Category Archives: Digging Deep

Isolated.

If I wasn’t outspoken about my beliefs before, seven weeks of discussing race, class, gender, equity, micro-aggressions, and being “anti-racist” has ensured that I cannot sit silently and nod to ideas and actions that I just do not agree with.

If I did, I would get a fucking ulcer. 


Backstory: Last week, I visited my grandparents. My grandfather who I adoringly call “Pappy” is a Baptist Deacon and obviously, very conservative. Because of his knowledge about Christianity, I asked him, in all seriousness, to teach me about some of the Christian denominations that believed in equality of the sexes.

I didn’t even get started about equality for LGBTQ identities… 

He then went on a tangent about how those denominations are not on “God’s path” because women are not “the same” as men, God made the sexes differently. “That’s biblical and that’s that”. 

Well,” I scoffed. “I guess I can’t be a Christian then, because I don’t believe in a religion that sees me as inferior,” which of course, horrified him.

He then sent me a pleasantly condescending email about how he will be praying for me to accept Jesus and the “teachings of Christ”. Naturally, I screen shotted the sucker and texted it to my family in our group text. Here is what happened…  

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Now, I almost see my mother’s point. Why even bother with the old fart, right?

Because the issue is worth talking about, because I have things to say, because I have the ability to argue my opinion only because of the activists that came before me argued with the “old farts” and saw their movement as “worth it” even when they thought they could not change their minds. Even when they thought they could not change the minds of a nation.

Because becoming passive to oppression and inequality is the exact same thing as doing the oppressing yourself. 

Then, for my mother (who, might I add taught me to defend myself, about gender equity, about not being a bystander to racism and hatred of ANYONE) to tell me that some things aren’t worth arguing about physically hurt. 


Dear Mom,

WHAT?! You told me these things matter?!

You modeled this for me when I was seven. You wrote a letter to a Louisiana State Senator because you believed that the use of the word “nurturing” in criteria for state teaching evaluations was sexist language that perpetuated a majority female occupation and simultaneously perpetuated a stereotypical expectation of how women should act. AND DIDN’T STOP until you were listened to. AND GOT THE LANGUAGE changed.

AND TAUGHT YOUR NINE AND SEVEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTERS ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING AND WHY AND HOW. 

You modeled this for me the time I was 14 and came home to school and repeated a “funny joke” I had heard that day. “A woman just can’t be President, because then once a month the whole nation would come crashing down”. You didn’t fucking laugh. You shamed me for my ignorance, for laughing, for not realizing the offensive nature of what this boy had said. You taught me how to combat this statement next time and why it was important.

Mom, when did you get so passive?


This is an example of how I am increasingly feeling isolated from my own family. Different paths, different pages.

HELP!

XOXO,

Sara Wildes 

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Did I just say “Our”?

A lot has been happening in the last month. 

And I mean a lot. 

But the other day, something exceptionally monumental occurred. It happened on a Tuesday. 

Kacey, a member of my teaching quad and I were walking from the Union (the place on campus where a lot of people write their lessons plans from around 7:00 pm until 1 in the morning) to the dining hall and talking about the general experience of a ATF org member. 

Fun. Exhausting. Eye opening. Hellish. Inspirational. Bonding. 

There’s so many ways to describe the experiences we have been collecting this summer. I’m not exactly sure how it came about, but we also starting talking about the experiences that other org members have had at their summer training in different parts of the nation. Their stories and experiences just didn’t seem as deeply impactful as our has been. 

“It would be so very different to not be in a rural area and to go through all of this in say, New York City,” I contributed. “But the people there probably wouldn’t enjoy the Delta, they might just not understand our community here”. 

I stopped. Dead in my tracks. 

That just kinda poured out and honestly, I was kind of worried I had just insulted Kacey seeing as though she is from the Delta herself and I literally just got here like, yesterday. 

“Look at me,” I broke the silence, “saying ‘our’ and all like I’ve been here forever” I added shyly. 

“You are from here now!” Kacey belted with joy and she gave be a loving pat on my shoulder. 

And y’all, she’s right. I consider myself a part of this community now and I love it! I want to be from here. I want to be a proud Mississippian. I want to love the Delta and love my students and love running into them and their families at the grocery store and love on a place that is so full of love already. 

I think I’m well on my way. 

Living and Learning: Confirming My Identity

 

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Every time I think I have perfected a lesson plan, I come to learn that I am very, very wrong.

Every time I think I’m a “big fish in a small pond”, I come to learn how amazing the people I am surrounded are. It is humbling and it is refreshing.

Every time I think that I have mastered a new level of patience with my increasingly bothersome dorm-mate, I come to learn that my patience is still very, very thin.

Every time I think that I have improved my resting bitch face and have intentionally appeared to be more social, I come to learn that I still look angry and intimidating.

Every time I think that I have made a new friend, I come to learn that a significant majority of people make me feel suffocated and claustrophobic. I don’t do needy people. They stress me out.

Every time I am around a person who is inherently negative, I come to learn that my positive pants might as well be tattooed on because there’s no changing my innate mindset.

Every time I’m tested, I come to learn that this is who I am. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Enjoy it.

XOXO,

Sara Wildes

 

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And then, it Happened.

I just finished my first week in the classroom as an ATF teacher. In the midst of the ups and downs of the roller coaster that has been my first week as a teacher, I discovered something: I love this. 

I love teacher jokes and #teacherprobz, I love planning a lesson, I love leading a classroom, I love learning, and most importantly, I love these my kids. 

Yes, one week in and I’m already claiming them as my own. Because I can and because I see the smallest part of myself in every single one of them.

Especially Douglas.

Douglas, by most descriptions, would be classified as “a little shit”. He’s hyperactive, he distracts on tasks students, he talks back. He’s me. I am Douglas. We come from different worlds, but we are one in the same. He’s smart too. So smart that he’s bored.

It only took three days before he reached the 4th consequence in my 50 minute lesson that I instruct daily: a phone call home. The numbers he provided on his student survey were fake, so I went digging through registration records and found his mom’s phone number. Haha! Nothing gets past me, Douglas! I snickered.

Like the nervous little first year teacher that I am, I consulted two mentors and constructed a full length script before I dialed the number. Once in touch with his sweet mama, she informed me of his ADHD and I asked for what has worked for him in the past and some insights since she is, after all, an expert on her son.

“Keep him busy,” she instructed. “Keep him challenged”.

I can do that.

He’s the sweetest too. Each time he’s getting out of hand (which only takes about 30 minutes into my lessons), we have a little chat in my most forced and practiced “relationship building voice” and, like magic, he turns himself around.

He would never tell me or show me, but another teacher in my teaching quad (a group of 4 teachers that work together over the summer) told me that he loves me and that I’m the only one that has gotten successful work out of him yet this week.

This, was the ultimate win. 

Obviously, I still have a ton of work to do and a ton of growing. This week, I have repeatedly failed my students. But I can only get better and I can’t wait to work hard and pour more of my sweat, blood, and tears into this jobs and these kids. Because this is what I’m suppose to do, and I know that because I love it.

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“Putting yourself first is putting your kids first”

Today, I discovered that I fundamentally disagree with an aspect of our “Induction Norms”.

Scratch that, I disagree with several aspects.

During Induction, we were given three “norms”. Key word–given. We did not create them as a group. We did not discuss them as a region. Three norms were put in front of us and it was established that “this is the way it is and the way it will be”.

That is the first thing that I did not like.

The three norms are as follows:

  1. Put the kids first.
  2. Commit to dialogue
  3. Be leaders and learners

The second, and fundamentally jarring aspect that I can not see eye-to-eye with is norm #1. 

Ya, ya. Sounds selfish right? Well guess what… You’re right. It’s selfish and that is exactly my point. I strongly believe that in order to put your kids first, you must first take care of yourself. Not once have we discussed wellness and self-care at Induction thus far. Granted, it’s only day two. But still. The very first norm screamed at us to be totally selfless and sacrifice time, energy, sleep, and our own well-being to “put the kids first”. AND I’M FEELING BAD ABOUT IT! I’m feeling guilty for questioning it because its our “norm”.

I expressed this during a small group sessions and a beautifully insightful girl, Elizabeth, put it into a context that changed my perception.

“You see though, putting yourself first is putting your kids first”

But still, I want someone on staff to say that to us! I want someone to articulate the importance of our health and well-being, because today I have seen four people cry. It’s day two and people are having little breakdowns left and right and no one is talking about wellness yet. People are talking about alcohol and drinking a bottle of wine last night to unwind but no one is talking about wellness.

I want to re-write Norm Number One to read put yourself first so that you can put your kids first. 

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Vomit on My iPhone

Today, Molley and Dexter returned from an international school trip. No cell phones. No internet. No communication. Elated to get to talk to my good friend Molley again, she texted me this shortly after we began chatting…

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Today, I came to the crushing realization that there is no escaping it. Not only did Cooper accidentally let it slip to his roommate, the ugly and awful Dexter, where I will be employed in the fall, but Cooper also accidentally let it slip to me that Dexter will be a American Teacher Foundation organization member in 2015. 

“You have got to be fucking kidding me…” my words left my lungs as if  the wind had been knocked out of me.

“He put the Delta on his no-no list!” Cooper tried to console the situation. But there was no remedying it. The room was spinning. I literally cannot have one thing, one thing that is mine. 

ATF was MY thing. MINE. Dexter and I were together while I filled out my application. He spent the night when I hit submit online. He messaged another girl she was beautiful the day of my interview. Shit head. Sure, he was supportive throughout the process, but at the time he was not interested at all. Not for himself at least. I know there’s like, 10,000 org members. I know he won’t be in my region. But I wanted to feel like I really could have my own thing and now I feel like in the smallest sense, on the tiniest level, I have to share this. With him. 

And now he knows where I will be working… Now he knows my fucking future. A future I wanted to be private and free of the poison of the person who has fucked with my world for YEARS.

My life is the most abnormal. 

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Controlling the Narrative: How Much Do You Share?

Yesterday, I told my story. I told my story to someone who otherwise never would have known of its existence.

And I think I regret it….

Among my friends, I jokingly call him my “ATF Boyfriend”. But in reality he is just Wilson; a fellow ATF Org Member who I have been Facebook chatting with for the past month. I think I really could like him, but I haven’t even met him yet so I’m trying to keep it chill.

Yesterday, when Wilson and I were Facebook chatting, he asked me what song was currently going through my head. Immediately, I replied with the good and honest truth, a song that I really, really do like and is constantly running through my mind. Reverse by SomeKindaWonderful.

“Wow that is a really interesting song, I like it!” Wilson replied instantaneously. “I’m on this blog reading about what it means to different people”. Pleased that he liked my song I silently celebrated by mysteriously not replying for a premeditated ten minutes because yes, I still do that kind of shit. But, before the silent ten minute alarm could go off in my head, Wilson replied yet again.

“What does the song mean for you?”

Fuuuuuck… The way I saw it, I had three options.

  1. I do not fully answer, making it seem like I like the song because I somehow relate to the storyline of cheating and getting caught and look like a sketchy bitch.
  2. I tell him the partial truth, that I really love the word tantalized and sound like a total and complete shallow idiot.
  3. Tell him my story.

I weighed my option and then cautiously dived in.

“Ok, well in December I found out that the guy I had been dating cheated on me with three people. I cut it off, block him on my phone, Facebook, the whole nine yards and left the country for Christmas break. I never told him I knew. When I came back in January, he had heard from someone else and we met up to talk. He accidentally apologized for things I did not yet know about and the number went from three to six in a short, five minute conversation. Today, I know that number is well into the double digits so I guess I like this song because it’s a catchy, kind of angsty way to laugh at the stupidity of some relationships and experiences.”

  • Wilson: Wow what a shitty dude! I can’t get over what an idiot that guy was. If I ever see him, I’m going to punch him.
  • Sara: I punched him already. Oops.

It occurred to me later that this is the first time I have ever really told my “story” to a living soul. Mostly, my friends already knew and found out through bits and blurbs. I never had to sit down and explain it in one, single narrative. After I found the words to summarize all of this, many thoughts flooded my brain.

  • Is this a story I will have to explain to new friends that I meet in Mississippi who have zero knowledge about my life and history? 
  • Do I want anyone to know? 
  • Ok, so I told one person. Maybe I won’t tell anyone else, ever. 
  • It’s not even important or influential! 
  • Oh who am I kidding, this shit-show altered my life (for the better–eventually). 
  • Oh my God… What if I have to explain it to people I let close to me in the future to fully explain why I have trust issues?
  • Wait, who said I’m going to have trust issues about dating seriously anyway?! 
  • But let’s be real… 
  • I’ll never tell the story again. Fully. To anyone. 
  • But it’s such an interesting story… 
  • Fuck, does Wilson have some sort of pity on me now or see me as emotionally damaged? 
  • Ew. I don’t want to be seen or thought of as that. I’m fucking fabulous! 
  • I think I regret this… 
  • NO. It’s part of me. OWN IT. 

I’ve realized that this is all going to be part of the transition into starting over, starting fresh in my new life. How do I want to start my new life? I have control over my narrative, after all. I still haven’t decided if I am filled with regret or ownership over telling Wilson this part of my story. We’ll have to see what comes of it.

XOXO,

Sara Wildes

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A Year In Three Words

Here I am in Denver! I ventured here, along with Cooper, to visit Richard. Richard is an amazing friend who I haven’t seen in eight, long months.

Richard lives in Denver while doing a year of service. For a year, he has given his life to serve others, especially those experiencing poverty and homelessness. For a year, Richard has lived on a $75 a month stipend. A month.

I’m very certain that Richard is a saint because who the hell and how the hell can you make that work and have a good time being that poor as a 22 year old, fresh-out-of-college, energetic being?!

Richard, that’s who.

Anyways, over lunch I asked Cooper and Richard to describe their year in three words.

Here’s what happened…

Richard:
1) Fun
2) Educational
3) Exhausting

Cooper:
1) Challenging
2) Wild
3) Enjoyable

Then, it was my turn… Hmm… How on Earth do I describe this year? I pondered. It’s been such a wild ride. Literally, multiple things that people will never experience in their lives happened to me in a matter of months.

Confession- I have never talked to Richard about the majority of the shit show that has been this year.

Richard is still good friends with Dexter, and I don’t want to put him in an uncomfortable position or screw up a friendship that he obviously values. Besides, I’m sure Richard knows a lot. I’m sure he knew a lot when everything with Dexter happened/was happening. I wouldn’t know because we just don’t talk about it. And that’s ok with the both of us.

Finally, I found my three words.
1) Glorious 2) Shit 3) Show

Because truly, that’s what it has been. It’s been a rough, shit-show of a year. But it has been glorious and I have basked in the glory of all of the change and growth.

I’ve loved this year.

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She’s Watching over my shoulder as I type this

Blogging live from Hipsterville.

  • Mother Mary, I’m sorry about that one time a punched a boy in the jaw in your presence. I’m not sorry that I did it. I’m just sorry that you had to witness it. I know as a mother, you would commend your daughter for doing the same.
  • Mother Mary, I’m also sorry that the rock I threw didn’t hit him and bounced and hit the tower you stood on instead.
  • Mother Mary, I’m sorry I curse and drink so much. But your son liked wine… so…
  • Mother Mary, I’m sorry that this is only the third time I’ve sat here in my four years in Hipsterville.
  • Mother Mary, I’m not religious, I got kicked out of the Baptist cult camp AWANA at the tender age of 7, but I want to believe that you will protect me.
  • Mother Mary, close your eyes while I throw my shoe at this tree in frustration. Life is confusing and crazy. You probably understand that considering you were a pregnant virgin teen and all.
  • Mother Mary, I’m going to walk across a stage in four days but I promise to come back to this very spot in Hipsterville and talk to you again one day.
  • Mother Mary, thanks for listening and not judging. You’re pretty cool.
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13 days til Freedom.

In thirteen days, I will walk across a stage and complete my Bachelor’s Degree. I cannot wait for this day.

I’ve loved this journey, absolutely loved it. I have completely changed as an individual since first venturing to the University of Hipsterville four years ago. This experience has changed my world, my outlook on life, my passions, my desires; everything. It has been full of laughter, hilarious memories, and amazing friends.

But, I cannot wait to do something new. I cannot wait to put this all behind me and jump in with both feet into the new adventures that are ahead of me. I am bursting with excitement.

I cannot wait to have a fresh start, where people can judge me based on who I am, not what they’ve heard. Where no one knows about the embarrassing, yet hilarious mess that my senior year has been. Where no one stops talking when I walk into a room. Where no one watches if I eat the food the plate before me. Where no one looks to see if I have bandaids covering my fingers or hands.

I cannot wait to have a fresh start, where malicious lies do not facilitate public opinions.

In thirteen days, I will be free.

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