On the Cusp of Past and Future

It’s been 126 days since I blogged last. In that time, I have…

Taught approximately 360 lessons
Graded nearly 800 exams and quizzes
Used four of my five allotted sick days
Attended at least 40 hours of professional development
Spent about 60 hours preparing and submitting my edTPA
Written a 42-page, single-spaced, original research paper
Backed 23 new campaigns on Kickstarter (while not funding my own)
Listened to “Sky Full of Song” and “Hunger” over a hundred times, and
Worked out a lot less than I wanted to.

But all of that is merely the minutia of being a grad student-math teacher-advisor-TFA corps member-writer. Except half of that is suddenly behind me.

This past Sunday I graduated from Marquette University with my master’s in education. And the previous Friday I was inducted as an alum of Teach for America Milwaukee.

In barely two weeks my life went from overwhelmed to seemingly normal. And yet, between final projects, graduation celebrations, family visits, and preparing for my seniors to take their finals next week, the overwhelm has steadfastly stood by me.

Tangential fact: Last Friday was field day and I got sunburned like a lobster.

Gross consequence: My face is peeling off and my scalp is scattering like feathers in the wind as I peel aside the ashen wisps of translucent, single-cell-thick flesh.

Metaphorical allegory: I was born in the year of congruence between the fiery cycle of the elements and the slithering, shimmering scales of the snake. Through fire I shed my skin and become more brilliant than before.

Astrological extension and allusion to title: Between these signs is a cusp, that faint whisper in the space of dual existence, that sliver in which life is both before and after, in which the present is both past and future.

For my entire life I have been a student, and then for years I was a student and a tutor or a teacher, and now I have transitioned from student to teacher. Except I will always be a student: now, however, I am not a student of (Guilford Tech, NC State, Marquette) but a student of life. I have no more classes to attend; only experiences to learn from.

Today is only the third day of my life in which I have not been enrolled in some institution of education. The irony: Now I perpetuate an institution of education. Disregard for a moment the privilege and position I hold, the influence and contrition that as a consequence unfold, and the tables have truly turned as surely as my skin burned beneath the burgeoning summer sun of a city divided by skin color and class.

I’m teetering on this cusp, finding my balance, finding my breath.

I was hit hard with unrest when my family left: months, if not years, of holding my breath and staggering forward fueled by little else than deadlines and adrenaline, my body rebelled and sent me spiraling into sleep. I went to bed before nine on Monday. I barely woke up on Tuesday, barely able to break away from the tendrils of dreams that clung to my lungs and tried to strangle the wakefulness from me. I was still dizzy as I stepped into the school building. I briefly considered turning around and calling in sick.

Now the world is returning to focus. A six-month grace period might help me get a head start on overcoming student loan debt, but the sleep debt has sent me into bankruptcy.

As my head continues to clear, the other end of this cusp becomes near: This summer I’ll be helping rework the precalculus curriculum and common assessments for my school, and for summer school, I may very well be teaching an English 12 class–an opportunity I’m looking forward to as a way to expand my teaching repertoire.

I’ve also got more time now to commit myself to healthy eating and fitness, to blogging more consistently, to reading books for pleasure and personal enrichment, to writing a few poems and stories for the few dedicated users who backed my Kickstarter campaign.

All these goals are good goals, of course, but they’re not my only new adventures.

This summer I’m traveling to an undisclosed location as a graduation/birthday present from the man I’m seeing, and later, in August, we’re visiting Iceland together.

More immediate and exciting: I’m adopting a puppy. She will soon become a mainstay of my blogging updates (pictures promised), and I find myself daily looking at her pictures as I anticipate bringing her home. She was born four weeks ago today, and in four more weeks I’ll be driving out to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, to pick her up and make her family.

Another irony: The present is always thrust between the past and future like the crumbling crust of Kilauea as mantle meets open ocean and turns to earth, and a snake remains a snake even after its scales are reborn and its old skins withers into dust.

So too, I am still me, yesterday, today, tomorrow. Changed, but still the same.

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