15 years ago, I was sitting in a classroom at Deerlake Middle School, watching endless loops of the same planes crashing into the same towers. A friend, who lived right across the street from the school had said it had happened and none of us believed him. I think it was because, as a young teen (13 to be exact) I believed our country to be somewhat invincible. Something that couldn’t be hurt. That year, 2001-2002, taught me a lot about my perceptions of invincibility. I define that year as less pre and post 9/11 and more pre and post mom, if I’m quite honest. Yes, like everyone, the future was changed by this catastrophic event, but for me, the loss of my mom some seven months later was far more life changing. It’s not to say that 9/11/2001 wasn’t a horrible, sad, transformative day for my future and the future of our country. It’s just to say that, if I had to really balance it in the scales of my own life, it would not be the day that changed me most in that year. That day would be May 23, 2002. Yes, technically that’s the next year, but in a life that has been defined in school years since preschool, it’s hard to break the habit.
This year, 15 years later, I sit in Tucson, Arizona, 1781 miles from the place I grew up, contemplating the changes occurring in my life, my discernment, and what God has planned for me. It’s hard to explain, I feel simultaneously adrift and anchored. It’s hard to explain the loss of the purpose that has defined who I was for the last 10 years. I’m not sure it’s gone for good, but things are already shifting. For the last 10 years, I knew, without a doubt, that I was a music educator. Even in the times where the path muddied, where it seemed impossible to find, with no light to show the way, I knew that’s what I was. What I was going to be. There is most definitely a deep sense of loss, when I see posts of friends discussing their classrooms, talking about “a-ha” moments their students are having, sharing worries and frustrations I, too, had experienced, it’s difficult to understand what it all means. Why it is what it is right now. I’ve been so defined by this one thing, as a student and teacher, for so long that without it, I feel confused and lost.
And at the same time, in working this last week at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, I’ve felt so in place, so alive and overwhelmingly aware of the things I’m working for. I’m working for the chance to help shorten the line. Not just to feed the line. We spend so much time worrying about feeding the line that I think many people forget that we really and truly do need to shorten the line. To some extent, this work is changing my view on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Yes, in a traditional classroom setting, a student cannot learn if they have not had their basic needs met. At the same time, saying we must give food before helping others find a way to sustainably meet the need to have consistently available nutritious food is somewhat self-righteous and self-serving. They have to go hand in hand. And yet, there is another layer, we can give a man a fish while teaching him to fish, but if the man doesn’t have access to a place to fish or the equipment needed to fish, what is the point? It’s something I’m still trying to explore, wrestle with, ponder, notice, and understand. I’m sure that will be part of this year.
In the mean time, I’m also trying to keep the balance of who I am involved. So I found a church choir. And as a result, have found a community choir. It’s kind of a fun story. I was riding home on my bike from Mercado San Augustin, where CFBSA has a Thursday evening farmer’s market, with great live music (the band this week was killer! Great cover band, every single member sang at some point, it was awesome) and great regional food and just an all around cool vibe. So I was planning to ride all the way home (about 5 miles) and go to the church across the street. If you didn’t know, biking and consistent physical activity is pretty new to me (Like, I knew how to ride a bike, but I’ve never done tons of distance etc etc.) so I’d already done about 10 miles that day. Add to that, Tucson is kind of tilted. going East and….North (I think?) it’s a slow but fairly steady incline. That means going West and South is cake. It’s just a constant slow downhill. Getting back though, is hard. So I stopped both to take a minute, cause my legs were jello, like they do after 10 miles when you’re new at it, and to make sure I wasn’t lost (cause that’s happened a few times already) and noticed people getting out of cars and heading into Trinity Presbyterian. So, being extroverted and nosy, I asked what was going on. I was told that it was choir practice (on a Thursday! That was new for me!) and then asked “Do you sing? You should come and sing.” So, I did. I was quickly informed that the choir director was Dr. Bruce Chamberlain of the UofA music school. It was a great rehearsal with music I knew and music I didn’t. At the end, he let me know about the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus that meets on Monday evenings from 700-930 (a time that is very familiar for a rehearsal!) and invited me to come sing with them. They’re doing Ein Deutches Requiem, which I would find difficult to pass up regardless of how much I had on my plate. So in one evening, I found myself back in the heart of what I knew, in a place that was still new, while figuring out what it is that my life will become. It’s truly an odd combination, feeling so at home and yet so displaced at the same time. I just have to keep trusting the process, the path, and all that jazz, that there is something to learn here, something that will help me find what the next step is, in God’s time, and not in mine.
A year of service for a lifetime of change, right? It’s difficult to know what that change is, but I’m sure it’ll come. As always, thanks for reading. If you have the ability to donate towards my year, the info is on the About page, or you can contact me directly for help. I’ll have some fun things being posted in a couple weeks to add to my fundraising efforts. I’d love to write to you, so please, send letters or emails or whatever. I’ve already got a stack I need to send out.
Peace and Love