot harder in real life where sometimes you don’t get to see the explanation right away or very clearly, but the explanation is still there… I use this especially with myself when I’m claiming that I don’t know why I’m feeling a certain way.
“The reason why people go with blaming the victim is that it maintains the belief that the world is just” My notes around this talk about wanting to protect that belief because it makes it easier for people to do nothing. Wow. Even more poignant now than when I heard it in high school. Just take a minute for that to sink in…
*Don’t live in an all or nothing situation” In class I think this originally came up in terms of eating disorders and dieting. But I’m pretty sure this bridged over to a lot of life philosophies. I feel like this one sentence is the key to so much happiness. I think us Xavier girls really needed to hear this in particular because it felt a bit like our school believed that if you didn’t get 100% you were failing at life… speaking of Xavier…
ON BEING A WOMAN/ A XAVIER GIRL:
“The big girl voice- use it. That’s the lesson of the day.” I feel like I heard this over and over in my head when I started my Linklater work. Such a powerful memory with this one.
GP talked about us giving away our power and hiding behind high pitched speaking, couched in question mark intonations, little girl voices and how we are too well educated and to great to be using anything but our big girl voice. We’re meant to be leaders she would tell us and that we shouldn’t undermine our own authority by sounding like cartoon babies. (OK, that last description is mine…)
“Don’t cry when you get a traffic ticket” Pretty self explanatory. Be an adult and accept responsibility for your actions.
“If some guy makes your friend cry, you’re never going to forget it.” This came up when talking about relationships and social dynamics. You hurt one of us, we WILL remember. I have seen this play out- for better or for worse in various circles of friends.
“We are sending you out to repair the world.” This wasn’t even said to my class, but was written online by a xavier girl in a class after mine, but it is still one of my favorites. I think of it often because it ties to one of my life philosophies a la Much Ado About Nothing- “Serve God, Love Me, and Mend.”
(and just for fun) “The Xavier bell says ‘FEAR ME” and the Brophy bell just kind of says “Come to class if you want to…” yup, that pretty much sums up the difference between Parochial and Jesuit education…
*Don’t go straight from living with your parents to living with your husband- this isn’t in quotes because I don’t have a quote written down, but i do have general notes on this story and it made a big impact on wanting to go away to school and move our/live with a variety of people after school. I’m glad I had the chance to live “on my own” before I got married. I learned a lot and it made me better equipped to head into my marriage.
“Toe to Toe, here we go…” I say this to my husband all the time. I feel like this little rhyme stuck with me the whole time I was dating and finding people who weren’t my match either because they would say oh ok, whatever you want and then just give in and not keep up with me mentally or spiritually or socially OR they would feel intimidated by my strong feelings and passionate responses to things and would try to be overbearing and controlling- it wasn’t until I met my husband that this saying clicked and I truly understood it for the first time. We challenge each other to become better people but we give each other grace and a place to lean on each other when we need help. we stand toe to toe, not one stepping on the others foot but not so far away that they can start in on a new dance and leave the other partner behind- toe to toe.
*“Emotional intimacy- 100% safe in revealing 100% of self” Other notes around this quote that were not in quotations- it’s a lot easier to prefer security over intimacy, but the success of a relationship = how deep it is. 100% safe in revealing 100% of self is the goal… but it’s pretty hard work to get there. The good news? it’s pretty big rewards too.
*”The best way to diffuse someone who is passive aggressive is to take them at face value until they stop or they confront you directly. Don’t play their game.” No explanation needed, but seriously- follow this advice.
*One lesson was about conformity and GP talked about how we all give into peer pressure or social pressure at some point, she then cited driving on the 51 highway where the speed limit is 55 but most people are trying to go 80.: “So I go 65 or 70 b/c I don’t wanna get shot”
*”meaning more important than exactness in long term memory”
I may have romanticized some of the exact context of some things in this post. It’s been a while now… but the meaning has stuck with me and shaped my life. and for that, I can never thank GP enough. Happy birthday to one of the most beautiful teachers and influential people I have ever met. Your life was much too short, but your memory lives on in the hearts of so many and the lessons we are hoping to teach our children.
OH.. one more thing she taught me… Prince music can be the perfect pick me up…