walls that speak

This is the longest I’ve stared at a blank page, waiting for some sort of inspiration to strike. Smaller reflections are much easier to focus on, and more discrete points are easier to elaborate. The task of writing about the end of my first year of Fellowship seems way too daunting in comparison.

I’ll start with a few words that stand out the most to me, and go on from there. It’s been unexpected. I had to collaborate a lot more than I anticipated, and I had a lot less control than I had initially believed. Those were probably the two hardest parts. While I have always worked on group projects, and generally loved the teams I was put with, this required a completely different type and level of collaboration. First of all, many of my peers didn’t share my background or my outlook. Secondly, I needed to build relationships with not just my peers and students, but also parents, TFI staff, school staff, alumni, and everyone in between. The allocation of my effort was certainly unexpected, and a little hard for my perfectionist mindset to digest – because there was neither the time, nor the space, nor the expectation of perfection anywhere. Just sort of a nebulous “do your best” kind of attitude, where for the first time nobody told me what my best was supposed to look like, or how I was supposed to go about attaining it.

From as far back as I can remember, I had worked hard for my future. For grades, college, a real job. And then that moment came, and somehow real life turned into ninety-eight faces, ninety-eight hopes and dreams. It was a challenge that neither textbook knowledge nor any level of analytical thinking and extra-curricula had prepared me for.

Have I changed?

Certainly, the answer is yes. Pinpointing the exact changes and their causes is a little more difficult. I’ve come to doubt myself a lot more. It was easier to be good within defined bounds and rules. But when you’re working with people, especially children, structures are not always a reliable safety net. I have failed. Many times. More times than I care to count. These failures have made me cry and doubt myself in a way that I never had before. But the failures have, in some way, also made me stronger, because they’re teaching me to look ahead instead of looking behind.

The word that sticks with me the most is the word I chose as my “purpose keyword” – or what I want to achieve in life. That word is impact. I want to do something larger than myself, and I wanted to start my journey here. I have many concerns about what we do on a daily basis, or what the organization does, but I don’t regret my decision to join the Fellowship. I know it’s only been one year, but there are certainly visible changes in many of the kids. Kids who have started reading, who have started enjoying school, and kids who have begun to truly not just imbibe but practice the values we have been preaching. We certainly take steps back in this cha-cha of sorts, and I’m sure I won’t be there to witness all the impact, but in some ways, it’s more than I imagined could be done in a year. It’s real, tangible progress. It’s progress we saw in numbers, in words, in actions, in expressions. It’s progress that makes you smile through tears and believe that maybe (maybe?) I’m supposed to be here

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