Friday, January 01, 2010

decade in review

Ms M wrote a fascinating post about it, then Nancy did, and now I'm inspired too!

My junior year at UW. I live in an apartment just off campus, and I make good friends with one of my roommates. I'm double-majoring in Women's Studies and French. In the summer I do a month-long study abroad in Paris. It is amazing and I love wandering the city. In the fall I decide to drop the French major so I can graduate on time. I move home. I begin my senior thesis, on body image and the media. I break up with my college boyfriend.

I graduate from college! I am very proud of myself. I go to Europe for five weeks with assorted family members: Greece, Italy, Paris, Scotland, London. Incredible. I apply for AmeriCorps NCCC (which I had first found in Paris the summer before) but get wait listed. I quit Starbucks for good, after three years part-time. In the fall I receive news that I am accepted into the winter term beginning in January. For the fall, I do temp work and work at a restaurant.

January to November is spent in AmeriCorps NCCC in the Northeast Region. I work in Baltimore, rural New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, with brief stints in San Antonio, Gulfport, and Cape Cod. It is the hardest thing I have ever done but also the most worthwhile and life-changing. When I go home at the end of the year, I am lonely and sad without my team. I apply for Teach for America and am rejected.

I do seasonal work at a downtown department store. Then I get a temp job at a mortgage office. It becomes permanent, and I move from being at the front desk to being an assistant. I volunteer regularly. I have a boyfriend and then break up in the summer. Also in the summer my knee suddenly freaked out and I had to do physical therapy and stay off my feet. I gain like ten pounds and am at my heaviest. Finally I start taking walks during my lunch breaks at the office. It quickly becomes the best part of my day and I go every day, rain, shine, or snow.

In January, I travel to Paris for a week, with a couple days in Belgium. It is lovely and charming and I want to travel more and more. I have recently been 'promoted' to funder and it is busy and stressful. One day I start crying on the way to work and within a week have submitted my two weeks' notice. My former team leader sends me a posting for the NYC Teaching Fellows. After a year pushing paper and answering phones and feeling completely worthless, I am desperate to do something for the Greater Good. So I apply for the Fellows as well as for NCCC Team Leader. I go to New York for a week for the interview and to see my friend from college. I decide that I'd rather do AmeriCorps than teach, but never hear back from them. So I accept the teaching fellowship. I move to New York City on June 16, 2004.

The summer is long and lonely and tough. My first year teaching, beginning in the fall, is pretty much a disaster. I have no idea what I'm doing and my management is non existent. I don't care about my grad school classes. I know nobody in the city and am lonely. I turn 25 alone with no celebration. I buy my first digital camera.

Somehow I survive to the end of my first year. It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. In the summer I do grad school and prepare for school. I go home to visit and spend a week and a half driving back to New York, visiting former teammates and family on the way. My second year starts off a complete 180 from the first, and I love my classes. My mom comes to visit at Christmas and we travel to Barcelona and Paris.

I go to Prague in February. It is gorgeous and incredible and I adore it. In April, I volunteer in New Orleans for a week. It is hard work, but I enjoy feeling like I'm doing worthwhile work. At the end of March I begin a relationship with a wonderful boy three years younger than me. I move into my own studio apartment, still in Queens. It's cute and just the right size. My second year ends. It remains my favorite year of teaching. In the summer I graduate with a Master's Degree. I decide to stay in NYC and keep teaching. My boyfriend comes with me to visit home. My third year of teaching begins. At Christmas I travel to Amsterdam on my own. It is noisy and smoky, and I feel old and cranky. The Anne Frank House stuns me. I thoroughly enjoy visiting the Hague. A couple more days and Amsterdam grows on me.

In February, the boy and I visit London and Paris. It's his first time out of the country, but he proves to be a worthy travel companion. I vow to stay away from Paris until I visit enough other places. We celebrate our one-year anniversary in Boston. I upgrade my camera from a crappy point and shoot to a more sophisticated point and shoot. In the summer, I spend three weeks in Australia. I completely fall in love with the entire country and everyone in it. My fourth year of teaching begins.

I decide to start looking for a new job. I am bored and restless after teaching the same thing for four years in a row. I want something new, different, and I want to challenge myself to become a better educator. So I start applying at charter schools in February. (I have No Idea what I'm getting myself into.) In April I visit a KIPP school in Austin. I love the city and the school, but I am rejected. I look for jobs the rest of the school year. My boyfriend surprises me with my first DSLR. We visit Maine for a few days in August, and it is just gorgeous. We move in together, in Brooklyn. I start working at My First Charter School. It kicks my ass but good. I feel like I've reverted to my first year again. I cry most days at school or at home, and I cannot sleep. I am at school for twelve hours and never feel caught up. (Oh, how I laugh at that self now. I only had one lesson to prepare each day! Now I'm supposed to do FIVE!) In December I upgrade to a better DSLR. At Christmas, I travel to Guatemala. It is amazing; I am blown away; I do not want to come back home to the bleary winter and my stupid job. On New Year's Eve with friends, I cry when talking about it.

I am fired in the first week back from break. Thank god. I do some photography work and sub in charter schools. The boyfriend and I become official Partners and later move into a new, fantastic apartment. I accept an elementary teaching job. It kicks my ass also, but I do not cry at home or at school. I like the age I'm teaching and I really like some of my students. However, I am frustrated with the workload and that I can't live up to the standard I'd like, and really start to feel that it's not for me. I turn 30! In December I realize anew that teaching is not for me and I need to figure out what to do with my life.


I became an independent adult in this decade and then defined who I am: I'm a teacher in New York City. I don't want to be either of those things anymore, so by the time I'm 40 (gah!) in 2020, I want to be something else somewhere else. By then hope to have visited even more places around the globe, continued to work with photography, and of course to still be in this great relationship.


Ms. George said...

Great post! I saw N's as well and it got me thinking. Although I've been neglecting my scribbles for awhile, I might have to try this.
You sound really centered and courageous--I'm so happy for you. All the best in 2010...

NCavillones said...

Amazing! And I feel the second half of your decade is so familiar to me because of your Flickr stream. Is that weird? And have we known each other that long? Here's to the next ten years and achieving your dreams!

NCavillones said...

PS Ms. George! I hope you write your decade in review!!

Angela said...

Great post! And please, please share how you found this fantastic apartment you keep mentioning. My husband and I have been searching NYC since September and are OVER IT. Seriously, please, if you have a good broker or some kind of "in" that you can pass along, email me ( Sorry to make this comment more about me than you, but that's kinda what happens when real estate in the city is mentioned. :-)