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A Soul Cleansing Moment

I sat on the train this afternoon, I’ve been sitting on trains a lot lately, in a frantic rush. I didn’t want to be late, to waste one precious moment I could spend talking to this woman who has meant so much to me, on this dumb train.

It was cold on the train and hot on the platform. I didn’t feel like putting make up on on the train so I listened to music instead. Chambers street, right? Right. Then the path and my first time to New Jersey. On the other side of the river, a breeze existed; cool air and suddenly it smelled like the ocean. It only ever smelled like city in New York. It was chilly in the breeze but warm in the love of my friends embrace.

Friend? Mentor? What do you call someone who inspires so much in you, who believes so deeply in you, who you admire so fiercely. She taught me how to be imaginative and creative in education. She taught me to think outside the box. She taught me things I’m only just now learning that she taught me.

Seeing people from home in this big, bad city feels like a deep breath after months underwater. I tell people I miss hiking, that the train is hard to navigate. I tell people I miss fresh air, that there are too many people. I laugh it off, New York is great sure sure sure. But this glimmer of hope from home brought me to life again. She breathed into me and renewed my entire being. She told me I was great, in real, human words. It wasn’t implied or alluded to. It was said. When so rarely these words are earnestly spoken.

Everyone should be told that they are honestly, perfectly, entirely great and that they should let their greatness flow. Have you heard that yet?

Yes you have, you just did.

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Best of luck.

Can I Be a Friend Right Now-

Can I Be a Friend Right Now?

Life is stressful these days – I’m fully immersed in a big old pool of grad school, which often sometimes feels like drowning, while preparing for my first year of teaching in a New York City public school.

I’m fine. Everything’s fine.*

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In my time here, I’ve met some amazing humans, a few of whom are responsible for my ability to get through all of this madness. I love and respect them so very much.

I’ve been trying to improve my listening skills for the last few years because, well, listening is really important and a huge part of knowing someone deeply. I’m practicing this because I want to get better, because I love my friends and want to hear them.

Trouble is, sometimes hearing everything creates a battle between being a good friend and anxiety.

An example: there’s this paper due at the end of the month for a class I’m taking and it’s a doozy. I won’t get into the details but the issue is that it’s very involved and no one really seems to be clear on the topic, the expectations, or the process. We’re all shooting in the dark, we’re all nervous wrecks.

So we talk about it. A lot. Sometimes I’m really upset and nervous and emotional about it and sometimes I’m not. When I’m not feeling negatively about it, negative talk around me brings me down. So it’s a cycle of panic that none of us can seem to escape.

Some of my pals got an extension but I chose to turn my paper in on time; I’ll get my grade next week and I’m scared. Every time the paper comes up, I think about what happens if I messed up. What happens if I failed? It’s not a useful thought. So the conversation comes up and I get anxious about something that has yet to happen, something that might not happen.

So the answer is to stop engaging in the conversation, right? Well, remember that ‘being a good listener’ thing…?

I want to be a good friend but I also can’t hear another damn thing about this paper while my fate hangs in the air. And how do I even express that without hurting the people I love?

“Oh hey guys can you shut the hell up because I’m avoiding my feelings?”

This is a post without an answer. I don’t know what to do or what I will do. I don’t know what you should do if you’re in a similar situation.

Thoughts?

Best of luck.

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*But don’t you dare tell me things are only get harder from here because I will cut yell at you.

 

I'm (finally) a Teacher

I’m (finally) a Teacher

I’m sitting on the 2 leaving Brooklyn, over the bridge and into Manhattan. The bustling hipsters change places with suits who mix in with the common folk as we move north. I’ve had a stupid smile on my face for half an hour. I’m not even using headphones, which makes people glance at me like I’m a crazy person.

I just saw my classroom. The one I’ll be teaching in. Mine. My classroom. It has four windows that overlook the courtyard, it has an old chalkboard I’ll cover with paper and a new smart board I’ll cover with confusion and intrigue. It has a TV mounted low on the wall for the use of a previous video game club. It has bookshelves and beanbags and potential.

The principal asked me if I need anything else, any other supplies. All I can think is: how could I ask for more when you’ve given me all I’ve ever needed. Except students, I’ll need them too. I’m waxing poetic and I know it and I don’t care. She just laughed and tells me I’ll be issued a laptop later in the summer.

We talked for a while about curriculum and schedules and mentors and she reminded me several times that I don’t need to remember everything, there will be time to learn it all. I don’t care, I’m just happy to be given so much information. Maybe I’ll be scared later but I’m elated right now. I’m a teacher. For real this time.

As we exited the building, I said thank you again and walk down the street.

Who do I call?

Dad. My father has been an educator for my entire life plus many more years. He’s hiring his own teachers for next year, he told me about the young social studies teacher whose personal statement sounded like mine.

I told him I just saw my classroom, mine, my classroom and it has four windows and I’m teaching civics and US history and I have a smart board and my principal is great. I breathed it all out in one breath and found myself gasping in the 95 degree, 95% humidity July air. I heard him smiling over the phone.

I’m sitting on the subway and I can’t stop smiling. I know there’s hell coming between government bureaucracy, students failed by the system and the burnout of balancing teaching and grad school.

I don’t care. I can’t stop smiling because I’m finally a teacher.

Becoming an Alpha

Becoming an Alpha

As I journey further into the deep dark cave of adulthood, every day seems to be an exercise in struggle, confusion, and second-guessing. I have tended to shrink away from the unknown, waiting for someone else to go first down the new path. In times of conflict I’ve tended to shrink away from the fight. In fear of sounding self-obsessed, I’ve tended to shrink away from announcing good news or congratulating myself on a job well done.

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I have made myself a beta.* Oh and don’t be fooled, I had logical reasoning: I’m an introvert. I’m moderately shy. I dislike conflict.

But I’m coming to realize that none of those things have anything to do with me becoming an alpha. I can be a powerful and unwavering, shy, introverted pacifist. I can be the wind and the leaf.

A couple of weeks ago I officially accepted a job as a High School history teacher in Brooklyn. I was one of the first in my department and it’s a school I’m in love with. A week later I was offered a job at another school and even after I turned it down, they continued to fight for me. I honestly believed that both of these were somehow wrong, not for me, how could anyone push so hard for me?

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I was afraid to tell people. I hesitated. I was scared it would make me seem conceited. What happened instead was that my colleagues, friends, family, and classmates were purely joyous for me and the stress that lifted off of my shoulders has allowed me to help those around me in their struggles.

It took a while but eventually, I defied what I believed about my abilities. I didn’t think I would be able to find a job at all; that I would be the only fellow in history to fail to find a job by fall. But that didn’t happen. I got a job, just like I got into grad school and pulled straight As first semester, just like I did Peace Corps, because I am an alpha. I just had to believe it.

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I felt powerful in that moment. I felt big, and for once that wasn’t a negative. I was this force, and I still am. I don’t want to hide anymore, behind fear and logical reasoning (coughexcusescough) and worry.

I will stand, big and tall over my fears, and be an alpha.

Best of luck.

 

*Not the fish, please don’t be concerned that I’ve climbed into fishbowls and hidden in the dorms of college freshmen. I haven’t lost it yet.

Relationships are Like...

Relationships Are Like…

People are strange. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, just when you’ve read a really poignant article (or blog) about human nature and interactions, they do something unexpected.

I should say ‘we’ as I am including myself in this, don’t worry, I know I’m strange too.

As my 25 day blogging hiatus and enrollment in grad school have shown, I am living in a very high stress world, around a lot of very high stress people. Reactions are immediate and drama builds like forest fire. Fights that might take weeks to come to a head in normal life, turn into explosions in hours.

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All of this has made me really consider friendships, relationships, and timing.

Time is such a strange thing. As a kid, I planned out my life many, many times and it always left room for me to fall in love, date that person for a few years, marry them, wait a few more years and then have children. Time was very important. More time meant a greater possibility that everything would work out. Relationship timing was like expensive whiskey, the more I let it age, the better it would be.

Friendships felt the same way; the longer I’d known someone, the stronger our friendship. Putting ‘one of my oldest friends’ or ‘who I’ve known since elementary school’ into a description of a friend felt like the ultimate achievement. As though in telling you I’ve known them since childhood I was telling you something about the quality our of friendship. Adulthood has found it hilarious to slap me in the face one that one, with old friendships crashing and burning because of opposite growth. But, it’s also thrown me a lot of great new friends who I grew with and loved faster than I’d expected.

The thing I’m getting at is: nothing is whiskey. Well, whiskey is whiskey…really, it’s that relationships are not whiskey.

Relationships are more like baked goods, each with their own unique recipe, oven and ingredients, each needing it’s own time to cook. Some come together in minutes and others take years, but there is no one equation.

Except…they also keep growing and evolving, so maybe they aren’t baked goods…they’re more like…people. Connections between people to be more specific, what’s the word for that? Oh, relationships…

Relationships are like…relationships.

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Failing, Failed, Failure

Failing, Failed, Failure

Alright, hard truth time: I got one of my certification exam scores back and I failed.

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I failed.

I got my score report tonight while sitting with a group of fellows in my program and my instinct was to say nothing. To never say anything. To privately retake the test and pretend I never failed.

But I did. I failed.

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I can spout off a million positive quotes from a million Pinterest boards but failing and philosophizing about failing are not the same. Failing hurts. It punches you right in the pride and fills you with panic and self doubt.

I tell my students that failing is part of a process, that failing is just learning in disguise. But failing sucks and I’m a hypocrite.

All this time I thought I was great and I wasn’t.

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So I said it out loud. I almost cried but I said it out loud. And I was met with commiseration. I was met with empathy. I was met with two amazing teachers who told me they’d failed once before too. That it doesn’t make me dumb, that I’ll retake it and be fine.

Because people fail and it sucks and they get over it. Because sometimes it’s bad until it gets better.

So I failed but damn it if I’m not still fantastic.

Best of luck.

PRACTICE

What Happens When Your Soul Sister Visits

This weekend I’m lucky enough to have the love of my life visit me: BFF Jess. Don’t worry Boyfriend knows his place: directly behind my Jess. He’s cool with it.

In honor of this spectacular event, here are the stages of what happens when your soul sister visits.

Stage 1: The Planning

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Everyone tells their friends they should visit, everyone makes superficial plans for a “one day” visit, but the real planning typically starts with a text.

“What does May look like for you?”

This is where the timing and the plane tickets and the time off work come into play. This is real.

Stage 2: The Countdown

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Typically starting casually, this stage causes all conversations to end with a mention of the impending excitement.

“You’re going to be here in nine and a half months/two months/one week/TOMORROW”

For BFF Jess and I this usually comes to a peek the week of the visit, when we relentlessly annoy our friend by posting photos of us on Facebook and reminding the world that THIS IS HAPPENING SO SOON.

Stage 3: The Reunion

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THIS STAGE IS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE OMG MY BFF IS HERE AND I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE’S HERE AND SHE’S SO PRETTY AND PERFECT AND I LOVE HER AND I NEED TO TELL HER EVERYTHING THAT’S HAPPENED IN THE PAST SIX MONTHS EVEN THOUGH WE TALK EVERYDAY AND SHE ALREADY KNOWS EVERYTHING.

Breathe. Ok. LET’S JUST HUG AND JUMP UP AND DOWN SOME MORE.

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I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I’m off to forget I’m a grad student and an adult for a weekend of adventure with the greatest human I know.

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Best of luck.

What Happens When Your Soul Sister Visits