Professor Writer

Oblivious Me

What if I’m the “problem”? And what if I don’t even know it?

The image used here is one of many where my husband has been snapping photos while I was talking- and I never notice until after he’s collected at least a dozen of these gems.

I wonder what else I’m not aware of. I know it’s a lot, but I wish I knew exactly what I’m missing.

I’m a teacher, and my students show me how prevalent being oblivious is- not always in a bad way, but I teach developmental and beginner college English courses. Some negative experiences are my most handy examples.

Me: there’s no thesis in this paper.

Student (looking shocked and almost outraged): I was arguing ___ (insert something that was absolutely, 100%, NOT in the paper).

There is a problem in the paper. It is a problem that I can circle, point to, and explain.

But they still don’t see it.

This obliviousness keeps me up at night. My mind goes spiraling into a kind of self-paranoia.

It has always been my greatest nightmare that I would be, or have, the problem- and not know it.

You know, like:

-Those movies where it turns out the main character was one of the ghosts scaring the crap out of the little boy all along. Even though the ghost thought he was helping, he was actually a big part of the problem.

-Or the guy trying to solve a crime in the lunatic asylum, only to be told he committed a crime, and that’s why he’s in the lunatic asylum.

-Or that obliviously difficult person who makes other people give each other the side eye when she walks in the room. This person automatically assumes the people around her are rude. She will never suspect that it’s her own behavior causing the situation.

That’s the one I worry about the most. What if I’m inspiring the side eye? I’ve known quite a few people who were very, very difficult to be around- people whom, no matter how hard I tried, made my heart sink a little when I would drive up and see their cars already in the parking lot.

And I am almost certain that these people had no idea my heart was sinking.

Now, I am glad that this particular kind of obliviousness might keep me from hurting these people’s feelings. However, I am also terrified that I might be under the same kind of oblivious cloud.

What if I am doing something blatantly wrong, often, with an audience, and no one ever says anything, and I don’t even notice? What if I am making someone’s heart sink with my behavior, all unbeknownst to me?

What if I’m the problem? What if I’m the person who is convinced that I make sense, but I absolutely do not make sense?

And what if I’m the villain? The villains usually don’t think they’re villains, right?

So, when my students read out loud the incomplete sentences I have circled for them, and they look at me like I’m crazy for telling them that they have written an incomplete sentence (since, to them, it is absolutely a perfectly complete sentence, and this teacher has obviously lost her damn mind), I can’t help but wonder if they’re right.

Both of us, side by side, are convinced that the other person is oblivious to how wrong they are.

And I’m the right one… right?

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