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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

to restore hope and order again and again

"I don't want to be a teacher," I say, over and over and over again, the night before I take the CBEST, the emergency credential test you take in order to become a substitute teacher.

I come from a long (ish) line of teachers. I think half the people on my dad's side of the family all work in the same school district, my mother, brothers and I included in that. I was almost quite literally raised in the classrooms my mom has taught in. I've heard it all when it comes to teachers complaining about students/parents/principals/other teachers. most of the people I felt closest to growing up were teachers, not for instance, kids or peers my own age. I know some of them even saved my life during the hardest years of being bulled in middle school/junior high.

...and despite all this, I still don't want to be a permanent teacher.

and this bothers me, and it worries me too. I know how important teachers are to society. I know, intimately well, how important and rare good teachers are and how easily bad teachers slip through the cracks. I know that within me is the capacity for being a good teacher, because I have had so many examples in the past and in my present.

After I graduated college in 2015, I didn't work immediately in the year that followed, apart my typical job of babysitting. then in the beginning of 2016, I applied and was accepted by the school district my mom works for, to be para-educator, which is a fancy word for a teacher's aide. I've been in at least five different schools since then, left my first job after a month, was unceremoniously fired from the second one after about two weeks, and since then, have worked in various schools as a substitute para-educator. after I give people this long-winded explanation, the usual response is something along the lines of, "so that's something you want to do?"

"no," I reply.

"but you've been working at this so long!"

"yes, I know, but I don't want to."

"you're good at this, though! you should totally be a teacher!"

"I know I am, but it's not what I want to do."

"maybe you'll change your mind eventually."

..."BUT I DON'T WANT TO BE A TEACHER," I yell into the void.

it's been a worry of mine for the past few years, that my dream job as a writer/librarian is just...not practical, not sensible, not reasonable enough for me. that I should set my sights on something with more security, more stability, although if 2016 taught me anything, it's the fact that job stability is a myth. that I should aspire to do something worthier than sitting around typing made up stories for people to read.

and then I came to a realization.

you want to know how those teachers saved my life in middle school/junior high? they gave me stories, they let me read. they didn't suggest I try to read within my grade level or what everyone else was reading. they let me read what I wanted, what I loved. they let me hang out in the library with Mrs. Alvarez the school librarian and Mrs. Alvarez in turn, let me organize her shelves and never complained when I stopped in the middle of putting books back to read those selfsame books. they encouraged me to write and never asked, "are you sure you can read that?" when I came to school with the Lord of the Rings tucked under my arm. (admittedly, not all of them were like this, eighth grade is when a very misguided teacher forced me to read the unabridged edition of Crime and Punishment because she thought I wasn't "challenging myself," and that's how I developed my never-ending grudge against Russian literature.)

teachers and librarians and stories saved my life. when I think about what I want to do with my life, it's that--give stories. write stories for the kids who need them. give a world within a book for someone to find shelter in. to give kids like me a chance to find solace in a book I loved when I was a kid.

I want that to be my legacy, the planting seeds in a garden that I may never get to see.    

Thursday, January 12, 2017

and we keep living anyways's been awhile hasn't it.

alright yes, it's been three (nearly four?) years. the last post I put up here, I was in my first semester in college. now, three years later, I've graduated, turned twenty-five, am currently holding down a job as a substitute para-educator, looking into a Master's program and today, just saw my baby sister off to her own college experience in Abilene, Texas.

the past year has not, by any stretch of the imagination, been an easy one. in fact, it's almost universally agreed that by almost any category of definition, 2016 sucked. it didn't even suck for me, personally, but admitting that 2016 was in any way a good year for yourself felt like a betrayal or mockery of the rest of the world. we lost a lot and felt like those bad things outweighed the good things. and that's a hard thing to have to hold, especially when you look into 2017 with dread.

I'm trying not look into 2017 with dread. I'm trying to face it as bravely as I can, even as off-kilter as I am with Julianna gone for the next five months.

Juli and I...well, we're no Jane and Lizzie Bennett. heck, we're barely Lydia and Lizzie Bennett. we've agreed that we're more like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (there's a million things we haven't done, but just you wait, just you wait...) and if we ever end up on the dueling grounds at Weehawken at dawn, we'll look at each other and agree, well, we saw this coming. but Juli is in many ways, a lot braver and kinder and smarter and stronger than I am, and as much as I worry about her being gone, I want her to have the best possible time at college, which she has waited so long and so patiently for.

 and me? I took one of the lines from Hamilton as kind of a personal motto for the next year. to be honest, a lot of the lines from Hamilton have an incredible resonance for me, but here's one of the more important ones.

in his solo song "Wait For It," Aaron Burr reflects on his life and the choices he's made, how his rival/peer Alexander Hamilton seems to blaze ahead, fearless and reckless. as opposed to Hamilton's lightning fast raps, Burr shakes the rafters with one fierce, blazing stanza: "I am the one thing in life I can control/ I am inimitable, I am an original."  First time I heard the line I sat up straight and played it over and over and over again; it grabbed me by the throat and made me listen. the next lines go, "I am not falling behind or running late / I am not standing still, I am lying in wait." it's hard to go slow sometimes. you look at others and think, why don't I have that, why aren't I doing that, what am I doing wrong because clearly I'm not where I'm supposed to be. so I take a deep breath. I look at what I have done, what I have accomplished. and I remind myself: I am the one thing in life I can control and I will not be afraid. I am willing to wait for it.