My time in Baltimore ends tomorrow. Before I left, I wanted to make an itunes mix of music that represented my time in this city, some titles are: a sorta fairytale, one voice, I still believe in love, ella mae, and let go. I think the theme here is something about depressingly uplifting. Take for instance the song ella mae, three grandaughters singing about their grandmother who is near the end of life, but they are remembering all the great things about her, or a sorta fairytale and i still believe in love which are both about the endings of great relationships, that were amazing, but had run the course. So I am starting to think that "depressingly uplifting" may be the theme of my time in Baltimore. There is no doubt that I could have become depressed this year, and in years past, I probably would have. I had a high stress internship, had aweful car and financial issues, i was single (not the norm for me), and had relational issues that took me down a somewhat painful path of self-reflection. One lyrical line that came out in my time here that expresses my mindset is, "Have you ever wondered, what it's like to shed your skin? There's a snake out in a desert son saying how can something so painful, be so fun?" It was like, in every set back, there was some lesson/experience to be joyous about...like my car breaking down in bumblefuck, ohio (it's a real place). I was scooting along the road at 5miles/hr, tears were beginning to form in my eyes, but at the same time I was laughing at the comedy of the entire situation. And then I played a song for Carl the mechanic as he worked on my car (to no avail, mind you) And the end of the day, all I could think is, well...atleast my life's not boring. Or in my work with the kids. On more than one occasion they referred to their hearts being broken, either through art work or when listening to music. As in, Me-"what do you like about this song" Kid-"Well, she has a broken heart, just like me" The broken heart that they are referring to is not like the one that I had when ian sando dumped me through a note in 7th grade and I cried in Mr. Mylan's science class. The broken heart that these kids have are profound and there is no other way to put it. Profound. And my compassion is strong but in the end and am SO grateful that I have NEVER felt the pain of a profoundly broken heart. And it isn't the type of gratefulness that shreaks "Adele, look how bad their lives are, what is the matter with you, get over yourself, your problems are so small." It is genuine gratefullness in knowing that I have been(and still am) loved...profoundly. I hope i shared that with them and the love was like little stitchlets to their hearts. And maybe even little lights of recognition of the love they deserve. And the last song that I have on my mix is Nina Simone's "Baltimore" which begins: Beat up little seagull On a marble stair Tryin' to find the ocean Lookin' everywhere Hard times in the city In a hard town by the sea Ain't nowhere to run to There 'aint nothin' here for free Well, the lessons for me definitely weren't free...but I ain't no beat up little seagull. And while the harbor was nice, the next ocean breeze is going to be blowin' my way from the west! Farewell Baltimore!
Rewind back to 5th grade when I marched my little self-righteous butt down to the pricipal's office to tell him that I didn't feel the black children were being treated fairly in my classroom
Rewind back middle school whend I stood up for the girl who was crying when she was being made fun of in the locker room
Rewind to High School when I joined in making fun of the "wierd" girl who sat across from me and my "cool" friends in History class. Then rewind to summer break from college when my mother informed me that one of my classmates had died. I looked her up in the yearbook and saw the same face that I caused pain just to be cool for a day. The obituary said that her mother had died from cancer when she was in HS, which I made so much easier for her.
On my 20th birthday I travelled to the Dominican Republic for a study service term. I worked and lived in a very poor shanty town at the near by Episcopal school. I worked with the 5 year olds, they looked cute and were cute, except when they were biting kicking screaming spitting or hitting. The other teacher, my host sister, used corpral punishment by the minute, hitting them with sticks, belts, and rulers. I was in shock for about a week and just tried to counter her hitting with something gentle. The 2nd-3rd week I stole her belts, sticks, and rulers, broke them over my legs and threw them out the window when she wasn't looking. The 4th week I wrote a song in horrible spanish about Jesus and how Jesus doesn't hit and wants us to be good friends, and I taught it to all the kids. The 5th week overwhelmed by the fact that I couldn't control the kids like the other teachers because I didn't hit them, I started to think maybe I could comply with some corpral punishment, but just do it in a more controlled and better way. That week as I was trying to make a kid stay in time out, I pushed his shoulders down as I felt the seductive need for power and control starting in my gut, as I pushed him down his chin hit a metal bar. I immediately walked away disappointed and shocked with myself. I lost my integrity.
What is most disappointing about this experience for me is that I didn't speak up when my heart was yelling at me, "this doesn't feel right." Not only did I not speak but I took action to conform to something that didn't feel natural to me and I ended up losing myself. The main reason I didn't speak was because I was cautious of being the "white American outsider" who comes in for a couple months, tells everyone what they are doing wrong and then leaves. I felt aplogetic for who I was and that kept me from speaking my mind. This experience comes back to haunt me every few months. I keep a picture of those kids and I review their names every 6 months as I feel it is the least I can do.
I have used my voice in a variety of ways, like in the scenarios I began with, sometimes my voice is in direct correlation with my heart...and other times it is not. Most people can relate to this. And for the times that I haven't spoken, it's been out of fear or rejection, or fearing how I may be percieved. If I am speaking the words that are in correlation with my heart though, I never need to apologize for what I say or feel silenced. I think there is a deep sense of peace when we learn to recognize those moments when our hearts are aligned with our voices and we learn to trust ourselves.