We still don’t know very much about each other, do we?
I haven’t told you this, but I’m a teacher. I teach drama to a bunch of teenagers at a high school in a wonderfully diverse community. It’s super hard, super draining, super challenging, super frustrating and super amazing. I think this is why I haven’t mentioned it before. Nevertheless, It’s difficult to put into words the emotions involved in teaching and in teaching the students at my school. I see these faces everyday; I see their needs, their issues, their problems. I struggle with seeing problems I can’t quite connect to because I didn’t grow up in an environment like theirs, because my skin is a different color than theirs and my parents’ parents’ parents’ parents came to the USA, versus these tangible experiences of immigration. I lament over the barriers ethnicity, language and cultural stigmas place on our abilities to connect, unite, and I am paralyzed by the terrible, awful, and horrendous acknowledgment that these students are still trapped under a glass ceiling. I am helpless often times, little more than providing a word of encouragement, a hug, or a shoulder to cry on and a box of cardboard-like tissues (all our sad public ed. budget can afford). Many days, my job is overwhelming, and if I’m not emotionally broken, my friends are. Unfortunately, we don’t always have someone to provide for us what we offer our students. We feel the reality that our metaphorical cups are emptied on a daily basis, and yet, not daily filled.
And then I go to college.
I’m also a graduate student, and within a year (assuming all goes accordingly, nothing disastrous occurs and the MA gods deem me worthy of a diploma) I will complete my MA in Latin American Studies. I’ve committed my research and writing my thesis on art along the San Diego/Tijuana border. I love it. I love what I study. I love Mexican art – all of it, but primarily contemporary Mexican art. I love meeting artists and feeling inspired by their decisions, actions and the way they use imagery to tell the stories we often times can’t with words. My path from teaching to Mexican art is a funny one, but when I look back, and even as I have looked within, I could see this path shaping. My students have inspired my path to border art, as I have found a beating, pulsating heart in empowering voice. As I have seen my students embrace their cultures and countries with a love and pride I only wish I had for my culture and country, I am drawn, sometimes obsessively and always passionately to this concept of giving a voice to the voice-less. Now, as I write this, I must re-state. Art in Tijuana is huge. Gigantic. A “Cultural Hotbed”. The voice in Tijuana is loud and clear. And yet, right across the border, the nearest neighbor to Tijuana – San Diego, does not know, has not heard nor seen this voice. This intrigues me. Inspires me and alarms me. And I want to help be a change in this border climate. I want to lend my voice to the message and meaning in the visual gifts occurring just south of my seat on this comfy couch in this comfy café.
And here lies the dilemma. I am ready to move on from within the walls of public education in a school district. Yet, I have given my heart to my school and I struggle with the decision to leave. As I project to the future, I see a life removed of the school district, and while I am tickled with excitement, I am heartbroken to leave a community of students and colleagues who have, for the past 5 years, meant the world to me.
In the hopes of alleviating this feeling of a heart pulled in two different directions, I decided to try my hand at homemade pasta.
In my opinion, this seems to be the perfect answer to working out the decision or the emotional struggle of a new life path. I suppose I could have gone to the gym (probably should have gone to the gym), but pasta just seemed so much more appropriate. And tasty.
So I followed Joy the Baker (as always, I’m telling you she is a fount of inspiration), and I began the process of building the circular wall, cracking the eggs into their assigned moat and whisking the concoction into a delightful dough.
Somewhere between getting my hands completely entrenched in flour and egg combination and using a rolling-pin to flatten and straighten this fresh dough, I began to feel the slow release of the intensity in this near future decision. It began with shifting my focus from the fear of saying goodbye to the usual fear I engage in as I approach any new recipe or kitchen technique: there is NO WAY I will be successful at this. I could not foresee a world with homemade pasta made by me (just like I can still not foresee a job that I can label as “meant for me”). However, with head down and conviction high, I pushed my proverbial sleeves up and got to work. My arm and back muscles worked vigorously as I rolled out the dough and my thoughts were running just as vigorously. It was a workout and it was rejuvenating. And the result? The result was homemade pasta. And well, there just isn’t anything like it.
The answer? Well, I don’t have that just yet. But I believe the next step is possible and likely to achieve. I believe this now because I made my pasta, I rolled and rolled and worked and worked, sweating flour and making the kitchen a messy little space to be in. But I accomplished this before seemingly impossible-to-accomplish task. This made me realize that the path my life is on will be attainable. I will find the right words to express the passion in my path and I will work hard to arrive at the place where my gifts and passions are most appropriately used. A release of the past will be difficult but will also result in a new life that feels (and tastes) incredible.