Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 04 2011

Why I Teach For America

I had hoped that I could post something like this, eventually, that I would find a time to start straightening out my heart. The mental picture I have of that organ in my chest is one of a paper towel that was soaking wet with… something, maybe something with grit, twisted all together, then left to dry. Now sitting somewhere, stuck in the shape, coated in something foreign.

But maybe the solution to fixing the heart is first dunking it back in some water, then slowly, carefully unfolding the pieces that are stuck together. Gently brushing off the grit.

I don’t know, I guess I’m getting sentimental lately. I miss my mom. This past week was a good week. Seriously. Quite possibly the first full, good week I’ve had since moving south. Not that I hate everything, not that everything has been awful, just that this week I was consistently in a good mood. I was consistently… happy?

So I found these journal entries from my paper journal (yes, I simultaneously upkeep about four journals at a time, each with its own purpose, thank God I teach writing and not math…) and wanted to share them. Finally.

January 25

I originally said I wanted to join TFA because I can. Because I know I am capable and I know not all people are capable of doing this. I meant that in all senses. Capable of enduring, of being hired, of loving fiercely, of not giving up. I KNOW I CAN DO THIS, so I have to do it. I refuse to deny it. Because I can… how could I ever not? To selfishly and disgustingly live in NYC? To go to parties? It’s the LAST thing I want.

THIS is how I want to spend my youth. Constantly learning, constantly pushing my limits, constantly failing and getting back up because I have the strength to do so. Because this is something worthwhile.


And that was my answer in my in-person interview, as well. “Why do you want to do Teach For America?” “Because I feel like I can. And I feel like if I can and don’t I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

January 30

Reading Blue Like Jazz is like going to therapy. Donald Miller is validating a huge amount of the strife (spiritual strife) I’ve encountered in the past year. Through this book, God is validating me and I am chipping off tiny bits of this huge fortress of dark stone I’ve built around myself. Hearing God is like hearing a kitten through a closed door. It’s breakign my heart, but it’s late and I don’t know how to get to it. It makes me miss Nathan and la Iglesia, and makes me love people despite the judgement I’ve felt from them. I love them because I should and want to love everyone and everything. I want to be a creature of endless love constantly. Reading about that, too, made me think of my kids. I don’t and can’t care how poor or wealthy they are, how invested in Language they are, whether their phones are disconnected or not. no. It is my job to LOVE THEM because I am capable of loving them and I will never, ever stop loving them. It is why I am here, it is why I teach, it is why I feel okay about not totally understanding perfect tenses yet. Because I understand love. Kind of. I mean I understand that all I must do is love.

How’s that for blatant sentimentality? Is that a word? I never used to be like this. In fact I’m kind of embarrassed posting it on a very public blog. But. Well. It’s how things are going lately.

6 Responses

  1. elsa

    Blue Like Jazz is GREAT. And sentimentality is a good thing. Definitely.

  2. Catherine

    Wow. You have a lot more strength than I do, but super inspiring!!!

    • Don’t be so sure, Catherine! Read back about ten entries and see what I was like in November. Quit was the only word I could think. Time. Time builds strength.

      Actually, it’s amazing in itself that you even left this comment.

  3. Cindy

    Donald Miller – brilliant, and there are at least three more books by him. And you – a shining nuclear glow of inspiration, because you can and you do. Thank you, Caroline – thank you!

  4. Wess

    EXACTLY. I have a piece of paper I made to get myself out of one of my thousands of low points last fall– In fat Crayola Marker, I wrote. “Love them. Just LOVE them!”

    I really like the way you talk about your kids. You don’t love people because of anything they do or don’t do, or anything about them. Likewise, nothing they do or don’t do or anything about them could ever make you stop loving them. You love who they are, WHAT they are, not because of them but because of you. Because loving is what you just have to do.

  5. I like they you’ve been growing. Being challenged, suffering, failing and getting back up – what better way IS there to grow?

    I forgive sentimentality, but I look disapprovingly at cynics. You’re going the right way. Somehow that gives me hope too.

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