For when you are in need of affirmation

A Love Letter to Myself

Dear Oryza,

They say that comparison is the thief of joy. As a person, you’ve learned that comparison is the name of the game.

As a child, you grew up understanding that good behavior is modeled. You listened to the plethora of stories about your cousins, your parents’ friends’ children, even strangers whom you’ve never laid eyes on, who modeled what it means to be a good child. You learned that not only will you never be that person—that it’s impossible to escape your own being—but that you’ll spend most of your life trying to be someone that you’re not in an attempt to make your parents proud.

As a female, you grew up with no sisters and were told by society that your worth is defined by the attention given by the opposite sex. You will soon learn that sisterhood, in all its forms, is genuine and real, as are patriarchal and heteronormative power structures. Nevertheless, you still get stuck in the inescapable trap of comparison every now and then. How do I fare against women who are far more beautiful, more intelligent, more accomplished, stronger than I?

As a 22-year-old, you hear playful banter in every corner of school about how other teachers continue to mistake you for another student. You then observe the way students treat other teachers with respect, the way other teachers laugh at you for missing yet another Back to the Future reference, and the way your students yell at, laugh at, and manipulate you because you look like you could be one of them.

As a first-year teacher in a high accountability position, you feel infinite pressure and insurmountable expectations. You are responsible for your students’ successes as well as their failures; you are responsible for what you know and also what you don’t know. You feel more and more like a means to an end and less and less like a human being. You understand now the frustration that your teachers must have felt. Yet you feel bad for even complaining about your situation because at least for you, this is temporary; for others, it’s their career and livelihood. You reek of privilege and now you, too, can understand what the critics say about Teach For America.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to feel this way.

I’m here to tell you that the frustrations that you feel are valid.

I’m here to tell you that it sucks to be constantly compared to others—when other people aren’t doing it for you, you’re doing it to yourself because you’ve been conditioned to do it.

But I’m also here to tell you that you are a fucking warrior. You do this work because you genuinely believe in change and you believe in people. Your kids need you. Your work needs you. Your community needs you. The only thing that’s tougher than your work is you.

Your student J. L. tells you every day that you are greatness. You laugh because you know that he says the same thing to all his teachers. Start believing him.

Carl Sagan said that we are made of starstuff, the interiors of a collapsing star—the nitrogen in our DNA, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth. Some stars collapse after running out of fuel, but massive supergiant stars explode and this phenomenon is called a supernova. It outshines the galaxy and radiates more energy than the Sun would in its lifetime.

You, too, have star-stuff within you, if not literally (Ms. A-star-i). Know that the Universe is on your side, that you were never born to be an ordinary star. You have a supergiant heart and the potential to radiate positive energy in the community.

So, keep your chin up, kid. Keep listening to Aerosmith and dream on. You’re a child of the Universe, no less than the trees than the stars. You have a right to be here. No doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.

Now go out with a (big) bang.

Oryza, 2 days later

This entry was posted in: Musings