An infinite series of minute tasks…

(Me–center, and boyfriend Dan to my right, along with a few other wonderful new Oklahoma teacher friends.)

It’s been almost a year since my last blog post.  Teaching has eaten me alive.  I used to write all the time, and I used to write about philosophy and monasticism and random medieval tidbits.  Now I write never, unless we’re talking about comments in the margins of student essays–“Good work!”  “Where’s your thesis?” and so forth.  Literature.

What in the… what the heck?  Who am I?  What have I become?  A teacher, obviously.  I used to google “medieval monasticism” at least twice a week.  Now, my google preferences honestly include both “gang symbols” and “Arkansas vacations.”  My thoughts are not deep.  Not eternal or sage.  They are as transitory as thoughts can get “I have to grade this paper.”  “I have to write this email.”  I have to.  I have to.  I have to.

Up until very recently I was not only comfortable with this shift, I was proud of it.  The contemplation I miss in my life, and the writing I produced because of it, happened during a very difficult, very lonely period in my life: the post-college year.  The year of both identity and financial crisis so many young grads are facing these days.  I went from acing advanced history courses and living with a wild pack of roommates to working at a two star hotel and coming home to a quiet house.  For a year, all I did was sit, think, and write in between guest complaints.  Leaving that lonely existence, however firm and contemplative, was a welcome change.

Honestly, thinking about who I was last year and who I have become since I became a Teach For America teacher makes me feel so full I want to sing an aria while baking a chocolate cake.  I went from writing about the monastic life at my dead-end desk job to making a difference in the lives of one hundred and fifty young people every day.  In the official competition, I would say the latter definitely leaves one feeling more spiritually fulfilled.

So why am I feeling so off?  Is it February?  Why have I started idealizing what was one of the most miserable times in my life?  I have a fantastic boyfriend (going on four months!)  and wonderful new friends.  My students both give me ulcers and change me for the better every single day.  I live in a new city, in a new state that is far better than its reputation would have you believe.  And yet, all I can think is “I miss being a monk.”  Everything seems to be flying by me, and I can grasp onto nothing. I can’t sit still.  I can’t not be “productive.”  I seem to think that life is nothing but an infinite series of minute tasks.

But how do I settle down in contemplation and focus on the so-called “bigger picture” when I have Markieonne’s evil, dimpled, fifteen year old face smiling up at me in the back of my mind at all times?  Markieonne is fifteen and he is illiterate–entirely left behind.  He makes up beats in class to combat his frustration and boredom.  Charletha is also fifteen and unable to write a complete sentence.  Every second of peace and quiet I have is spent either thinking of ways to do more for them… or detoxing at our favorite bar, trying to take a break from the despair that tends to creep in.  And the terrible sense of injustice.  This world was made for them.

“When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks. Yet, all things are to be done with moderation…” — The Rule of St. Benedict


~ by Rachael on February 15, 2012.

3 Responses to “An infinite series of minute tasks…”

  1. THIS is what you should be writing. Clearly.

  2. Everything is made up of an infinite series of minute tasks. I don’t think anyone can go and change the world by doing one very grand gesture. It’s always paperwork and phone calls and grading assignments and writing reports that make up changes. All of them might seem small, but in the end they are all working toward something grand!

  3. P.S. I’m excited for the new blog post!

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