"I think the Falcon Club is important because we valenter and help the ones in the need. Falcon Club is a cool club because when it's thanksgiving we will visit a Hospital. I think I community will be touch by our help."
-M., 7th Grade
During a session we were discussing ideal communities. We had gone through about 15 minutes discussing ideal communities, when one of my team members realized that the kids had no idea what the word 'ideal' meant. So, we asked them to define it for us.
"Uhm... Dangerous?" (student)
"Well, no. What do you think ideal means?" (Corps Members)
"USE CONTEXT CLUES! GOOOSH!" (Other student)
"Oh, well. So, like, it's when you deal with things. Like someone punching somebody, so i deal with it."
It made total sense, and I hear things like this daily. This is not to belittle my students' work at all. They are amazing. Sure, there are times where they are crawling on the floor, starting fights, or cursing like they are sailors, but they are truly amazing souls. With the right direction they can voice their deep thoughts and incredibly unique perceptions. With the right direction. Right now, I'm not that direction.
It's makes me sad to think that I won't be able to see if Brandon can start to focus, or if Mohamed really will turn out to be as wonderful as I think he is. I want to make sure Luz doesn't get too crazy with the boys, and try to help Paris control his emotional outbursts. But the more I've done this job, the more I've realized it requires more than I have to offer.
A little over a year ago, I was sitting at my dining room table in Missouri talking to my parents. I was teary-eyed, as were they when my mother said these words: "What I just don't understand is your sudden obsession with helping others. Erika, you can't help others if you aren't taking care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself first." I understood her at the time, but was determined that I would be taking care of myself through my service to others. (I believe that this was instilled in me during Sunday School with Mrs. Peaslee) And I did, I nurtured the parts of me that needed to be nurtured, shrank several doubts ( and bad habits) I had, and opened all kinds of doors to people and possibilities. Unfortunately, I've also experienced all kinds of failure.
The past few months have been riddled with scary phone conversations and worried stomachs. I know my family back home is wishing I were back home, curled up with my new kitten (whom I love dearly) under their watchful eye. I've been having some health problems, yes. There are days where I can't feel limbs, days when I feel so exhausted I don't even leave my house. I've been to hospitals, had my brain scanned, been given pills that make me feel funny. Through the beginning of this I tried to trudge through, being the perky one at First Circle, the one consistently trying to put on the smile I'm known for. But it just kept on getting harder. I would go home, exhausted, and fall asleep with my Reds on. I stopped doing the things I loved so much simply to keep a commitment, knowing it wasn't good for me. But now, in the midst of all of this confusion and pain, I'm deciding to take my mother's advice. (I'm not moving back home, though. Sorry, mom.) I'm going to take care of myself FIRST.
Doing this is bringing on several changes. One, obviously, I won't be in CY. I already miss talking to my buds in the office, but hopefully we'll find some weekend time to catch up. Lord knows they need to relieve some stress, and we all know I love laughing. (Especially you, Theresa and Alli. We need to get you away from CY culture for a day.)
The second one is that I won't be living in Harlem anymore. Some are relieved at this news "Oh, you'll be moving to a better neighborhood!" or "You'll be closer to me now!" (Val) Others, are disheartened "You won't be 5 blocks away!" (I'll miss you too, Renee.) Not only will it be cheaper, but it will be a much better living situation. I'll be living in a house with people my age whom share the same interests I do. They have communal meals a few times a week, and a roof top garden where I can play with worms and grow food. They're involved in the community, and just seem like genuinely nice folks. The neighborhood is a gentrified one, much like Harlem, but is definitely more focused towards my demographic. There are coffee shops, organic groceries, local food restaurants, and a kick-ass pizza place all within a few blocks from my new house. I won't move until the end of the month. Until then, I'm soaking in the cat-calls and soul food. You'll always be my first love, Harlem. Really.
The last one is that I'm trying to find a new job to take up the time CY did. Right now I'm picking up extra shifts at Staples, while still sticking with the weekend shifts I had. I do love the people I work with there, but it would be nice to do something more productive with my time. I know that due to my experience and the economic climate choices are limited, but I'm putting myself out there. Plus, Harlem is around an hour commute from Bushwick. I'd appreciate working a little closer to home.
Home has been such a relative term these past few years, but I've found that it's a really easy concept to create. Maybe it's just my Midwestern smile or southern hospitality, but all it takes are a few close friends and a few constant haunts to make a home. I hear these songs longing for it, see shows dedicated to finding the perfect one, but really it's all hogwash; Home is wherever you decide it is.
Right now, home is a lumpy bed in a messy room in Harlem. 'night, friends.