One Year

One year ago, I graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Master of Education in International Education Policy. Floating off stage, I had my dream job, two amazing roommates-to-be, and my favorite US city to move back to. I was ready to begin my eighth year in the US with a bang!

Then, I’d have never believed that in the coming weeks, nothing would go according to plan.

The first couple of weeks back in Germany seemed too light, too happy to be true: I was visiting friends and family all over, back-packed through South East Asia with my best friend, swing-danced all the time, and even indulged in a little summer romance. I was too busy loving life to even notice that my US visa… just never came.

…At first. Then the denial phase began, and I just didn’t want to tell anyone about my prospective job anymore. I still danced, though, and still dreamed a whole lot, too. I was still having the best summer!

And then that day came when my principal-to-be asked me for my paperwork, which I didn’t have, which meant that he had to find a new person for the position middle school social science teacher. I was out of the job, had virtually no clothes or books or life-things here, and was re-entering the life I’d last lived at the age of fifteen. Definitely not the life I’d lived and worked so hard for over the course of seven years.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more lonely than on that day.

And then a truly bizarre little era began: in the last, stunning days of golden summertime, I woke up early in the morning, made tea and read for a few hours, wrote lots of poetry, drove back home, and went to bed early. I spent my days and weeks in a slow trance, barely noticing that time was moving at all.

It was the weirdest thing, not to have a plan, or perspective, or prize to go after. It was also one of the most beautiful times I’ve experienced in this life.

And then things began moving again: On one of the first days of fall, I was casually offered an internship at a social science institute in Bonn …which happens to run the world’s largest longitudinal, cross-sectional, and federally funded study in education. In those same weeks, I joined an English-speaking choir, found three weekly tutees and still danced as often as I could. All of the sudden, my days and bank account were filled again, and the movement felt good! It felt promising.

In January, I was so filled with new energy that I decided to start the year ambitiously: I sent out 21 applications ranging from schools to the UN, made a list of other prospective employers, and got my hopes up. All the way.

…Except that… I just never heard anything back. From any of them. Not even in February, when I travelled to Morocco and decided to start learning Arabic. And not even in March and April, when I was assisting with bookbinding and other arts workshops for refugee and foster kids at the state museum. …Until this month, which I spent working at a shop/factory that only employs adults with disabilities. Only this month, I received a bunch of rejections.

And only one real offer.

I’m now very, very excited to announce that firstly, the romance has turned into a beautiful relationship. Furthermore, for the next two years, I will be a Teach First Fellow in my home state, working at a school where kids need a little extra help. I won’t make much money, but I’ll be living an old dream newly silhouetted: I’ll be active inside the classroom but also within the larger school community—with youth that’s marginalized and left out and mostly not believed in. But one that happens to be the future of this country and Europe and our world.

Things happen—or don’t happen—for reasons veiled to me and us.

And then, all of the sudden, there’s so much new space for creativity, for change, and for clarity. There are times for and of magic.

Tonight, on the eve of my one-year-graduation-anniversary, I toast to you and to this: you guys, it’s only just beginning.