Sunday, June 14, 2009

90 percent fun.

So I got this e-mail today from Alex which said, "Why was the other day your funnest day ever?" And I realized that I had hastily posted a 100 percent fun blog post. I think part of me wanted to know if my blog would explode if it ever were to reach 100 percent. It didn't. Now we know! It was for science.

I mean, at the moment, I desperately felt 100 percent fun. But 100 percent fun is not achievable by merely a feeling. Here are few things that I might list as activities that could raise one from being a medium percentage of fun (say, 63 percent) to 100 percent fun in one fell swoop:
  • If you rounded up all the giraffes plus a few other African Savannah animals (choose between hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and zebra), brought them all into your back yard, and taught them all the words to "Parents Are People" for a big African Animal Sing-Along, that would be 100% fun.
  • If you rented out the biggest water park in the world and filled all the pools with different kinds of fizzy soda, then had a gigantic soda pool party, complete with a clown, that would be 100% fun.
  • If you painted big smiley faces (approximately 25 feet in diameter each) all over the state penitentiary, then threw scented water balloons at the convicts on the yard to make them giggle, that would be 100% fun.
I didn't do any of those things, even a little bit. But I did have a bit of an end-of-the-movie climactic moment on Friday, and it felt AWESOME.

First, let me tell you that I have spent the last two weeks interviewing for jobs and sending off 30 or 40 resumes and cover letters. It's actually pretty demoralizing, as I'm sure huge unemployed chunks of America have come to realize in the last few months. I'd go through these big long interview processes, sometimes for jobs I didn't even want, only to hear principals tell me that they didn't have a job in my highly qualified area at the time. By Friday, I was weary. I had thrown a big dinner at my house for 2009 Corps Members and felt unqualified to tell them anything -- I mean, certainly they didn't want to end up like me, one of the last two '08 CMs without a school placement for next year. Cooking had ended up being stressful and not fun because I had to intersperse prepping the meal with working sessions at Tulane for Induction. I made portabello grillades, cheeze grits, herbed biscuits, French toast, Bloody Marys, and sweet tea, but I couldn't help but feel like my guests weren't fully satisfied with the meal... you know how these things go. It just wasn't perfect. And then finally on Friday, I kind of lost it a little bit, right in front of a TFA staff member. She said, "Aren't you EXCITED about your interview at Langston Hughes?" I was NOT excited. I was tired. I was done interviewing. I kind of just wanted a massage and an iced tea. So I got a little teary -- and in professional dress no less -- to the extent that I think I made that poor woman feel kind of bad. It's not her fault that I can't find myself a freaking job.

I worked all Friday. I was tired and hungry and hot and not on bike (as I prefer to be) for the entire day. Then I drove two other Corps Members (first years with the same placement as I have) to Langston Hughes for our interview. It was supposed to start at 4:30; it was so crowded and busy that I didn't get in there until 6.

But when I walked into the room and sat down for the interview, something about it felt different than the other interviews I had done. It felt like it fit. I felt safe and in control; the process felt conversational and real. When I got back to Tulane, two more awesome things happened: 1. TFA gave us Mexican food, which is exactly the kind of food I was craving in that moment; and 2. Hordes of people came up and started praising Avery.

I know I told you Avery made 5 years of growth in reading this year (WOOOOO!). Well, that's actually a pretty significantly significant gain for him. I spoke at Induction this year about his progress, and then the whole Corps watched a video of Avery reading with me -- a book on a 2nd grade level, with tough words like "birthday." He nailed the reading. Then he talked about how he'd graduated and how he was getting a job, and he was incredible. I guess he was more incredible than I had even realized, because I've never had more people approach me in my life than I had approach me on Friday night. I called him and said, "Hey guess what? You just changed the lives of more than 250 people." And Avery said, "That's nice. Can we go to Wal Mart?"

So I was feeling pretty good. I felt proud. The year, for all its disasters and missteps, had been a success, if just for Avery's reading progress. Also I was eating a burrito.

AND THEN Langston Hughes called me (not the poet; the charter school), and like a cheesy teen movie script, offered me a job teaching second grade.

So I was dancing on clouds, essentially, and came home feeling 100% fun. Also I had on a really hot dress so I felt both fun AND pretty.

I have been taking advantage of the calm, and have decided that there does not necessarily have to be a storm to follow it. We leave on Wednesday for Colorado. James is moving to Greece, which has not really cemented itself in my mind yet, but has been a reality since I met him, so maybe that has taken some of the edge off. Marianne is moving to San Francisco in a few weeks. Caitlin and Avery (non-student Avery) have less than a month left in the Big Easy, before they trek up the east coast in their own directions. And as I make my way back to New Orleans in late July, I'll be moving to a new house across town, with Ariana and Leah in Mid-City, with lots of bikes and looottts of cooking supplies. A lot of things are changing. My own personal history has taught me that change is uncomfortable but generally positive. I had a teacher in high school who told me that being liberal just means being able to embrace change. Well, I have listed myself as "Very Liberal" on Facebook; so bring it on.

Yesterday I woke up at 7 a.m. and cleaned the house, scrubbing the corners and meditating on the address which has been the first place I've really made my own home out of, from scratch, and without anyone else's help. I rode my bike to Octavia Books to buy my dad a Fathers' Day present, and passed a car wreck on the way. I stopped and kicked my bike to the side of the road. "What can I do to help?" Silence. It was a kind of a major wreck. "Have you called someone to help you? Would you like me to call?" Silence. Angry silence. As if I was intruding on something that did not belong to me. Finally, "No, it's fine. We're fine." And I said, "I promise it's going to be okay." But of course that probably meant nothing to them in that moment.

I bought fresh gingerbread and iced tea at the Laurel Street Bakery, where there was no air conditioning, and sat outside doing the crossword and rubbing ice on my legs. I lingered and watched people walking their dogs, trying to remember the names for the bright pink flowers.

Then I rode my bike to see Caitlin for what I think I know in my heart might be the last time. We had Cuban food at a CBD fancy restaurant, and I ordered a Mojito (the best one I've ever consumed). Then we bought beers and got tipsy-to-drunk on the Riverwalk. This guy passed by and pointed at Caitlin and shouted, "Girl, you so fine you make MEDICINE sick!" We didn't get it. Then he said, "That's real talk." Still didn't get it. But that's New Orleans.

Spent the next several hours drinking more and playing cards. And I rode my bike home across town in the dark without my glasses. I felt weirdly safe and protected in maybe a sort of false way. I felt lucky. I felt very, very alive.

So maybe these things do not make me 100% fun, but I'll settle at 90. I am enjoying my life, and exploring everything. I am saying "yes" a lot. I am looking forward, for a change.

See you in Oregon!

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