Writing things on a public website means you can’t really hide from people. At least whatever you put up is, obviously, available for the whole world to see. And most of the world doesn’t see that stuff, but all the world can, when it wants to.
Since leaving for Colombia, when I began writing regularly again, I’ve advertised this site to my friends through simple means: Twitter, Google Buzz, etc. And I added the site URL to my email signature, so everyone I send an email to gets an advertisement for the site.
The one group of people I hadn’t shared the site with–the one group I had explicitly hidden the site from–were my students at Studiocom. Studiocom is an Atlanta-based digital design and marketing agency with an awesome office in Bogotá. It’s where I’ve taught every weekday morning at 7 am for the last couple months. (Well, except for those three or four national holidays we’ve had in that time.) I have two classes there, a C1 and a C2 class, meaning the most advanced English speakers at the company, meaning students who are basically or actually fluent. (The international second-language ranking system is A, meaning beginners, followed by B1 and B2, being pre-intermediate and intermediate, and C1 and C2, upper intermediate and advanced.) I love the company, I love my students, and I love my classes. We do a range of different things, but really I just have fun with them. The fact that I go to Studiocom every morning is the reason I’m (usually) happy to wake up at 5:30.
So why have I hidden my site from them? I don’t want them to know how old I am.
My students aren’t very old, but, as far as I know, they’re all older than me. The youngest are probably close to my age, but at least a few more years out of college. I’d guess most are in their late 20s and early 30s. Some are a bunch older, in their 40s or 50s.
No one at the company has given me any reason to fear sharing my age. I probably could do so with no greater effect than a day of “What? You’re that young?” But I have nebulous and tangible reasons for not wanting this group of people–who can clearly guess I’m in my early 20s–to know exactly how young I am.
Most concretely, my boss (in that I teach at Studiocom through a contract with his company, and I’m one of his teachers, but only for the Studiocom classes) is a 27-year-old American who moved to Bogotá four years ago after marrying a Colombian in the U.S. He has told me that at least one of his classes his first year here, when he was 23, was going great for a while–until his students asked how old he was and he told them. They canceled the class the next week. Other students, he has told me, weren’t so abrupt, but made their feelings about his age clear.
I really don’t want that to happen to me, especially at Studiocom. Because I enjoy teaching there so much, I can’t risk getting fired for a bad reason.
I’m getting to the point where I’m comfortable enough there, and have gotten enough positive feedback from the company, that I’m beginning to be confident that being let go for that reason isn’t a risk. But I still don’t want my students to know how old I am, because a big part of such advanced, conversation-heavy classes is just talking, sharing, chatting. And I fear, rightly or not, that it will be harder for me to do that with 30- and 40- and 50-year-olds–or, rather, it will be harder for them to do that with me–if they know exactly how old I am.
So to this point I have deleted my email signature from every email I’ve sent to my Studiocom students, never made reference to this site, and always talked about past experiences in vague (and purposefully misleading) temporal terms like, “Back when I was in college…”
Anyway, I think my cover is blown.
Last week, being the awesome and generous group that they are, my students invited me to Studiocom’s holiday party. It was a last-minute invitation, so I wasn’t sure I was totally invited. But, since I had stuck around the office last month for their Thanksgiving potluck lunch and had been totally welcomed, I figured the invitation was sincere, so I went, and (with permission) took Isa.
The evening was great. It was at a bar/restaurant not too far from my neighborhood, and the event was the best kind of social occasion: lots of hanging out and socializing, drinking, eating, music, and everybody just having a great time. I loved seeing my students in a new context, hanging out with them at 11 pm instead of 8 am, hanging out while we were all drinking, while there was music, and so on. Isa had a blast, too. And hopefully my students enjoyed having “Profe” around.
I think one was inspired by my presence that night to try to find out more about me. The next day this site saw a minor spike of traffic, with at least one visitor arriving through a web search for “peter martin studiocom.” Because in my last post I copied my boss’s email about his stabbing, which mentioned “studio com,” the search now brings that up. And the only people who would search “peter martin studiocom” are, I’m 95 percent sure, people who work at Studiocom.
So, welcome, students. I hid from you long enough. Since you found this public site, you deserve to know everything here. Look around, read whatever you want, enjoy. And check out my photos, yeah?
Now you know how much I like you all. Special thanks (if this ever gets to them) to Javier and Ana Maria for inviting me to the party, and to Ivan for telling (not asking) the bosses that Isa was invited too.
Have very merry Christmases, happy New Years, and I’ll see you all again, bright and early, on January 19.
Update 12/20/10 (minutes after posting): Thanks, Mom, for the grammatical corrections. All fixed now! Note to students: the past participle of to hide is hidden.