next time someone tells you Muslim countries oppress women, let them know Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, and Senegal have all had female Presidents or Prime Ministers and 1/3rd of Egypt’s parliament is female but the US has yet to even have a female vice president and can’t say “vagina” when discussing female reproductive rights
This is a tale of forgiveness. This is the story of a girl with an “authority problem,” c-range student who could have been a 4.0 if she had just tried hard enough, darkness boiling under her skin to such a degree that “personal journal” assignments always ended in the teacher asking her questions like “are you okay” but never with a real degree of concern, just professional double-checking as if reminding her that her left shoe was untied instead of saying “it looks like you are unraveling.” This is the story of being under the radar in every year of school because no matter how good she got, she was never the best, and no matter how bad her nights were, in the daytime there were still students with more shock, more awe, more danger signs pointing towards their temples. This is a small girl being constantly overlooked, this is having exactly eighty-four detentions by the end of her sophomore year for truancy alone because class for her was an uphill battle that tasted like sulfur and missed homework, this is a help-wanted sign pasted across her report card with every single “unexcused absence” she spent hiding in the library, trying to convince herself that next time, she’d show up - this is being too smart to ever fail a class no matter how much she didn’t come, this is being too stupid to ever bother catching up. This is hating every single moment she spent within those walls, hating the sound of chalk and projectors and markers and pens on paper. This is a girl who in seventh grade and a serious Catholic asked her God to take her math teacher’s life just so she wouldn’t have to face the overwhelming reality of class the next day, this is not being ambitious enough for the gifted track but too smart for the slow one, this is the story of being perfectly mediocre and because of that, always being looked over. This girl is me, twenty, and going back into the jaws of the lion.
I’m going to be a teacher.
I will never make a child feel like I did. I will never be the cause of burn scars on brainstems, I will never make a child think they’re stupid or they’re not capable of learning. I will never make them feel unheard, unwanted, unwelcome. I will see their warning signs and refuse to let them brush off my questions. It takes one bad teacher to poison a subject for a student, and I’m going to do my best to reverse every pain they’ve felt. It will not be about lectures or tests or the state standard. It will be about them, about their education, about their future. They will be important to me in the way I never was to anyone else. They will never feel left out. My class will never come before their mental health. They will be safe as soon as they enter my room. This is not a jail cell, it’s a hotel, a haven, a place they can finally leave their home life behind and relax for an instant.
There will be no under-the-radar children. So long as I live, I will fight to the death to be sure that what happened to me never does to my kids. I hate school, I hate this system. I hate the idea that not flunking is doing well enough. I hate the idea that being smart is rewarded with more work. I hate so much about the politics and the standardization of education that even my poetry isn’t enough to contain it.
I’m going to teach these kids to fall in love with learning again. It’s not about memorization. It’s about discovery, and it’s about time we started teaching like we have passion instead of adding more poison, started treating it like a war instead of a profession. These kids are going through hell, so let’s give them something to fight with.
1. Who you are now is not who you will be in 10 years. It is okay to be somebody new 10 minutes from now. We are always learning. We are always growing. If you realized 10 seconds ago that you don’t like who you are, shed your skin, retry, replant yourself in good soil.
2. Cleaning is instant therapy. When your brain is muddy, take a shower, wash your hands, change your clothes. Spend 15 minutes straightening your living room. When you are angry, scrub things. I know it’s crazy but it works instantly.
3. Forgive someone’s debt if it’s under 50 dollars, forgive the small things, give a little time to yourself and forgive the big things too. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it’s about you. That being said - if someone ever hurts you in a way that would make me cry to know, you get out of there, my love. You just get up and go.
4. Gum karma is real and if you spit out a piece in public expect to find some on your shoe in the future. Same goes for insults and harsh judgement, too.
5. Do what you love and the money will follow.
6. Live your life with an open palm and give as much as you can and as often. At some point in your life, someone will lend you 50 bucks when you’re down on your luck. Remember how that feels. Remember to give that back.
7. Always wear clean underwear. You’ll thank me later.
8. There is a difference between being kind and being passive and there are those who cannot see that difference. They will try to walk all over you. Never bend your knees for those who do.
9. Have faith. Have faith in god or people or yourself or science or in luck or in all of the above. Faith is what keeps us going, faith is what keeps us strong.
10. Pay your bills on time whenever you can, although money is nothing. Remind yourself that.
11. Do not forget you were once ignorant of all you know now. Be patient of anyone who hasn’t had the education you have. Speak at the level of the person you are with - it’s not playing dumb, it’s being considerate. There’s no reason to make them feel uncomfortable. Plus then when someone starts going off about their superior IQ, you can cut them to pieces and watch their face when you do.
12. You are the best person in the room for one particular thing, and that’s confidence. You are the worst person in the room for another thing, and that’s humility. Use both carefully.
13. Never make fun of someone’s beliefs or superstitions, let your kid keep their imaginary friend and let your best buddy believe in knocking on wood. We all have security blankets. Don’t take away someone else’s.
14. Try to learn something new every day.
15. The worse you look, the more likely you are to run into someone you know so instead of feeling awkward, learn to be confident in sweats while talking to your friends.
16. Never go to bed angry, it will ruin your sleep and make tomorrow even harder. Find a way to relax. Don’t let today get to your head.
17. Think before you speak. When someone says something, mull over their words before answering. This is called listening, it is different than hearing.
18. What keeps love beautiful is that there’s risk involved. If he breaks your heart and it doesn’t hurt, it wasn’t love in the first place.
19. Never let someone else determine who you are or how happy. You are too strong to be torn apart.
20. I love you, even when we are fighting, even when I am fast asleep. Don’t doubt it for an instant. You are my everything.