Elizabeth Fortin
Identity, Education and Power
2 min readNov 29, 2019


collage coral colored circles over blue & purple with a woman’s face in the center and an orange sticker with the reject
#34 Lizzie Fortin, 2017

I walked straight into the fire. I knew what I was getting into when I read the article and silently thought to myself, I should teach there.

That was 5 years ago.

I wonder what this pain in my chest means. The nurses say my blood pressure and oxygen levels are perfect. They say I should try those meditation apps.

I replied flatly, “I use them already. All three.”

I continue to question if this position is right for me or if I should only be in the classroom with kids.

Am I allowed to complain when I chose to step into this fire?

I knew what I was I getting into when I was offered the job midyear.

When I say that we should burn this system down, do I realize that the system is already on fire and I am inside?

I am not myself any longer or maybe I just don’t recognize me when I am thisclosetothegasolinecan

I grieve while I sit with the flames engulfing me. I inhale the smoke with no sense of where the fire extinguishers are or who to call for help.

“Where’s the gas?” I ask myself as the smell permeates my nose.

I grieve the loss of possibility for the humanity inside. And who isn’t inside this?

Who doesn’t have fingerprints on the gasoline can?

I am slowly suffocating from the combination of sadness and smoke — filling my lungs with a thick, sticky, inevitable death.

These questions shift the blame away from my complicity.

Blame feels like something necessary.

Shifting the responsibility off of me and onto someone else, anyone else.

Those in power are mystified by the scent of gasoline coming from their hands.

Shifting the blame to someone else.

They say put your own mask on first.

They say the masks will fall in an emergency.

The masks never fall inside this space.

The system never thought they were necessary.

Emergency masks were cut with the budget, “Why would we need oxygen masks, when we do fire drills every month?”

I sit next to the gas can and wait for my mask to fall.

Passive and active.

React and respond.

Sit and wait.

Am I an accomplice to this tragedy or am I the perpetrator?

Am I building something with others or just a voyeur?