Kepler’s is a fairly well known restaurant not just in Greenville, MS but for the wider delta. I’d heard of it more than once, but would not have expected to be sitting alone here on a Friday night, Diet Coke glass and salad plate empty, mapping out the rest of my twenties and updating my blog on an iPhone.
But alas, it’s happening.
The past week has been what feels like a repeat of the week I had when deciding to officially join the 2010 corps. It feels like the world has infinite pinpoints– places barely visible but there and available, mine for the taking –and I have a looming sense of guilt for not having marked more of them, for not going down the thousands of other paths I have access to.
There’s a piece of me, a pretty big piece lately, that feels like an utter failure. I haven’t made any kind of “transformational change” in my classroom (surprise!), I don’t feel like I have solid and authentic relationships with people in my community, my students aren’t doing anything miraculous (and by that I mean they are, daily, but I’ve no bearing on it). I am 25, I’ve been here for a tenth of my life (math!), and I still feel like I don’t belong. The number of failures stacks up daily, weighs on me, is reiterated with every negative comment I hear from anyone I’ve come into contact with. Anyone. I’ve been conditioned, or I have a complex, to pile the fault upon my own shoulders. When I hear negative things, my gut instinct is always to analyze how I could have prevented it, or how to counter it in the least threatening most productive way possible. It’s kind of exhausting.
I sound pitiful (not to mention like a whiney kid), but my point isn’t to get upturned noses. My point is to figure out where and what I expected to be at this point, and why I’m not there. And how I can get there.
I’m at Kepler’s because a few months ago Erin and I decided to register for the TFA fund raiser Mississippi Marathon. On a burst of happiness from the half we did in November, we even registered for the pre-race dinner. Here. At Kepler’s.
In recent months, though, a working part of my declining confidence and growing frustration is that I went from running with her and our local five nights a week to running solo again. Both of them injured, I’ve been taking my steps alone, less confidently, less consistently.
Regardless I arrived at packet pick-up in the Greenville Mall tonight, an hour or two ago, tentatively committing, really committing, to these 13 miles across the bridge from Arkansas to Mississippi. Behind the table where I acquired my bib was Kara, our Director of Alumni Affairs in Arkansas.
Kara, a good handful of others, and I took a grad class at Arkansas Tech last year. Currently, four of us are enrolled in a school finance class. We were all just offered an opportunity to be Walton Scholars, the first four of a long-term TFA and Arkansas Tech University partnership in which the Walton Foundation pays tuition for our graduate degree in exchange for an additional two year commitment to the state of Arkansas after the program ends. In short: three more years in Arkansas. Kara told me that all three girls, herself included, accepted the program. She also told me she trained even less than I did for the half marathon we’re running at 7am. After talking to her, I decided I am less of a failure than I claim. I am stressing out about things that are relative. I have created and walked into many amazing opportunities as it is.
And after talking to her, I decided to commit to the ATU program. I’ll get my masters in educational leadership and continue to work in Arkansas for the next three years, making this summer my potential, at minimum, halfway point for my career in this state.
Which means I’ll probably be back at Kepler’s for this race again next year, hopefully anticipating a full marathon and laughing about how nervous I was to make a decision with such an obvious answer.