Enough of the lightheartedness, the truth is that I had a really difficult time last year. I struggled to adjust to my new life in Louisiana. I went through a huge transitional change. I think I even lost a part of me last year. I am not sure what to atribute that loss to. Somehow, someway, I found myself again this summer. I have remembered the things that make me happy such as: reading, blogging, talking to my best friends, traveling, being in Texas, my family, exercise, music, yoga.
Teach For America was something that I wanted since I can remember (I had a teacher from the corps fifth & sixth grade). I have also wanted to be a therapist for as long as I can remember, but Teach For America was a service I wanted to fulfill before graduate school. Being accepted as a part of this prestigious program was one of the most exciting opportunities that ever came to me. I was so dedicated to it's mission that I was willing to go anywhere, for me this service was about the children, their education, and social justice, not about where I did it. I was placed in Southern Louisiana (but technically central). I was in a very rural Parish with about fifteen other corps members, one of which would be at my school. I made the choice to live alone in a two bedroom apartment. I was on my own, for the first time. Truly on my own. The "hub" city for my regional placement was Baton Rouge (a 2 hour drive from my rural placement). I had a boyfriend at the time who had somewhat agreed to the long-distance relationship from Austin, Texas. I say somewhat, because he never assured me that our relationship would last, I just took a leap hoping that he would believe in the relationship as I did.
I do not think I have ever had as much anxiety and stress as I did during my first year in Louisiana. A lot of this was due to teaching and the rest was due to my loneliness. I look back being in the emotional state I am now and think about how much I cried last year. I think I cried almost every day in September, and the crying decreased as the months went by and teaching got easier for me. Last year was the most crying I'd ever done in my life. Two of my best girlfriends came to visit me in October and it was so incredibly hard to let them go when they left (literally). I cried, and cried, and cried. I felt...unhappy. My world was essentially focused on: teaching, teaching, teaching, certification meetings, my boyfriend, my boyfriend, making my boyfriend happy, and teaching again. I completely forgot to have fun, make new friends, and fix what I didn't like.
I am not attributing all of my struggles to my relationship, but I think a great part of it was due to it. My relationship began to get rocky last October, and that was when my boyfriend broke up with me the first time. I thought I had done something wrong and it was all my fault. I then refocused so much more of my energy on that relationship. On "fixing" it. On loving better. On being better for him. I think that by attempting to "fix me" I began to break.
Throughout all of this I attempted to maintain a "happy" front. People like me don't show their emotions on their sleeve unless those emotions are full of rainbows and sunshine. "I choose to be happy", I would say to myself. The truth is that you can only choose to be happy so much, before you real emotions start seeping through. By April of 2012 I was better in some ways, but I reached an emotional breakdown on my spring break when I went to see my boyfriend in Houston, Texas. Somehow, I don't know how, but I the most rash decision I never thought I would be making. I chose to leave my commitment with Teach For America. My boyfriend supported this decision. The organization I had loved for so long, and dedicated so much of my time to, all of a sudden meant nothing. I thought I felt happy (I could leave Louisiana after all!), but there was a huge uncertainty behind it. A new job, a new place to live. Immediately my boyfriend began to plan out my life for me by setting up possible jobs, and ideas, and connections, and people. It was too much. I think somewhere in the midst of it all I realized that Teach For America wasn't a mask I could take off. I still felt empty.
After talking to my Teach For America mentor about my decision and lots of thinking, I made the decision to fulfill my two year commitment and stay. To this person, thank you for talking sense into me. I know it's your job, but I needed someone to tell me the things you told me that day.
I think you know what happened after that. I finished the school year happy as a clam. Among all of my uncertainties, I was certain of one thing: Teach For America. My relationship went downhill as you may recall, and through all of the feelings, and emotionally draining conversations, I'm happy. I feel like myself again. Like I said, I'm not sure what to attribute the last year to, but I'm finally back.
Here I am. Soon to be starting my second year of teaching, afraid as ever. I hate to say it, but I have such ill-feelings associated with the state of Louisiana, because of last year. So many of those feelings come back to me as I think about teaching again. Behind all of the excitement that I am feeling and the positive thoughts I want to be having is fear. I am afraid of having a horrible time. I am scared of crying every day in September. I don't want to pretend, I want to be the best teacher I can be for my students. I want to have fun, and I want to build all of the relationships I didn't last year.
My best advice I can give myself is to stop being afraid. Bring back the positive thoughts and replace them with all that could go wrong. (Okay, yeah I got it from pinterest, so what?) I plan to be moving in with three fellow corps members across the street from four other lovely girls. I hope the eight of us can have a tight knit community in our little rural parish. I want to see friends in Baton Rouge more, travel often, and just love being me. Here's to pushing fear aside, a year of minimal crying, untied stomach knots, and letting go. Will you?