Everyone Feels Awful All of the Time

There is a certain amount of denial and narcissism-via-optimism to think you can change the world with two years, fifty-six students, and zero experience, but there was never any way to finish what I signed up for without it. 

Today, I told someone that the only way to get better at teaching something is to let it be bad the first time you do it. Granted, today, with yoga, the stakes are a tad lower than then, with remedial, inner-city, fifth grade. I do wish someone had told me how bad I was going to be at it, though. Actually, they did, and I didn’t listen. I wish someone told me how that was going to feel, then. 

It has always stuck with me, except for the exact period of time it would have been useful to remember, that one of my college professors said, “The world is run by C students.” Because I am an A student. And what it feels like to fail at something when you have never failed at anything on the inside of a classroom before is that dream you have when everyone needs your attention, but the floor keeps moving so you have no footing, and also something is bleeding pretty bad. 

At our pre-induction week in Chicago, we had a mixer wherein alums told us their experience. Most of them ended their speeches with some positive charge. Some form of, “important work lies ahead and you can do it.” Somewhere in the middle, an alum got up and told us this was all terrible and we were going to hate it. 

“Your kids are going to hate you. They will yell at you, they will ignore you, and you won’t get through a lesson,” she said. She talked about the violence in her school, about how she didn’t always feel safe. She seared us with eye contact and flatly reassured us that everyone feels awful, all of the time. 

We stood there, awkwardly sipping our drinks and looking down at our name tags, filled out in marker and smiley faces. She left the stage in ringing silence. Two weeks later, we flew out to Los Angeles for training and tried it out ourselves, promptly wishing she had come with us to give a heads-up on the fresh terror of each new day. 

I have never cried so many times as those six weeks in LA, closely rivaled by my first six months in Chicago, second only due to the survival mode that kicked in with the flying chairs around week three. Denial got me in and denial would get me out. 

It’s the promise of success that an A student believes in as lord and savior. The light that gets in to the locked up rooms of America’s shame will bring redemption. One student, three students, seven, dream big for fourteen, souls who weren’t shaped for college are now risen to new heights. 

And then, you suck at this. The floor keeps moving and someone is bleeding and which face needs the most attention? Even tucked into a fold of the world that no one cares to dust, failure brings a searchlight and an audience of fifty-six.