Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 10 2014


What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.

Sitting in the immaculate Jacksonville Lighthouse cafeteria, I flipped through the tiny notebook I had brought with me for notes, the cover bright blue with “!!!” in silver on the front. My attitude did not match my notebook. I found a page from our second in person PD for ATC. In it was this quote by Anthony Robbins, a person I’ve only known since I googled him five minutes ago. Perhaps I’m in love.

The past two or three weeks have been riddled with poor personal decisions, rationalized with productive, important work. These decisions largely aren’t inhibiting me from doing the things I’ve been doing: grad school, teaching, ATC. I function. I wake up each morning. I breathe, I talk, I eat most of the time. Yet, I repeatedly find myself standing very literally in the middle of a bad decision, reprimanding myself for that decision as I complete it. The climax was this past Monday, a day most Arkansan schools had off because of excessive ice. We didn’t. At 6:30am, I decided to give it to myself regardless.

I’m sick. Not throwing up, not coughing or feverish or covered in a rash. But I am sick. I shook for half the day, literally ran from room to room, literally jumping, toes off the ground, repeatedly. Anxiety rocketed me from one end of the house to the other– not doing any of the work I thought I could complete as a result of not being at school. I was afraid to leave the house, sick enough to not go to school but not sick enough to stay home? I sat at my computer for hours, talked to myself through half a pack of Trefoils.

It wasn’t until the next morning, as I talked to Britney and contemplated what, exactly, I did on Monday that I managed to spit out, “I was depressed and anxious and couldn’t come.”

It was the truth.

My conclusion may be that I am on a long, slow road of transition. On Wednesday, when I began implementing the investment and management strategy that my classes and I created together, I included the bribe of: Can I tell all of you a secret? A sad, sad secret? Only two other people at school know.

Students stop, stare. Wait.

I love all of you so, so much. I love Dumas and this school and I love teaching. But there is a chance that–

Students glance at one another, look back to me

– that I won’t be here next year. That I might not be teaching at all.

I know most of my students are not surprised, though some emit small gasps. Some eyebrows furrow. Some look out the window as if I’ve said nothing.

If I can admit it to my kids, even without another official job offer, even without admitting it to myself, even without knowing this is right… I’m the type of person that doesn’t believe anything about myself until someone else tells me. Until I’m already staring at packed boxes, until I’ve already been doing what I said I wasn’t sure I’d do. People ask if I’m staying in Dumas next year and I still say, eagerly, “There’s a chance! I love it there! I love everything, and nothing is confirmed.”

And my heart is still in some disbelief that I’ve ever lived here at all. That I’ve lead any sort of Dumas existence even remotely bigger than a mosquito.

Today I drove back from Little Rock at 9am, shocked. Shocked that I left Little Rock that early, shocked at the visceral response my body has to being in a different community, shocked that I may have owned up to even 0.00004% of the feeling that maybe somewhere in my pores I want to leave. Shocked that I have the opportunity. Shocked I might take it.

I am terrified of the transition time, of having a defunct corps member blog, of losing the chance to see a room full of faces every morning at 8am, of losing the home I’ve had for four years, of leaving the absolute comfort of my classroom, of entering a world I actively denounced, actively hid from since college. The levels of transition anxiety are richer than I expected, are more real than I’d like to own. Everyone wants to be the person that can walk away without strings; everyone wants to be the person that grows alongside their students, still there when they return adults themselves. I cannot be either of these things.

I don’t want to walk away. I don’t want to leave. But as much disbelief I have in leaving, I have in feeling I can stay.

One Response

  1. Disbelief | Genius Pioneer linked to this post.

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