After teaching for six years (two in high school), I made the choice to leave secondary education. In retrospect it became emotionally similar to ending a long-term relationship…
It’s 10 p.m. and one of my best friends and I decide to compulsively go buy about thirty dollars’ worth of flowers. We did this often–impulse buying after stressful days at work. Flowers are practical. And so is that nail polish with a self-imposed misogynistic names.
The streets of London plead for attention; a necessary contrast from the ubiquitous gloomy atmosphere of a tired city. Art, music, musings, and performances line sidewalks and alleys. Voices and brassy guitar chords echo into the rhythm of the river. The beats of nightclubs vibrate walls and glass. Chatter and tourists and the scent of candied peanuts mixed with oil–a hint of America.
However, the hidden gems lay in London’s crevices. Between the booming parkour magic tricks and tourist traps. They are the unadorned modest moments. The kind that whisper a reminder: life can be simple and sweet and beautiful in small moments.
My gem, this time around, was an old man.
‘The Learning process is something you can incite, literally, incite, like a riot.’ This is what happened that year. We read and talked and disagreed, and the world, so very much world, began to shake inside us as we found our humanity in all this inhumanity, found empathy and compassion, found moral compasses, as we learned to hold history accountable, to hold the newspaper headlines accountable, to hold each other accountable. And all this in English class, not at home, not at church or temple or mosque, but from reading novels with Ms. W. In one year, she turned us into thinkers. I began to understand reading and writing as a revolution, thinking as being a profoundly active verb. I began to understand that a person writing quietly in a room might be burning down the world. And then rebuilding it, word by word, into something magnificent.” -Audre Lorde
It’s a damp, muggy, beautiful July morning in Charleston. I am doing yoga beneath the ancient oak tree that sits by my apartment. From my twisted angle, the sun flickers a honeyed-yellow light between the pieces of Spanish moss. I inhale slowly and close my eyes, forgetting the last of the moving boxes I have to pack. Imagining myself at the front of a high school classroom–finally achieving my purpose: making a difference. I love my college kids, and I am still so passionate about teaching them, but the mentality of the ivory tower drained my idealism within my teaching philosophy.
“This is the first time I’ve ever lived downtown in a large city before.” I said insecurely, fidgeting with my diet coke. Its glass was perspiring and cool to the touch, a welcome distraction from the conversations going on around me.
By this point I had lived in D.C. for about a month; my romantic notions of this political town were already waning.
(Did I ever mention that I don’t like politics?)
“Seriously?” the man across from me scoffed in disbelief, as if I was alien to him. “Oh that’s right, you came from the south… near Atlanta, right? There’s nothing really there.” He went on to describe lack of intelligence and high obesity rates that plagued the southeastern United States. And racism. And ignorance.
It was my first time exploring San Francisco on my own.
I was already in love with the city. The cool air and lack of humidity calmed the hairs on my head, hairs that normally fly up at the sense of a single drop of southern humidity.
Here everything, including the interior of buildings, had the musty smell of the ocean. Here the earth learned to deal with a lack of rain by masking the environment in a morning fog–a fog that slowly drifted away as the day progressed, like an artist unveiling a masterpiece.
I thought the moment I passed my Master’s defense my brain would shutdown.
That it would pause for a little while before preparing to pick up the last bits of the semester–to finish teaching, grading, researching, and learning.
It would be like those movies where a nuclear bomb goes off and then the chilling moment of silence ensues as remnants of dust dance to the ground.
I blame my parents for my absurd curiosity and wonderment about the world.
What horrible things to instill upon a child.
Both of them flew for Delta… my dad a pilot and my mom a flight attendant. Their conversations of love and life were like something out of the movies. They met in an airport in Miami and among tales of convertibles catching fire and almost ingesting engagement rings in champagne they embraced each other and their exploration of culture. I remember day dreaming to my dad’s stories—seeing the Northern Lights from the cockpit of a 747, watching the sunrise over the equator, base jumping in South America, meeting amazing individuals who all had their own stories to tell. He described these seemingly esoteric moments in a way that made me feel like I was there, floating in the sky. With his words I could close my eyes and feel like a part of everything.