Tuesdays and Fridays are my favorite days because I get off work at around 4 o’clock, which means that I still get to see the sun. With my full schedule this semester and the wintertime, I’m realizing more and more how sunshine is a privilege. I relish every opportunity that I get to bask in the warmth of the sun in 30-something-degree weather.
On my walk home, I pass by a nearby public school. Besides the afternoon sun, I see children in their uniform—navy blue polos and matching skirts or pants, high socks, and different iterations of scrunchies or basketball shoes. Their tiny hands inside larger hands that belonged to someone walking alongside them. Sometimes, they would walk in groups to the metro station, presumably to go home. The train becomes lively with their laughter, their banter, sometimes their mischief.
And for a moment, I’m reminded of my past life before I embarked on this journey to follow my dreams in the capital city.
A year ago today, I was analyzing data from the midyear scrimmage of the mock statewide science test to determine what the next few months’ lessons are going to look like. I’m looking at students’ Lexile scores, researching lab activities, interactive websites, old and remedial lesson plans, and keeping in mind individual students’ and each class’s behaviors. I’m changing the seating arrangement every day to match the day’s activities and ensure that they would be conducive to learning.
Now, I’m a full-time graduate student who also works full-time, swinging two part-time jobs on The Hill and at a digital agency dedicated to progressive causes. My Mondays and Tuesday are 12-hour days; balancing work, school, and life is an art that I’m learning daily.
With all the new challenges I’m facing, it has become easy for me to put aside and forget how tough of a person I used to be when I was a teacher. How tough it was to be a teacher.
D.C. is a big city; a so-called “transient city,” an international hub where I’ve experienced things unlike what I’m used to. I met a community of Indonesians here that I never had when I grew up in South Carolina or lived in Florida. I go to school with people from all over the world, from all walks of life, and who bring work experiences that enhance the learning environment. I’m learning so much, not just from the professor, but from everyone around me. At the same time, I’m constantly surrounded by people who are on the same level of capability, competency, and competitiveness as me, if not more. While it’s exhilarating, it can also be daunting on days when I’m not at my best.
On a basic level, it has taught me to be mindful of my sleep and eating schedule. It is easier for me to feel down when I haven’t had a full night’s sleep or anything to eat. On a deeper level, it has made me more aware of my mindset and perspective. When I start thinking negatively, everything starts to shift to become more negative, more difficult. But when I start thinking positively, I think of things that are “difficult” as another challenge to defeat or even as opportunities for growth. Positive things seem to come more naturally to me.
On a fundamental level, living in D.C. has taught me, again and again, to have grace with and be kind to myself.
I remembered vividly when I was having one of those days. I felt tired, unmotivated, and like I wasn’t contributing my all into what I was doing. I was getting discouraged by the job prospects and what my future would look like in the city. It seemed like getting a career was getting tougher and tougher these days and that my graduate degree was getting more expensive and difficult, yet less helpful.
But then, I talked to my mom, who has this divine skill of making things better even when you weren’t completely telling her what’s on your mind. As I was telling her about my policy skillset and what I wanted to accomplish during my internship on The Hill and beyond, she says, “Don’t forget education–you have experience as a teacher. You’ve been there. Remember that.”
And that’s when the images started flooding in. All the memories of all the times when it was tough, yet I continued to show up and stand in front of the classroom every day at 9:05 am. All the nights that I stayed up late lesson-planning, all the weekends I spent grading or lesson-planning some more. All the field trips–science fairs, engineering facilities, Sea World, and especially the last one, Gradventure at Universal Studios, with my eighth-graders who are now in high school. How did I allow myself to forget?
The next day, I gathered my strength–after a full night’s sleep, a wholesome breakfast, and a full playlist run-through of female empowerment songs. I remembered why I moved to D.C., why I wanted to go back to school, why and how I’m here. I was working hard on a task when a staffer noticed and pulled me in to do a project for her. I completed the first part of the project, and she gave me positive feedback and areas of improvement for the continuation of the project. I told her that I was a graduate student who’s interested in the issue areas that she’s responsible for and that I’d be happy to help her with anything related to those issues. She appreciated my hard work and told me that she will keep me in mind for future projects.
It always starts with our mindset. I believe in the Law of Attraction and that we are the architects of our own future. Luck, timing, and privilege notwithstanding, positive things will occur because of a positive outlook. And I fundamentally believe that what we seek is seeking us. By virtue of our living and striving for what we seek as our ideal–whether that’s going to school or doing the best work that we can at our jobs–we are always and already creating the future that we want. That future awaits us as we work towards it. What we seek, seeks us.
As I navigate new challenges this semester, I’m thankful for Tuesdays and Fridays (absent wintry mix), where I get to bask in the sunlight.
Tuesdays and Fridays, where I get a chance to relive the memories of the students at Room 401, at a middle school in Westside Jacksonville, Florida; the moments that proceeded the one I’m currently living.
And I took it as a sign, that everything happens for a reason.