black m&m

Have you ever reached a point you knew you had to stop trying so hard and call it quits?
The feeling nags me time to time but it’s when I’m under a lot of a stress with my mind flying to keep track of all the things I need to get done for my class. Because of the stress, I know I cannot let myself cave. But I wonder – what if I’m just not meant for this path?

For Halloween, the Kindergarten team of teachers decided we should dress up as M&Ms. I am a part of this team, but it wasn’t my idea and one I wasn’t too eager about. The costume entailed a colored shirt with a printed m and a matching tutu to wear on tights. Not the cutest outfit I had in mind, but it was definitely kid friendly so I went along with it.
The idea was to form a rainbow with our m&m colors. But one teacher was enamored by the special edition lime green m&m. Blue, red and purple were quickly chosen. I pondered about pink – then settled on black. I already had a black tutu from wearing my basic cat costume during my college years.

Somehow being the black m&m resembled my soul today. The students were frisky with excitement and I was the warden, constantly reminding structure could not be overruled. My mom has a saying – if you give a finger, they take an arm. I wanted my kids to have fun but to remember they are professional scholars at all times. During their mini parade around the school, under the eyes of many eager parents waiting to photograph their children, my class’s flair in grooving ceased. Back in the classroom they grew restless, but a stare from me or Ella and they were silenced.
It was just too much. My students were all so cute in their costumes and how excited they were, but Ella and I didn’t get prep the last two days. When our gym teacher called out sick yesterday, we were the last to know as we scrambled up a quick activity to engage our students. After school we had a literacy meeting and a swim team to coach. Our prep today was diminished to discuss achievement levels with our school psychologist in hope to address some of our students’ academic needs better. Once again we had an impromptu meeting about how to input report grades…which was discussed in yesterday’s meeting.
Not a second to ourselves with the list growing longer of demands, I realized I didn’t want this to be my whole life.
Some people work for the money and others work because they enjoy what they do. I realized I’m somewhere in between. As everyone, I need the money and even if I won’t go as far as to stay I love it, I do like teaching. But I don’t want my job defining me.

I’ve heard the staff room talk; teachers have personal lives they cultivate with special attention and hard work. In the end though, they don’t question themselves if they belong elsewhere. I define myself as many things – dreamer, lover, writer – but the teacher label is tricky. I am proud to be a teacher; the school has given me a set of a hundred of my own business cards to showcase my career and I love giving them out. But the frustration doesn’t disappear about the amount of work I bring home.
In the beginning it encroached on a lot. Just when I am getting into the swing of spending more family time, I realized I haven’t been writing. So easily overlooked and dismissed – like the way I awkwardly stood at the edge of the kindergarten teacher group picture and no one told me to scooch in more – I have realized that I’d rather the spotlight be on my description of myself as a writer than a teacher. That’s really who I’d rather be.

How can I stand in front of my class and tell them anything is possible and pursue their dreams when I chase a job to turn it into a passion?
Words are home to me. Not necessarily to speak them, but writing words – out in the open here or covertly – is my sanctuary when the bubbling cauldron of life bubbles over and scalds me. It’s the only part that brings me joy as I teach my students how to read and write. So for the time being, I hope to inspire them now so they will love expression and imagination even more when they are older.

Because with words on a pamphlet or a book or a menu, they can be any color of the m&m and not be the odd one out. The words inside of me and around me carry me, the lightness stripping my darkness.

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ephemeral letter 2

October 31, 2012

Dear Charlie,

Today’s the day everyone gets a chance to be who they want to be. Display their dark side, reveal their desires, or even be silly. All around me there are kittens and Satan’s spawns and guys trying to be girls.
I just want to be normal.
It started like this, over a month ago, at the school pep rally.
As I made my way to the bleachers, cutting through the hordes of peers walking in groups of sheep, slowly, I just felt impatient to find my best friends, Chit and JP. But as I climbed the bleachers, with random eyes on me instead of them, I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness.
But I refused to let it show. If someone wants to judge me, I’ll give them something to “judge” me by.
My mother’s response to my impudence is don’t be so proud. “It only ruined your father’s life,” she reminds me. “Because of his unwillingness to meet his partners halfway, he lost his company job. Now all he has to show for his pride is a part-time job and frustration that he takes out on us.”
“I refuse to give in to what people expect of me. I am me. Take it or leave it.”
My mother just shakes her head, as if she’s disappointed in me. “That’s not how the real world works.”
It’s always my classmates who remind me. We sit right next to each other in classes one after another, forty-two minutes each, five days a week, for nearly twenty-six weeks, but aside from polite acknowledgment, there seems to be little to say. What could have been is not what it is now and it never will be.
I sat by myself, in the corner of the bleachers, out of anyone’s direct line of vision. A few teachers clustered by me, as if feeling bad to see a student sitting by herself. But I wasn’t there.
Last year, the soccer coach had announced Scott as the VIP player of the team who had led the boys to victory at the GMCs. Named as captain, when he ran across the track in front of the bleachers, he caught my eye and smiled. And when he had to volley a tennis ball, he made sure it landed in my lap.
I was sitting on the bleachers, pretending not to care, slipping back into my memories, when Nicky caught sight of me and worked on convincing me to sit on the top bleachers with her.
“Come, please, please?” Nicky asked. “Come with us! It’ll be fun!”
“I’m kinda scared of heights,” I told her.
“I’ll hold your hand! I promise to make sure nothing happens to you!”
But when it was time to go, and all the students clamored to their feet, I was left standing by myself. I guess there’s something about me that makes people leave.

Love,
Forgotten

ephemeral

October 30, 2012

Dear Charlie,

I got all your letters.
I know they weren’t meant for me. I found them in Mrs. Miller’s attic. I was rummaging for something to borrow to wear to the seventies dance. I didn’t end up going though. I read your letters instead.
I wish I’d met Mrs. Miller’s daughter. You entrusted her with so much of your life. She must have been very trustworthy. I can’t ask Mrs. Miller. She can’t say her daughter’s name without sobbing over the tragedy. The good are stolen first. I want to comfort her; I want to tell her her daughter’s soul was needed in a parallel universe but my mother threatens to wash out my mouth with soap when I talk like this. She doesn’t get where I get these novel ideas from.
I’m not quite sure either. I guess I just have a lot of thinking time by myself. I was hoping I could share some with you.
I don’t want a response. Just – someone who will listen.
I’ve accepted that I’m not special or talented. I’m just an average girl in academics who is too shy to participate in clubs. I like to write though. I like to capture trivial moments because I think they all add up to a bigger effect. I hope one day my voice will be heard.

Love,
Opening Up

 

cliff diving

i dropped my ring in
the ten feet deep pool
on purpose. the din of
children in lessons and
critiquing bystanding parents
too loud, i jumped into the pool
only after i changed into my suit
as to not stir alarm. down and down
i went, six feet was a struggle
my ears popped at seven, my lungs
screamed at eight. resurfacing for
deep breath i tried again, i had to
retrieve my ring finger gem but
really i sought the water to choke
off sound, the gentle bubbles effacing
what everyone else needed
all i wanted was gills to swim away

loner girl’s learned lesson

I used to think people don’t change. People can grow, but their character, their principles don’t change. But what happens when past selves collide with new selves?
This past weekend I learned how easy it is to slip up. The years accumulated being my past self weighed down like an anchor unable to be overcome by the time I have spent trying to be the best version of myself.
Anxiety is a bubble that encases then shrinks until desperation to find a way out sinks in. The easiest way to assuage the situation is not necessarily the right one – but it is the fastest one.
I’ve always been a social drinker – one glass or few shots to keep the merriment of the night chugging along. There are different types of drunks; my go to vodka enhances my loud personality full of giggles and even makes me friendlier. I feel myself shine. And that’s what I remember when I am in a bad place over an exam or a boy; my last year in college I downed shots behind a locked door by myself. Caught in a conundrum of wanting to extend my graduation to a fourth year to pursue a second degree in English without the approval of my parents while struggling to comprehend why a boy kept knocking on my door at 2am when he wanted a relationship with another girl, I was overwhelmed by factors that seemed to be in more control of who I was than myself.
The bottles under my bed increased. I hoped no one smelled the liquor on my breath. And no, my friends didn’t. They saw what they wanted to see, a happy girl, and they didn’t think twice about what got her there.
It all stopped when I couldn’t keep up the ruse with my parents about majoring in ITI – told to them for appeasement while I continued to collect credits toward an English degree. I’m not a good liar and I didn’t want to be one. However it made me realize I was lying to myself by doing as much as I could to fit in.
I was lucky around this time I met my love. He’d been through something similar; he inspired me to spin my emotions into stories, to create. I was always journaling but it was him who made me dream of all the other possibilities of how my writing could inspire others. He taught me the richness in accepting myself the way I was.
Back then it was easy enough to cut off ties with my “friends” as I was graduating. Seeing them again this weekend was like a rubber band stretched too far. False giddiness from nerves pulsating burst like a balloon wheezing its way to deflation.
I psyched myself up; I could handle it. Just as back up I bought myself a bottle of Svdeka. I hadn’t had a proper dinner but I was more than ready to groove in my beautiful Venus goddess costume; one too many shots and I threw up. My love took care of me at my worst, something I never want him to see me at again.
I did not want to write this. I don’t want to remember this. But that’s why I had to write it. Putting it out here in the open is the only way I can come to terms with my mistake to begin to forgive myself. Many people can judge, but the harshest critic always remains yourself.
Looking back, I went out because I wanted to be more than the girl who goes to work, Netflixes and spends time with her love. I felt like I owed it to my 22 year old self to be young and free. But I also see now that I do not have to be defined by society’s acts at this age. I have a heart of a child and responsibility of an adult; I’m no longer a recent graduate figuring life out. I have committed to a career that I want to succeed in. I may not always be able to talk to my coworkers as they are all older and are in different chapters in their life, but I can’t be regressing either.
Especially to people who have written me off.
It was I who constantly wondered what if, what if I’d been honest with them back then about how I just wanted to hang out with them sober. I’ll never know now; the closure I got was a realistically swift kick in my ass to be grateful for the people I do have in my life. From the awkward hug from Hope, my once best friend, and her explanation of her broken finger evading us from catching up to Billy’s not-so-funny joke greeting me with “nice to meet you”, I was only spurred to chug more.
Yes, I have to live with the memory of succumbing. Yes, I didn’t steel myself to vulnerability. Yes, in turn I embarrassed myself and those former friends will think that I never changed.
What got me through the next day was staring at myself in the mirror and reciting my to do list. One bad night cannot define me. Life goes on. More importantly, I learned that to be the best version of myself I have to have room for error. Perfection is a standard that is not meant to be attainable; it’s an ideal we journey to because it’s on the way that we find our niche.
I scared my love. I don’t want to do that again. As for disappointing myself – I tell myself at least I’m not boring, I’m a round character. I can be a loner and I can be like a puppy – the choice is mine. It’s okay to walk away when you feel uncomfortable in a situation. It doesn’t make you less of a person. It takes courage to walk away, to admit that something is not worth your time.
Change is inevitable. To grow is to change. I cannot be defined by one action, one trait, one night, or one year. Rather I am building my story page by page and write it in hope to inspire others to accept themselves and continue to grow even the face of a slip-up.

antidote

Time. Last weekend I wrote a post Fun: the Cure to Sickness? hoping respite would be my cure. As it turned out when I wasn’t doing school work, I had chores to run: grocery, laundry, planning. I sniffled through this week but I persevered; the occasional sniffle remains, but mind over matter: I would not let it pull me down so it didn’t.

I have learned if you need an excuse to be brash and impulsive, you will find it. But the consequences are never worth it.

This Halloween weekend I have plans to go out and party. Except I don’t know what that means anymore. The last time I partied was April 1, 2017. It was a fun night – Mel and I pranked big brother with confetti in his doorway. He was so pissed he made us clean it up immediately, every speck, but drunk we chortled our way through the process and big brother gave in to laughing too. That same night the best friend of my ex got accused of taking inappropriate pictures of me and my ex blamed me for dressing provocatively. I was so hurt.

Looking back, it was best I graduated in three years, even though I had no idea how to adult, because it forced me out of the gripping clutch of inane group mentality. I’ve been able to work toward being my best self and recognize the truth I succumbed to drinking and going with the flow because I was afraid to be alone. But when I graduated I was on my own fighting for my new relationship to survive, struggling to find a job and standing up on my own feet with the first step of buying a car all by myself.

Parties were not on my mind. I don’t know what the party will be like tomorrow. A frat rager? A lowkey get together?

I remind myself of all my triumphs over the past year in fear I’m going to see the squad I was a part of. They were my friends. I cared about them. I just didn’t like the girl I was – any excuse to drink, flirt, get hurt and repeat. I needed to know if there was more to myself. Except the thought of facing them and saying I’m just a teacher – it doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything at all.

It all depends on the hour. A lapsed moment when I am more engaged in a tv show than hearing it as background sound, the guilt pinches with inadequacy. But teaching is one of the hardest professions and we don’t always get the respect or monetary gains we deserve. I’ve spent my own money to buy rewards for my scholars; I’ve invested in making my classroom over and needed school supplies. I’m constantly bringing lesson planning and homework planning home because my preps are short and I have to deal with present issues of the day. Most of the all I never stop thinking about my scholars. I’ll be at Walmart and think about how Mellie gushed about how her mom bought her glasses at Walmart and now she looks like a mini me. I look at my cat ears from my college days and think about how Vicky said she’s going to be a cat for Halloween and I want her to enjoy it more now at six than ten years from now drunk at a party. I worry about the future of my kids. Manny, my little daydreamer genius, is constantly looking outside of the window. At a snap of fingers he jumps his mouth lifting up on the corner, a guilty smirk. I want to be able to challenge him so that one day he’ll look back and remember he fell in love with learning in kindergarten. My nonstop talker Jay sticks his tongues out when friends stop listening and more than anything I want to help him get accustomed to using nice word and utilizing a listening ear to have better bonds with his classmates. This is my world. Most days are far from perfect. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Still, I fret on my drive to work and drive home about what the people who once knew me will think. I don’t want to see my ex. I don’t want to see my old squad; they already have their opinions of me: a wild tornado who walked into exams unprepared and forgot the pain of a grade with more debauchery.
Then I remember I haven’t talked to any of them in over a year. I’m using them as an excuse to hide the fact I don’t think I am worthy enough. But every day I grow stronger in believing in myself. In time isn’t about forgetting; in time is to accept and let go.

Tomorrow I will be dressed as a goddess. I can say with my love by my side I will be invincible, but that’s not true. I am invincible because even when I want to, I don’t give up on myself. Time has taught me greatness lies within me.