How can one articulate the feeling of normalcy after alienation?
I notice it most right before sleep, cradled by pillows and under the weight of three blankets, the feeling that seems to puncture into my marrow, that sits in the muscles under my shoulder blades, that is locked in the crook of my pillow-clutching arm.
Sometimes it’s a balloon breath held before the first sip of tea, sometimes it’s the first step of a four or five mile run, sometimes it’s the click of Target kitten heals down a waxed-but-still-dirty linoleum school floor. Writing with a favorite pen, reading a book that was once held in my mother’s hands, writing a letter to someone from college.
Without thinking, we live. The older I am, the longer my spans of forgetting myself can last. I can’t tell if I am recovering from losing my mother or losing myself. Can’t tell if I’ve started to really, truly love the south, or if I’ve finally become moderately “used to it”. Can’t tell if I’m born to be a teacher or adapting to fit a job. Can’t tell if I’ve found like-minded people or became of the same mind.
My first Achievement First recruiter, the one I talked with for the first and second flights to Connecticut, the one that eventually handed me off to a second recruiter before the third and final trip that lead to me withdrawing my application… she called today. It was scheduled. To check in, to see what I’m thinking about for… the future.
It’s October, it’s late October. Did I tell her I’m so busy I can’t think? Did I tell her I’m listing ways to get out, that I love teaching but find my situation “difficult”? Why do I feel like these are expected things to say from a TFA teacher to a glorious charter school recruiter from the east coast.
What did I tell her?
I laughed, admittedly, but I said, “You know, at this point there are a lot of things that could keep me here for four years.”
I SAID THAT. I SAID THAT IN OCTOBER OF MY THIRD YEAR.
Maybe it’s that along with the TFA experience comes the stigma, or the expectation, so deeply and embarrassingly rooted, a given, that we leave. That we can “deal” with this for some set amount of time, but ultimately we’re too good for it. That is the driving force under recruitment, under two years. That is the saving grace that brings us here and leaves us guilty. Our high-minded education can “handle” our situations to a point; we fulfill it, we “finish”, we leave. I don’t feel that I’ve been fed this, that we explicitly say it, but I feel it is a thin layer under everything. All of this in regards to Teach For America, which is still an organization I support.
But this feeling is something I don’t buy into and I don’t think we need to be successful. “My” way of living, of being raised, of existing, first isn’t that different from anyone here in values or in expectation and second isn’t isn’t isn’t by any stretch of any reality any “better” than anything else.
And it’s because of those points that I have no problem living and working and loving here for as long as … for as long as it makes sense.
I want to scream out to thin air, “STOP FEELING BAD FOR ME.”
Stop being amazed or impressed or proud of the fact that I’m “doing something like that.” This is the most meager, most humble, least important (if you’re measuring by any kind of public treatment) career that’s out there. I am not remarkable. I do not have high test scores. I do not love any more than the next teacher, trained by any program. I’m not particularly good at my job.
This is not remarkable.
This is not something that needs to be run from or into; this is just the life I choose to be in right now. I chose to be here right now. I am doing this because I love it. I live here because I love it. I go to school every day because the second I see the glaring, or happy, or tear stained, or shining with pride face of any of my students I am filled with an unparalleled emotion.
My dad used to tell me that I could walk into any place and convince the owner they needed me to work there. I don’t know if I created this emotion for myself, or if I was destined for it, but I’m keeping it. I’m keeping it and I’m acknowledging that I’m tired of defending how happy I am.
I’m embarrassed because I know I keep writing these happy posts to convince, mostly, one person. Myself. Caroline, you love this. Caroline, you can work your way up in this. Caroline, there is no flaw in accepting that you might like a southern town of 4,700 more than New York City. That you might work here for a while. That finally, after two years of incredulous disbelief that anything here could feel even remotely comfortable you can’t imagine calling any other place home.
Normal. Never before have I been so shocked at feeling normal.