I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 25 2012

On homesickness, Simon and Garfunkel, and Boar’s Head turkey

It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was over a month into my first year teaching. It’s even harder to believe that a month ago I was sitting crying in my classroom, both excited and afraid about what the 2012-2013 school year might hold.

It is strange for me to think about, but for the first time in my life I am homesick. I spent my childhood summers at resident camp, but it never bothered me that I would be away from home for 4, 6, even 8 weeks; I knew that “home” was only an hour and twenty minutes away. Despite my best efforts to get, in my own words, “as far away as possible” for college, I ended up less than half an hour away from the town where I grew up. Last year, as a first year corps member, I was far too wrapped up in the chaos of moving halfway across the country, figuring out what this teaching business is all about, and drowning in the pressure and drama of my school placement. I was too busy to be homesick.

After a 10 day long visit home this summer (my longest since moving to Houston) and more time alone with my thoughts as I ease into my second year, I find my mind wandering back to the East Coast all the time Everything reminds me of the home that I never truly appreciated before leaving.

Despite the fact that I am now a math teacher, I have always found myself happiest during humanities classes. During my history classes, the scenes that I was able to imagine in my head were much more compelling than most of the fantasies we explored in ELA (to put things in TX terms- we never called it that back home… ) Despite that, I can remember sitting in Mrs. Tighelaar’s 6th grade English class or Ms. Moran’s 7th grade English class at Terrill Middle School with my Writer’s Notebook, writing out song quotes or recording what seemed at the time to be an extremely emotionally and profound poem in my enormous, bubbly handwriting. Over a decade later, I still find comfort in finding little snippets of a song that just “fit.”

Even though I wrote off anything that would play on my mom’s car stereo growing up, we share a lot of the same favorite artists now that I am older and (perhaps) wiser. Although she is no longer a practicing nurse in the traditional sense, my mother began her nursing career in a Greenwich Village hospital during the 80′s. I can remember her explaining that the song “American Tune” made her think of a friend who had succumbed to AIDS during the beginning of the pandemic– I’m not sure if these are her words or mine, but I seem to remember that the song made her think of his spirit drifting around New York City.

For a very long time, this song made me think of my mother and the chapter of her life that ended shortly after I was born. The song resonated with me very powerfully, but more for its musical aesthetics than for the poetry of the lyrics. Yet today I haven’t been able to get “Still you don’t expect to be bright and bon vivant so far away from home” out of my head.

I can remember sitting in my classroom during lunch some time last year and crying as I swallowed a bite of my sandwich. For whatever reason, my Boars Head Ovengold Turkey sandwich on wheat “tasted like Thanksgiving” and made me long for the holiday, which was around two painfully long months away… only back then it wasn’t a matter of missing home, it was a matter of escaping Houston.

I’m happy to report that a year later I’m fairly adjusted to Houston. I’ve found some pretty great friends through TFA and my school. I’ve started playing rugby again, which is leading me to spend time with an even more diverse group of friends as well as spend more time outside and running around. I’ve started to assist with after school band sectionals, joined the Y, started CrossFit, got a library card, and made a point of going to the movies (something that I didn’t really get around to very much in college.) I cook, clean, grade, and watch shows that I “really should have seen by now” on Hulu. (This summer, I watched both “Arrested Development” and “The Office” in their entirety.) But this time around, no matter how many things I squeeze into my day and therefore into my brain, the tri-state area keeps sneaking its way in. I think about missing the leaves turning their warm autumn colors before browning and leaving the trees naked and depressed. I think about all of the cardigans that I could be rocking. I think about wearing boots. I think about how I’m missing homecoming again this year, and how I’m missing the reunion at the campus political institute that I loved so, so much as an undergraduate. Most of all, I think about how moving here has meant growing up just as much as it has meant growing apart from so many people that hold (or held) a special place in my heart.

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying to get some rest

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    One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education… Today, I'm teaching 6th grade math in Texas.

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