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Rainy Inquiries Revived

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Back to the upper left with much more left.

Last year was the year of paper clips, this year it’s rubber bands. I feel unorganized unless I have something to bind me together. Thoughts, goals, hurt, joy, and yes, paper. Living in Chicago and working at a high school, my paper clips could have been endless and I would have still been off. I wasn’t myself, but then again it’s hard to fathom who I was trying to be. Do you remember who you were prior to striving to be somebody else? I guess my journey to Chicago and back was in search of that question. And it can’t end now. I am indeed back in Seattle, working a very different job, glad to have a life here again. But the questions don’t cease, they renew with an altered context.

I use rubber bands now because I carry incredible amounts of material. Part of my new position is to inform students about college. And college is only partially exciting via voice. Pictures are imperative, maybe a few bullet pointed words. I travel to high schools, present some information, ask and answer questions, and then it’s on to the next one. I’ll clarify all this; the rubber band motif‘s place in my transition back the Northwest, and what I need to fasten together now. I’m still confused, still searching, still grateful. Hopefully this intro is as melancholy as I intend it to be. But there is no use in taking myself too seriously, so the mood’ll shift.

Last time we spoke summer was in full force, especially in Chicago. Due to the city’s elongated cold and hot seasons, the period of sun lasted extra long this year given that I returned to Seattle in July. I felt like a college sophomore transferring from a semester school to one that operates on quarters for my junior year. The summer (uncomfortable Midwestern heat) came early, and it persisted (albeit more Seattle subtly) until mid-fall. Seasons have since been jumbled in my mind as the cloth backdrop from which I re-knit my life here. A (second) cross-country trip in the Corolla journey begun this climate clutter, presenting me exhibits A and on via window views from Kansas, Colorado, and Utah, to name a few. It was foggy when we rolled into the Pacific Northwest, the deep greens seeming to doubly show off their hue of comfort because we needed it. The very highway I lived blocks from in Chicago ends in Seattle, and struck me as a coincidence. As I-90 concluded, I stepped into a restored existence in Seattle.

For a month Francesca and I subletted an apartment together from friends as we respectively searched for housing arrangements for the year. Things started to fall in place, and I was offered a spot in a homey triplex in Madison Valley that has been passed-down through my friend group over the years. Transitioning into the life of a non-student Seattleite wouldn’t have made sense without a house a bit away from campus, so I gladly accepted. Nevertheless, I still went to campus daily throughout summer, to begin my new position in Admissions. I learned about the office culture, my responsibilities as a Counselor, and got reacquainted with the interworkings of the institution I call my alma mater. Almost immediately I was given my ‘territory’, which fittingly turned out to Southern California and Tacoma, where the vast majority of my family are. I started to plan my fall travel, the first segment of the cyclical job description. I engaged in hundreds of email exchanges with high school counselors setting up dates and times for me to visit and share information about Seattle U. I sent and received these emails via the use of two computer screens! While this might mean I am moving up in the world, I still use a flip phone. In time I’ll get with the times.

Soon enough I was packing for one and two week trips in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and plenty of smaller regions within these. These trips were jam packed with various interactions with young people in classroom presentations, via coffee shop interviews, and at high school gymnasium college fairs. Leaving fancy hotels in rental cars to visit mainly not-so-low-income schools is a bit different than last year’s forty-five minute El train commute to a ten hour work day in a cramped public building. It’s different than any lifestyle than I’ve ever had, and I question the amount of impact I am having compared to my past work. But comparing jobs on a social justice spectrum will only drive my crazy. I have to root my life in gratitude, the only genuine basis for vocational motivation that I can find. I am gaining a new lens in the field that most intrigues me, an immense privilege for an inexperienced twenty-something.

Let’s get back to the rubber bands. When I travel for this job I must be prepared for any scenario. I could walk into a school and be faced with a pimply crowd of 50, eager to hear tips and tricks on how to stand out in the college application process. Or conversely I could find myself silently sitting in a swallowing sofa in a College Counseling office as I’m gifted apologies for the absence of students. My bundles of brochures don’t know the difference. Most often I pass out a few tri-folds and talk over their mental chatter of perusal, hoping to grab their attention with a specific academic major or Seattle city perk. These students want to learn about what is out there. They sit in front of me and listen, something that I needed to get used to after last year! My new students put in the effort to sign up for my presentation and to come prepared with questions, actions that I admire from high schoolers. I certainly was not conversing with Admissions representatives about their institution’s Middle 50% of SAT scores during my college search. (I rather engaged in substantial Google inquiries guided toward the existence and/or level of tennis programs.) But it all comes back around. I wouldn’t appreciate the choices of these students the same if I didn’t help students through this very process on the opposite end the past few years.

After seven or eight weeks of university outreach trips in California and Washington, I settled back in for the second phase of this job. Once students hear from us, or more often they hear from the Internet, they decide whether to apply. Who better to read those applications that the folks visiting the high schools? So I mapped out my schedule to spend a few days a week reading files. It’s quite strange to spend a full workday in my basement bedroom, sitting in a certain position of power. I survey the character and values—and some numbers in between—of our applicants, ultimately coming to a decision for each individual. I determine this via personal statements, letters of recommendation, transcripts, standardized tests, the whole deal. While it can be grueling to read around 40 applications per day, I have found beauty in this stage of my work. It’s a pleasure to meet someone at their school, evoke excitement in them about SU so that they want to apply, and then find that their emotions were real. It’s of course a large responsibility and requires good judgment, so I am thankful that I am honing those skills and plenty more at this time. In total I read 350+ apps in the fall, and am slated to have at least double that for the rest of the reading season. I might need to get a more cushioned chair than a basic wooden one that an old friend left in my house accidentally. It has recently been chipping as I spend more time in its creaky crutches.

I have enjoyed the linear relationships I’ve maintained throughout the fall and into the application period of the winter. And these will only continue. I receive thank you emails often from students and parents alike who are glad to have support. While I am not teaching and getting to know students on a deep level, I am glad to have some contact with their educational lives. It takes me back to last year, as I sat with seniors in Chicago discussing their academic fate for the next four years. I miss this setting, the fast pace of a bell schedule and the lovable angst of kids who won’t admit they’d like to learn from you. Or maybe I miss the idea of it—the timeless perplexion of past or future grass shining as a greener mirage. I’ve surely fallen into this. Maybe I would rather use paper clips to bind permission slips than rubber bands to fasten a bundle of business cards. But maybe not, and maybe is kinda my most-used qualifier these days. Maybe I’ll go back to Chicago at some point, maybe I’ll get a position later in life where I get to speak more Spanish, maybe I have to get comfortable with maybe. And really, what can I do? Career is a longer word than its average letter amount leads on. All I can do is listen and learn and thank.

This phase of life has given me more space to be a balanced person. If you follow my Internet ramblings at all you might recall my obsession with the concept. ‘I don’t feel balanced, what is wrong with the way I’m doing existence?’, and other naive sweet nothings. So this year—especially with twenty fif conveniently new to be happening—I am doing it better. I am biking more, playing more sports, calling my grandfather more often, getting into arugula more, intentionally remembering my mom more, seeing more live music, and reading so much. I may still nurse a blog post for close to half a year, but I’m replacing my literary divulgences with words that sell so people can live. I read three books in January, so very pleased to carve out time in my weeks to coffee stain pages and pen scribble in the margins. For some reason, though, I still struggle with fiction; reality just, like, totally gets my brain to, like, engage. I’ve been trading nights that I previously would’ve filled with consumption or sleep for good music and a book. Everything seems so simple within this artful marriage. Book suggestions? Let me know, and I’ll get to it for you and for me.

Winter in this city is almost more moody. Chicago is certainly colder but folks seem to expect it, while Seattle seems to be surprised every year that it’s sad. A communal sadness that people joke about sharing stirs about this metropolis every dry and windy night. Usually it’s damp and barely west-coast-cold, so the melancholy is real, yet it doesn’t sweep through the city but every week or so. It’ll hit you at work at 12:40 PM on Tuesday, the most hopeless physical time aside from Sunday evening right after dusk. I’ve admittedly intellectualized seasonal sadness with people around me, and come to realize that while on the surface it makes you feel down, you are present to emotion and therefore living out the intentionality of your own self. But its negativity can be nonsense—folks in the upper left love moods like this, when the Midwest doesn’t even like to hug. I’m back in the city that most resonates with my spirit, participating in the passively self-collapsing collective pursuit of the feel.

I’ve also returned with a more experience-based context of my overlapping privileges. Especially in light of recent public unveilings of race-based intuitional oppression, I work to be aware of my words, body, and gut actions. I won’t write a position piece here, because the historic voice of my identities has lived the unearned right to walk away when it’s done explaining opinions. People are hurting and we must listen, and furthermore, hear. I have been coming back to an influential essay the past few months on the concept of White Fragility, partially dealing with the acknowledgement that when white people stumble with race-relations (mostly always), there is a hurt that comes over us. ‘How might I not be right about this?’ and ‘Why do I feel low from the slightest uncomfort?’ and ‘My goodness imagine the depravity of living this daily’. Inspired by a surge of an Audre Lorde type of erotic as power (as much as I can comprehend this), I am working to philosophize less and physically thrive in the discomfort that I rarely feel due to my kaleidoscopic privileges (male, white, cis, abled-bodied, straight, economic, etc.). It’s not about me, so I need to make mistakes to understand. Taking the small power in recognition and transforming it into a spirit of vulnerability opens up my jaded worldview. It’s a start, and these long sentences make even less sense in my head. I’m trying.

That quick interlude of sometimes I wish I was still in college is brought to you by momentary heady quills by a human with more time to think than usual. I like it mostly, but fear that I am appropriating the lived experiences of other people as objects of academia. At least I know the reason for this is the heavy dose of metacognition (thinking about thinking) I was spoon fed in college. You’ve felt it too. When you are reading and look up from your book to stare, what comes across your mind? You drift into a pause of where your mind once resided, partly to procrastinate and partly to desperately connect the book to your life. That space seems to always be fleeting, but catches us at our most genuine selves, which is quite eloquent given that we are motionless but feel as if we’re moving. And then you wake up and smile as you realize how much effort the barista just put into mocha coffee art. I wonder if this café requires a bathroom key.

I begun with office supply jargon and motif promises and have hopefully not swerved enough to miss my point. We all have the tools to be content, and it just so happens that my kit is more of an idea database. People here surround me with their own realities, and the way I overlap with them provides learned experience. I cannot pretend to be fully equipped to handle all that is thrown my way. Being with others, though, provides context, and there are some good others here. I admit to feeling aimless at times, likely due to life’s fading timestamps once there is no degree or end date in sight. I therefore am putting effort into defining the airspace that has always had a name. I am feeling more bound by the qualitative, and trying to devalue emphasis on tangible constraints. Maybe staples will be next, but I cannot know until I write the pages that will write me back. I’ve only tasted a few chapters, and need some more time to learn my options before I choose my next adventure.

P.S. I started another weird blog, for fotos and new music: http://batiquitos.tumblr.com

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The classroom in all its unrefined glory.

Staying true to my regular digital frequency, it’s been quite some time since I have written you. Since the last time, though, I haven’t neglected this forum of reflection. I have simply been occupied doing, thinking, and feeling the things about which I will now write. I’ll have you know that I have dreamed up this post for months, but am just sitting down to write it. Please excuse my absence from the keyboard and take the following too many paragraphs as a reimbursement for your readership.

We last spoke in December. I was home in Encinitas enjoying a sunny holiday season with family and friends. I updated you on my life in Chicago—my woes and joys but mostly everything in between. Six or so months after the fact, I have more to share. I am not quite sure the best way to capture this period within a reasonable word count, so I figure a timeline might suit. What follows is a brief highlight reel from a confused post-graduate living the teacher life.

January was cold, almost as cold as February. The exact dates I cannot recall, but on two separate occasions, school was cancelled due to weather. Not for snow; Chicago does snow well. Streets are plowed before the more obscure bus lines even start running. But the cold, that’s something different. You might have read an article this winter about the Mid West’s freak ‘polar vortex’ weather patterns. Beyond the apocalyptic labels the skies were given, the reality was that it was simply too cold for skin to touch the air. The high school I work for called off classes due to the fact that it would be too dangerous to get there. What? That can’t be right, said the West Coast transplant perplexed by the necessity to wear the same coat five months out of the year. In a way, though, it wasn’t that bad to me. While Chicagoans moaned about the ridiculous temperatures, I thought this was all normal for the region, and I was ready for anything. Also this month, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of attending a Chicago Bulls game. The child me might not have been satisfied, as Michal Jordan didn’t work his magic before my eyes. But let’s be honest; just getting to see the house that Michael built was quite the treat. I still hold true that my MJ poster will be displayed in every room I call mine for quite some time.

At the midway point in the year my students knew what I expected in class, but continued to seem oblivious. Did they have ears and eyes to hear and see what was acceptable in the classroom, you ask? Well of course, they had those at their disposal all year. But the application of something like respect is entirely different than simply reading it on a syllabus. Each day to date I have wondered how to reach whatever part of their brains holds logic in order crank up the volume a bit. But as I mentioned in my last post, kids will be kids. I had to be lacking some of my own logic to think that I could teach freshmen boys without some behavior and effort problems. I was glad to be back in the classroom with them, even though they might have urged the sprouting of a few gray hairs.

January we began on a unit on selflessness, exploring a wide variety of topics. We read about and discussed the importance of community-based organizations to prepare for a service learning project. And the tangible result was something to be proud of. I somehow managed to get twenty or so teenagers to get up early on a Saturday to volunteer at a local community center on the far South Side. We helped with an extremely well attended event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. My students ran events for kids like the Frisbee throw, the hula-hoop contest, and mini golf. They aided the program director in event operations and they shagged basketballs for the three-point contest. And their favorite part? A free late lunch after a day’s work. Back in class we discussed the importance of service and thinking outside of ourselves. One of my favorite topics of the unit included environmentalism—boy oh boy were my guys surprised when they calculated their carbon footprints. We concluded January ready to enter our unit on faith.

The motto for the non-profit organization I work for is ‘We Believe’. We believe so much that each morning our 500ish students recite a creed that begins and ends with the vague phrase. But Mr. Rapp, what exactly do we believe in? My students followed the instruction to say the creed (most of the time), but they didn’t know why. Or really care. So in class I thought I’d help develop some of their beliefs. We explored the importance of having values and things/people/ideas to have faith in. I steered away from teaching religion, what most of my students thought our conversations would be about. We rather focused those elements of life that are uncertain, and that necessitate faith in something. I refer, for example, to the educational future of my students, or weather or not they would have bus fare tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, my guys came up with a wealth of personal eightfold paths (for some reason they never got my Zen references). They showed me—but mostly themselves—that they really do have beliefs. They just needed some guidance to have their faiths take shape.

I also picked up the reward field trip circuit again in February. Amidst the abundant snow, I gathered a group to take to a roller derby. And let me tell you, witnessing a group of teenage boys watch a viscous, all-female roller derby was quite the sight. This was a calculated choice, so I could just shut up and let these badass women explain to my boys the presence of strong female individuals. The culture of my school is hyper masculine. Not only do (many) students respect the authority of men more than women, their (many students’) speech about women is degrading and disrespectful. This triggers a need for a much longer post, and a conversation that I, a privileged white man, should not lead. So my idea was to show a bunch of athletes to my students who defy their (generally) limited scope of what a female body should do, say, and look like. I’m not sure if the message got across, as they were too focused on their cheese fries. Well, I tried.

Every Thursday after school I continued to hold tennis practice until 6 pm. Due to the mountains of fluffy water outside, we stuck with indoor ping-pong until April. Each week I had at least 15 kids come out, who all seemed excited to get out on the courts in the spring. So I was very motivated to get everything in order to make real tennis happen for them. I recruited a couple awesome teachers to be assistant coaches, ordered equipment with donated money from a local charitable foundation, and locked down practice times at some university courts five blocks from the school. More on this in a few paragraphs—I think I’ll try to stick to the timeline to give me at least some structure for this elongated, single-spaced madness.

The very start of spring meant that seniors began to hear back from colleges and universities to which they applied. Our organizational tagline is that 100% of our seniors gain acceptance to college, so the excitement was just beginning! Early in the fall I took it upon myself to volunteer in the College Counseling Department. Throughout the first semester I stopped in for a few periods a day, helping students write their personal statements and speaking with them about options. By spring I became a mainstay in the office, and posed as another college counselor. I often met with parents about financial aid, called universities to clarify application status, filed information on our online database, tracked down students to chat, and the like. I also gained an incredible mentor who had been there a few years. Under her leadership I learned the ins and outs of the college application process, and oh so much more. Furthermore, working in different capacities in the same building allowed me the space for vocational exploration. I realized midyear sometime that what I am passionate about is college. I loved college, and I want folks from all walks of life to have access to it (if they so desire). Needless to say, I learned more than I could imagine in this facet of my work this year. I was even offered the position of College Counselor next year, but more on my upcoming plans a bit later.

March marked our class unit on solidarity, a beautiful concept to explain to these youngsters. The central class project, which took a few weeks to complete, was the creation of public service announcements. I figured my dudes had heard enough of me leading Socratic seminars, group brainstorms, and reflective writing. I gave each of my periods the assignment to come up with a one minute PSA somehow approaching the notion of solidarity. They were to work together to write, act in, film, edit, and produce the short video. I wanted to serve solely as the cameraman, but most of their storylines included parts for Mr. Rapp, so I reluctantly played along. This project took a bit of effort to get them going, and to steer them away from only want to film themselves playing basketball, but after a certain point I just sat back and watched. I was very proud of their self-sufficiency and creativity, and the outcome was pure and organic youth art. The viewing party in class brought many a prideful smile to their faces; they had done it all on their own. If you have a few minutes to spare, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnyGuLUg7y0.

Toward the end of March Francesca and I took a trip to Minneapolis, MN. Our primary reason for the excursion was an accepted students day at the University of Minnesota. She had applied to five graduate schools across the nation in the fall. Because her brains are huge, she got into each one. Her top two choices were Minnesota and the University of Washington, so we naturally had to check out the outdoorsy, mini Midwestern metropolis. A Friday off work felt real good, and getting to see a new city was refreshing. We explored the much-more-palatable-than-Chicago city via public transit, enjoyed some local beer, and saw the Lakers get destroyed by the Timberwolves. I love to see Los Angeles teams lose. The accepted students day was an impressive event, and for a while, Francesca was considering it. But ultimately she decided that she’d like to experience graduate school in Seattle. She starts on her Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington in the fall! It’s been a fun ride to support her in the application and decision process this year; it’s only just begun.

After a weekend away from Chicago, it was nice to come back and feel at least a few shards of sunshine. That following weekend I took my kids bowling for a reward field trip. I think they had a good time, for maybe an hour. But again, they got bored easily and found joy in their food. This time it was subpar pizza and French fries so obviously from a frozen bag. I hold true, however, that these outings weren’t about luxury, but relationships. It was such a privilege to show these guys parts of their own city they had never thought of. There is no better way to build bonds of trust than time spent outside of the classroom. So I packed kids in my car, time and time again.

Next up: potentially my proudest accomplishment this year. I created a tennis program! At the last practice mid-June, about 14 young studs played against each other in various games and drills, honing their grasp of every tennis shot in the book. Let me back up a bit. It started with recruiting students in the late winter. It was known that I ran ping-pong in the fall semester, which was quite popular. But actual tennis required a permission slip signature and some real commitment from the kids. So I had to sell it. In the announcements section of an all-school assembly, I got on the mic to speak about my dream of playing college basketball. I said that I love the game, and when I was their age, it was what I lived for. I said I was point guard for my high school team (giggles from the crowd), but I just couldn’t make it to the college level (most faces saying, ‘duh’). I said I was too short—vertically challenged if you will (laughing at me). It’s true, but I didn’t get too down because I had more than one option. I said I was lucky to be turned on to tennis at an early age, and with some hard work, I was eventually offered a scholarship to play in college (claps and cheers). I said you never know what will happen if you diversify your activities (now getting my drift). I said that they better listen when teachers come up to the stage and introduce new activities for them to participate in. I said you never know what will be your ticket to college, or even the pros (smiles and nods). Whether it’s slam poetry, chess, debate, tennis, or anything else, consider it. I then held up some permission slips and said to stop me in the hallway to get one. From there the team was born. I got a slew of kids interested in playing, and in early April we had our first practice.

Come April 10th it was sunny enough to get the kids on the courts. I organized a twenty-seater to pick us up and take us 5 minutes down the street to the Illinois Institute of Technology tennis courts. I plopped a bag of tennis rackets, three hoppers of balls, and some water bottles into the van. I waited outside the front door as kids poured out of school, and I directed to them to the van. The first week 16 kids showed up; 0 of whom had stepped on a court before. I started with the basics, and each week they became more comfortable with their rackets. We played weekly for two months (with varying student attendance; anywhere between 3 and 15 guys on a given day). Every time out I was more impressed with their natural ability and passion for something so new to them. I didn’t quite turn out any superstars (yet), but if some of them keep with it, their game will elevate quickly. The last week of school I launched the tennis racket summer loan program, so the young men could play on their own over their summer break. I also passed off the team to a trusted teacher in the building for next year. I am incredibly proud to have started something out of thin air—I created a unique opportunity for kids to play tennis who otherwise would not have had the chance.

I realize this is getting long, but stick with me. I am already into spring and it just became summer in real life (as opposed to cheesy, reflective blogpost life). During Spring Break my father came to visit Chicago. In a nutshell, it was super cool to show him my new life and the city in which I learned so much this year. I took him to virtually every pocket of the Chicagoland area, from baseball games to comedy shows to taco shops to the Sears Tower. (Oh, and if you haven’t heard, he just (deservingly) landed an awesome new job. He is now running San Dieguito Tennis Club and he loves it. Shout out to Pops.). Back at school, I ended up taking the leadership role of Testing Supervisor for a state-standardized testing session. It’s a long story, but basically, nobody else was going to do it, so I did. Experience running testing? Nope. Knowledge of operations and/or staff management? Nah. But it went well, and it confirmed that I have the capacity to lead in areas that I am not comfortable. This year gave me the confidence to push myself to my profession limits—good things come when your best judgment is your gut. I didn’t know what I was doing most of the year, but failure and feeling uncomfortable were central to my plan. Whether it was starting a tennis program, running testing operations, or daring to talk to my students about their romantic lives, I thrusted myself into the oceans of the pleasant unknown. I like to think I made a splash.

By the month of May, Spring was in full force, meaning that it hadn’t snowed for three weeks. It was even nice enough outside to throw a BBQ in Francesca’s front yard, complete with coworkers and friends we had acquired throughout the year. Two weeks before senior graduation Francesca and I took a brief trip to see her parents in Kansas, which gave me the energy to finish the year strong. For my last field trip I took another student group to play some mini golf on the North Side, which they enjoyed for about five holes, then resorted to taking selfies for their Instagram pages. In class we concluded with a unit on the concept of integrity, during which I attempted to get in my last pieces of advice before my students became sophomores. But alas, it was time to retire my folder of class lessons. This year I brought a red, Seattle University folder every single day to class. It held that day’s lesson plans, class materials, soon-to-be-given passes to the Dean’s office, and ever other piece of paper a teacher should have close by. At this point the folder barely survives. After the daily wear and tear of life as a first-year teacher, I am sure Big Red is glad to be done. And I am too; my class was a blast. It was easily the hardest thing I have ever done in my professional life. I entered this job not wanting to become a teacher, and I leave with the same position on the matter. But especially because I come from a family of educators, I think everyone should teach at some point. Not solely in the traditional classroom, but just teach in some way. I was open with my students about my wide variety of interests, and that I was mainly there to get to know them. I hope they appreciated this potentially light-hearted approach to mentorship; I guess time will tell.

We closed the academic season with year-end celebrations and a successful finals week. I attended commencement for the seniors on June 14th—a very fancy event at the Civic Opera House downtown. This year marks the fifth straight year that 100% of our graduates have been accepted to college. And even more inspiring, this is the eighth year of the organization’s existence, meaning that the first cohort of alumni graduated college this spring! What’s more, four of these very special college graduates will be returning to their high schools to work in the same capacity that I have this year. Our mission to get young Black men to and through college is coming full circle. Here’s to those very young Black men supporting their younger brothers in accomplishing what the rest of the world doesn’t think is possible.

So what’s next for me? I’m glad you didn’t ask until the last paragraph of my imaginary timeline, as I just figured it out last week. Francesca and I are moving back to Seattle to be with friends and family. We are so, so ready to return. She begins grad school in September and I start a new job in a few weeks! I was just hired by Seattle University to be an Admissions Counselor for my very own alma mater. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to get started. And I guess that’s it for now. If you skipped from the first paragraph down to the last to avoid eye damage, here is the gist of what I wrote. I did a lot this year, learned even more, and felt a plethora of emotions through it all. The most pervasive: gratitude. I am so thankful for the chance to have lived and worked in Chicago for a year. It truly proved to be a shake-up of my overwhelmingly privileged life, and I will not be able to forget it any time soon. I have developed a special love for the young people I came into contact with, and I plan to be that big brother figure from afar. It is time for me to turn the page, but I am glad that I wrote this last chapter in sharpie. The ink is bleeding through and I cannot help but keep my first post-grad year as a reference for the upcoming years. I came into my perspective of Chicago through the lens of angsty teenagers from the South Side. I now come out of the year happy to have had it this way, and thirsty for more candid knowledge from the next place I land. As one of my students so eloquently put in a reflection paper this semester, “The environment around you makes you the person you are. It is the place that develops you.”

As always, I thank you for reading through my latest novel of run-on sentences. I hope to write more next school year, about my return to Seattle and my experiences in a very different line of work. Happy summer to all, and to all a well-deserved rest from looking at my words on a computer screen. Hugs.

Service Learning Project

Service Learning Project

Pizza as deep as the snow

Pizza as deep as the snow

Dad visitz

Dad visitz

A different kind of court for these dudes

A different kind of court for these dudes

Mr. Johnson is now a Sophomore!

Lazell, happy to become a Sophomore

The Current Normal

R1-04393-000APublic transit-ion into worklife.

When I was living in Perú I wrote a bulleted blog post that summed up my international realizations. I wrote about the cultural differences between Lima and the United States, what I had come to perceive as normal. At times I feel like I am studying abroad all over this year. No, I’m not swimming in another language daily, or traversing the lower half of the continent. But I am in a completely different region and a renewed headspace. My everyday looks different than it ever has, and I feel the need to expound upon this mosaic. While this post is of the ‘life update’ form, I ask you to consider it a type of cultural explanation slash personal ethnography. I not only refer to Chicago culture here, but the sights and sounds of post-graduate confusion, and lessons from a quick immersion into the working world. Welcome to the wordy version of my brainwaves, which I now will attempt to untangle.

Firstly, my job has become my life. Even when I want to focus on personal matters, my students pop into my mind. So of course I must mention them up front. These kids have weaseled their ways into my heart. As I will reveal, they are a challenging bunch of work partners, but I’ve grown incredibly fond of them. Two weeks ago they took their finals exams. The young men showed up for two to three exams per day, and then graciously accepted early dismissal. This was the most relaxed week I had worked since August. In comparison with finals week, a regular day is comprised of oh so much more.  More kids, more attitude, more barriers, more questions, more stress, more emails, more uncertainty, and more smiles. We start each morning with an assembly called ‘Community’—a time for handshakes, check-ins, and announcements. I find it refreshing to have time for solidarity each morning as an entire school. But my students have a different outlook, taking Community to be naptime or social hour. It’s my duty to make sure all my students are quietly attentive and respectful of everyone around them; yeah right. I point to my ear lobes often and simply mouth, “Just listen.” You see, my students are at an age with an I-centered worldview; guidance from adults doesn’t fall under their definition of logical. But these twenty-five minutes can determine the success of the school day, the breakfast to their academic workday. Ready as I can be for the day ahead, I walk with the students out of the auditorium.

As the day inches on, I spend a fair amount of time in my closet of an office. The five other Fellows and I share a desk-filled space in which to take refuge from the classroom. I typically grade papers, plan upcoming lessons, and make phone calls to students’ parents. Being in one building all day is a strange experience still, as just six months ago I led a locationally mobile college lifestyle. Needless to say I get distracted, and can drift into self-reflective thinking. I often sit in front of my computer contemplating why I chose to do this work. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t question my abilities, skills, and patience. I am doing the work in front of my face, but I’m not sure I am doing it particularly well. Whirling thoughts that I am inadequate to handle these children combine with the exhaustion of my schedule. I replay yesterday’s lesson in my head trying to think of ways to improve. I linger on the negatives and quickly forget the things I am accomplishing. At some point, though, my reflections typically turn me back to reality. I am not supposed to be good at this right away, and there is a reason I signed up for this. I recognize my tendency to dichotomize the effort I put into this job with the output of success (and the confusion of what ‘success’ amounts to). I’m not sure of exactly what I am striving for, so my ideal of a good day is instantly flawed by my inexperience. However, I know simply showing up to school has an impact, despite my potentially grandiose intentions. I approach the ever-present mental struggle to accept these truths daily, searching for pockets of peace throughout the day.

I noted in an earlier post that I took this job partly so I could know how to deal with failure. I knew I was stepping into this position as a non-Chicago native with little teaching experience. I knew the students were going to be a handful, and that they are in the most need of guidance and mentorship. I knew the daily schedule requires close to ten hours and a public transit commute. I wanted all of this. Now I’m not sure I want it anymore. Did I really think that I could make a meaningful and transformative relationship with each one these kids? Was I convinced that my idealized White savior appearance would make immediate change? Did I think my life would be as full in a new city with difficult work and a packed schedule? I guess the answer is no for all three. While I think I’ve stayed relatively humble throughout this process, I have been even more humbled by this lifestyle and the lives that I attempt to touch daily. It is nowhere near easy to taste the opposite of success. When in the midst of struggle, the perspective of the pessimist emerges eagerly. But with continual reflection, and the faith that my small tokens of effort will add up, I push on through this experience. Regarding the topic sentence of this paragraph, I’ve definitely chalked up some days as losses. But one beauty of working with youth is that their memories are as short as their attention spans. And if they forget about a lesson-gone-wrong, then I certainly can come into the classroom the next day like I know exactly what I’m doing.

I’ve developed a consistent routine for lesson planning and implementation in the classroom. I spend most of the weekend channeling ideas for class, and do my best to put them into real life during the week. I have taken my students through a couple of units since the last time I wrote to you, namely Resilience & Relentlessness and Accountability. I am told to generally stick to these ideas—which mirror the Eight Core Values of the organization—and steer the class wherever I see fit. For those of you that know my writing and can foresee my ideas for a life-skills class, this is an opportunity for me to be cliché everyday! Just kidding (not really), but I do get to profess whatever I want to these kids and hope they listen. I tend to seek student engagement, class discussions, guided writing, and most of all, questions. I want my students to ask why I am telling them about the rates of Black male college student enrollment. I want them to ask why it’s important to do a research project on an influential speech and its historical implications. I want them to ask why I give them the opportunity to lead class every other Friday. And I want them to ask why they should care about what’s happening within the walls of their new academic home. Overall the class for me is about relationships. I am not going to reach all my students with the content I introduce this year. My professional life, let alone my teaching career, is barely budding. I don’t have a wealth of experience in educating youth in my back pocket. But the task of connecting with young folks is something I can handle. I argue that the work I’m doing out of the classroom is far more important for students’ development than my daily class lessons. Nonetheless, I enjoy the freedom of engineering a series of ideas and skills that hopefully strike a chord with my young scholars.

I’m not a traditional teacher, so while I do teach a few classes per day, I tend to float around the building to lend a hand. For several four-minute time spans of the school day—the passing periods between classes—I make my presence known in the hallways. Whether or not students yearn for cheap jokes about their sloppy tie or inability to remember their belt, I lay it on thick. I have developed a comedic (well, fairly unfunny according to my students) communication style with them. A ten-hour day doesn’t feel that good without the occasional attempt at humor. I encourage students to stay positive, receive orders to text their mom about getting a ride home, or get kids into their next class to avoid a tardy detention. Even though I could write about these freshmen for too many pages, I absolutely need a break from them. Hence, I have been aiding in a few senior classes. I particularly enjoy helping out in the College Counseling room. I’ve begun to bond with a few seniors, gaining a comprehensive viewpoint of their four-year high school experience. Whether it’s reviewing their personal statements for college applications, checking that their transcripts are headed to the right universities, or merely conversing about their academic and professional goals, sometimes all these young folks need are some lent ears. I’ve had some revealing talks with kids about their struggles growing up in the midst of communities plagued with Chicago realities. Many students have been touched by cycles of loss, perpetual violence, and the senseless institutional racism so present in this city. Hearing 18-year-olds reflect on their lives with more maturity than my freshmen, I am able to give shape to my goals. I want my guys to have the poise and vernacular to assess the world around them, and to situate themselves within it. While Chicago is a culture shock for me with its segregation, bureaucracy, and stark economic disparities, my students just need ways to discover themselves as individuals. So when Mr. Smith casually tells me that his father was arrested for possession and will be imprisoned for a while, I keep a calm demeanor and attempt to help him form a healthy headspace. When Mr. Morris candidly writes in a free write exercise that he’s glad to be alive after being shot recently, I take his words as a chance to create a positive outlet in written expression. When Mr. Goode explains his rampant absences with his mother’s insufficient funds for bus fare, I welcome his presence that day and hope to influence him the brief amount of time I’m with him. In these cases and many others, I am relieved when they show up to school. I am bummed for a hot minute, thinking about the potential behavioral task they will be in class, but then remember their alternative. When in the building, they have an entire posse in their corner in the form of teachers and staff. Among other roles, I am an advocate for my students’ progression, and as their stories spill in I listen and offer a direction to go.

Each day I force myself to remember that my students are just kids. Regardless of their home life, past experiences, or current habits, they are young Americans confused by the world. I continually stress to them the importance of growth, whether in respect to their GPA, decision-making process, or language in the classroom. In the midst of my hopefully empowering end-goals, the hilarity factor of my students is arguably the best part of my day. For some reason, these young fellas cannot stop touching and teasing each other. The ways they choose to do this are completely inappropriate for school, but simply hilarious. I’ve become desensitized to students ‘frying’ each other for the size of their heads, for example. When I attempt to shut down their back-and-forth improvisational insult fest, I’ll get a quintessential Chicago kid response. “But Mr. Rapp, low key he’s steady finna bake!” meaning, “he’s always teasing me so why can’t I get him back?” My students force me to expand my skill set to include de-escalation of meaningless banter and my linguistic repertoire to contain South Side lingo. While at times infuriating to redirect the rude yet harmless bickering of my freshmen, I cannot help but laugh. Perhaps I can lead a few students to careers in stand-up comedy. I’d certainly pay to watch Mr. Guilford with a mic, spewing out his cleverly angsty, little-man perspective on life. I take my work seriously—maybe too much sometimes—yet I’ve come to know that a smile will resolve a great deal when least expected.

My work life is a game of small wins, so it is at times challenging to conjure up accomplishments. But there are a few things I am particularly proud of from this past semester. First off, I have employed a fairly successful rewards system in my classroom. When students show exceptional effort, display exemplar behavior, or receive high grades, I hand out points. Students with the top amounts of points earn a weekend field trip. So on two Saturdays thus far, I’ve been able to show my students some of Chicago they’ve never seen. I took five students to the aquarium in late autumn, at which my students spent money on candy in the gift shop and made fun of jellyfish. And I took a different five students to an improv comedy show in early winter, at which my students laughed their heads off and made fun of how many White people were in attendance. It’s great to be able to spend time outside of the school system entirely, and I plan to continue our trips. On another note, I have started a tennis team at my school. I approached the athletic director with an idea to diversify our sports offerings, and he was thrilled with the potential. Since the fall I have been working with a very supportive local foundation to solidify funding for rackets and balls. Come April, I will take a slew of students to a university a few blocks away to explore their talents on a court very different to the ones they know. Due to the haphazard weather lately, I have been meeting with a group of students interested in tennis in a classroom after school. I have taught them the rules of the game, shown them highlight videos, and as of recently, played some makeshift ping-pong with a portable net and classroom desks. Soon enough we will be out on the courts, whenever the Chicago skies lend a few generous rays. I feel lucky to have the freedom in my school to create opportunities for students like field trips and after-school activities. And while the troughs of a teacher’s life in an urban school commonly trip me up, I am glad to remember that I have reached a few modest peaks.

When I finally get home from work, I tend to fall into the couch. Most nights I muster up the energy to cook dinner and lunch for tomorrow, and crawl into bed before too late. At times Francesca and I will go to our favorite neighborhood (Pilsen) for a cheap taco dinner, or stock up on vegetables at a discount grocery store. But most of my time off during the week is spent relaxing, and answering phone calls from concerned mothers. “I just don’t believe De’Monte when he tells me there is no school tomorrow. Is that true, Mr. Rapp!?”…“Yes, Ms. Perkins, tomorrow is a national holiday.” In general, I am struggling to construct a life of equilibrium. I work so hard during the day that I don’t leave much energy to spend on myself in the evening. One goal for the second half of my fellowship is to become a healthier, more balanced professional. I want to find more time for my hobbies—sports, photography, writing, and more. As you might have noticed, this is only my second blog post since moving to Chicago! I usually write infrequently, but I typically get to chip away at a blog post for a while. This past six months I’ve felt like I have not had time to even think about writing for pleasure. However, I know I put this cinch on myself. I don’t have to go into work early to prepare for the day. It’s not obligatory for me to stay after school to help kids in the computer lab, chat with students, etc. I can make more time for myself by allocating my energy more efficiently. As I write this, it sounds like a nice ambition. But I know myself pretty well, and unfortunately I’m not sure I’ll give up time at work for self-care. After all, this job is not about me. My experience this year is important for my professional growth and development of skills, but my students come first. This is not a sustainable lifestyle for me, which is why I’m glad my contract runs out in June. While the classic ‘you have your whole life to work’ pep talk runs through my head often, I cannot help but give more than I can take. As I attempt to a sprint every week through my complex and taxing work, this year represents but a fragment of hopefully a marathon of a career. Throughout my experience up to this point, I have not forgotten the importance of balance. But with change comes the opportunity to create a new iteration of balance. My life has definitely changed, and I am in the process of finding the balance in Chicago that has historically fueled my fire.

My fellowship has been far from clean-cut so far. I don’t love my work, nor do I deplore it. I’ve tried to explain a swervy middle ground beyond the simplicity of like and dislike. I think what I am doing is important, and while my impact is small and my exertion sometimes hurts, I’m glad to be here. Allow me to mentally copy this link to memory, so I can paste it into the air the next time someone asks me, “How’s it going in Chicago?” You’ve just read what I’ve been feeling lately, which could surely change tomorrow. As always, thanks for enduring my long-winded tendencies. During this Holiday season I hope all is well with you, and that you have less whiny 14-year olds in your life than I do. I appreciate your support from far and near—here’s to a two thousand fourteen that grows and sustains us all.

Worldview Expansion in video form.

Worldview Expansion in video form.

Tennis practice until the snow melts over.

Tennis practice until the snow melts over.

Field trip number two.Field trip number two.

Moving Into The Wind

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Buildings scraping the MidWest skies.

The only writing voice I have presented for this blog is that of a student. I have written about the woes and the thrills of the college life, whether in this country or the next. While I feel strange implementing a change, it is time to ink up a post-graduate pen with which to write too many words to you. This feeling comes at a convenient period, as I have coincidentally crossed the threshold of undergraduate being as of late. Of course this relationship I hold within me plays into the hand of my growing yet recurrent writing voice. I am not a completely new person, nor do I wish to claim all linguistic knowledge in this universe. However, as long this blog is free for me and you, I will write with a certain personality that is unique to my mind and my heart. We all have art to share, and as you might know; my often-preferred method of expression is elongated, single-spaced prose. I now relay an altered perspective in comparison to my previous posts, but not all that much is changed. I’m here to update you on recent events and coinciding emotions—where shall I start?

I write to you from a green leather sofa in the lobby of my new apartment building and a coffee shop called Big Shoulders (I don’t write these in one sitting!). My everyday existence now plays out in the Middle Western portion of the nation, right in the heart of Chicago, IL. Let me back up few notches to recount the steps I took to get here. I summed up my college career with a few inspiring classes, several end-of-the year dinners, and a few congratulatory celebrations. One particularly noteworthy occasion was Seattle University commencement, immediately after which I became a first-year student in loan repayment. The springtime in Seattle brought many hugs at social gatherings dedicated to newly inducted members to the Bachelor’s Degree club. I am extremely grateful that my friends and family were present for such a happy time. I then found myself facing a chunk of two weeks in my favorite city without any agenda. I spent most of my time simultaneously catching up with and saying farewell to those who I love in the Emerald City. I have accrued quite the smorgasbord of a community, complete with fellow students, co-workers, teammates, mentors, and many more. I also moved out of a wonderfully passed-down house that offered a roof for my closing academic season. Saying goodbye to Seattle didn’t warrant a quick wave but an extended embrace. It took me about two weeks to realize I was about to move on. Toward the end of this responsibility-less stretch of time, I began to come to terms with my imminent future. Seattle will continually own a piece of the property I call home, to which I will certainly return. Not quite knowing when I’ll be back allowed me the space to turn to the East. I had lived on the Pacific Ocean for too long, and it was time to face my final day with the Puget Sound.

Francesca and I packed up my car with everything I own. This wasn’t much, and even with a helping of her own belongings, I could easily see through the back window. We had planned a weeklong adventure to the Midwest, with Montana as our first destination. My good friend and roommate last year, Adam, housed us with his family in Helena for a night. We toured the modest capitol city, sat motionless on his porch to deter the heat, and gathered a good sense of natural, deep green colors that hopefully linger awhile. We then moved on to South Dakota, setting our eyes on the ‘patriotic’ town of Rapid City. Our first visit upon arrival was the Crazy Horse Memorial, a magnificent cultural rebuttal to the domination of the area’s native land. We watched a film on indigenous life in the Black Hills, which has been ignored and forgotten by White America. Our next stop on the monument tour exuded quite the opposite feel, blatantly portraying tragic treatment of Native Americans with beautiful faces of mountain carved into land that doesn’t understand presidency. Mount Rushmore was nice to check off the bucket list, but couldn’t have shouted louder the intertwined consumerism and oppression on which our country runs. On a lighter note, the South Dakota landscapes were gorgeous! I spotted a village on the map called ‘Kyle’, so I might have to move there in this lifetime. The last leg of our two-lane road trip was a bit less linear, as we skirted the borders of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri to get into Kansas. We eventually arrived in Francesca’s hometown, Pittsburg, Kansas, ready for a break from driving.

Southeast Kansas would have been a cultural first for me no matter what time of year I showed up. I had not been to the Midwest before, nor ever known which time zone its states live by. After a lengthy rest, we woke up in Pittsburg on the fateful 4th of July, our heavily celebrated national birthday. The sound of firecrackers had never been so clear. Maybe it was the weighty resonance of patriotism ringing in the air, or perhaps it was every other neighborhood child lighting loud objects on fire. It was likely the latter. I was pleased to meet several of Francesca’s family members right away. After a quick tour of the downtown strip, we headed to a city park for an annual festival full of root beer, swap meet booths, and friendly faces. I began to recognize the small town’s personal vibe, which emanated nothing but joy. As a foreigner to the flat land called Kansas, I enjoyed witnessing people I had just met find happiness in their community relationships. We took a brief tour of the local University, and then drove to the next town over for dinner at grandma Carol’s. After my inaugural street firework lighting, and the creation of a smoke bomb picture album, we retired to what I thought was the most pleasant part of our stay. It was the commonly insignificant pieces to the Pittsburg puzzle that I seemed to relish the most. As the sun made its final retreat and all we saw were voices, the back porch became our entertainment. After story telling and jokes about Kansas life, I decided my favorite part about Francesca’s hometown is the prevalence and usage of the porch. The stillness and simplicity of sitting on a porch is hard to come by—a concept lost among the modern inventions of boredom and impatience. With tranquility in mind we then made our way to a parking lot to watch thunderous fireworks set to music on full blast. Our wonderfully country-style Independence Day came to a close with a little more slaw and plenty of sleep. The rest of our Kansas visit proved to be as charming as the beginning. We fished in the University pond, we shopped the local farmer’s market, we barbecued mushrooms, and ended the stay with a colorful family and friends get-together. What a pleasure it was to gain a lens which someone close to me employs daily. The people and the place made me want to stay longer, but I knew the big city was only one day of driving away. We said our goodbyes and headed northeast to the next, more permanent pit stop.

Diagonally crossing Missouri seemed like a necessary evil to reach the fated Land of Lincoln (No hard feelings toward MO. I spent last weekend there, actually; it was nice). We made it into Illinois early Sunday evening and were gazing up at Chicago skyscrapers not too much later. Unfortunately, this was the stage of yet another (temporary) goodbye, as Francesca had a westbound flight to catch. She flew back to Seattle to complete her work term for about another month. We knew the separation would be tough, but worth it once we both settled in Chicago. After dropping her off I was a slightly off kilter, a little confused, especially because I found myself in traffic on a freeway I didn’t even know the name of. I was windshield to skyline with an urban center I had only read about. I’ve been living here ever since this initial physical meeting. Allow me to bring you up to speed on some highlights of the past two and a half months.

Summer in Chicago is more pleasant when you aren’t moving. Or at least that’s what I originally perceived. The first week I was here, sweat from my forehead lived on my shirt cuffs. I thought I had moved to some freak weather zone where the climate has as many options as a light switch. As I settled in, however, I realized that I had simply arrived during an unfortunately scorching time period. Some friends in the city graciously offered their couches until I could move into my apartment. For a little over a week I had no commitments and an entire metropolis to explore. I set out to experience the transit, the traffic, the buildings, and the food. I saw thrift shops and cafés, a big lake and a zoo. I went to spoken word open mics and concerts in the park. I was happy to be in a place with so many outlets for different interests and passions, but I didn’t quite understand the city. I often encountered suggestions to be careful at night, and I noticed a certain hesitance in people to steer me toward some parts of the city. Like any big town, the social dangers are present, but there is something different about Chicago. I found myself instantly curious about why people have settled here, and why they have placed a stake in certain neighborhoods. I figured once I started my job that I could pick the brains of co-workers in order to feel the city’s heartbeat—the locals. On Saturday, July 13th I moved into an apartment building in the West Loop area, very close to the University of Illinois at Chicago. Once I began telling new acquaintances where I lived I discovered the immense pride folks take in their neighborhood. I haven’t quite reached the point where I love where I sleep, but I sure enjoy others professing adoration for their locational roots. I live in a spacious loft-type apartment with three other lovely young teachers. The fellowship program I am a part of has 18 other participants, all of whom reside on the same 5th floor that I now call home. By this point, my roommates and I have built a modest collection of Goodwill furniture; at least enough to comfort us after long days at school. My living situation is ideal, mainly due to a generous aspect of my job; housing is paid for! Living for free feels good every day.

Since I accepted my job in the Spring I had often wondered what my day-to-day would look like. Luckily I wasn’t thrown into the pit of angsty 9th graders right away. The first two weeks I attended training at the organization’s downtown headquarters. (I have chosen not to write specifically of the name of my school in order to protect both my place of employment and myself from any tricky online tracking of opinions. I hope you don’t mind.) Those 14 days spent making my lunch the night prior, riding the train to and from the office, and wearing dress pants daily, represented my slow transition into adult worklife. Reflecting now I realize that a 10 am – 3 pm workday with no lesson plans to finalize in the evening is a pretty nice setup! Training was a healthy introduction to the magnificent network of non-profit charter schools for which I work. But after sitting in workshops and trying to remember names for half a month, all the fellows were ready to get to work. The nature of my job is to teach, support, and mentor a cohort of 21 freshmen in high school. Although we are centrally funded by CPS (Chicago Public Schools, not Child Protective Services), we are not a typical public school. Every year since 2006, we hold a non-selective lottery to admit 8th graders into high school. They show up as freshmen, swimming in their black blazers, complaining that their neckties are as uncomfortable as their oxford collared white shirts. Four years later they are accepted into college. Period. No less than 100% of our seniors—for three years running now—have earned acceptance letters. The first class of seniors will graduate college this year, which is a dream for the teachers and staff who helped get the school running in 2006. This is the uplifting and counter-cultural process for which I now live.

This is well and dandy, but college isn’t an uncommon choice post-high school, right? At least that’s what I naturally thought when I was 17. Well many of the students I work with do not share this common sense. Our students hail from the South and West sides of Chicago—parts of the city that unfortunately frequent the nightly news for the wrong reasons. Every Spring, a plethora of families throw ‘graduation’ parties for their young relatives who have completed middle school. While Chicagoans indeed like to have a good time, these parties aren’t arbitrary. Many young people here make it to high school, but more do not. Clearly, these parties need to be pushed back, and it takes dedicated schools to make such a shift happen. It’s quite incredible to be working everyday so that my students break this sad pattern. Not only have our students made it to high school, but they will persist through the next four years of their academic careers in order to be qualified candidates for college. The extremely unsettling statistic that runs through my mind as I walk the halls each day is that 2.5% of Black males from Chicago graduate from college. Two point five. Given that my workplace is a charter school for young Black men, we directly respond to this staggeringly low number with a much-needed, high quality secondary school experience for our students. Every hand I shake in the morning belongs to a student who will eventually defy social, political, and economic gravity by enrolling in higher education.

The previous paragraph describes the impetus for the school’s vision. But my daily routine is hardly full of pats on the shoulder for exemplary college preparatory class work. The complex entity that is CPS loses swells of students each year from the illnesses of inadequate instruction, classroom space, and school resources. But most importantly, students drop out due to a resounding lack of belief that they will succeed. So when my new 9th graders walk in the door, I try to remember that many of them have been conditioned to think of school as a forced situation. It is my job to open their minds to the idea of educational opportunity; not the easiest concept to insert into their reluctant brains! Their resistance to be in school—let alone a school with no girls, strict uniform code, and 8 hour days—often emerges through misbehavior and disrespect. It’s surely a taxing duty to constantly remind my guys what it means to be a respectful and effective student, but I am under the impression that my encouragement will slowly sink in. I try to redirect students’ actions with positivity, as they are scolded enough already for not complying with something every day (which I completely understand; it’s challenging to tell kids to stop smacking each other and calling each other names with a positive tone). I know that my positivity is overlooked now, but I keep thinking that I need to bring my best self to work every day in order to do my job with passion and joy. My role at the school is multifaceted to say the least. I teach four classes of 3-8 students at a time, I sit in on other teachers’ classes to check in on my students, and I plan upcoming lessons on my off periods. Throughout the day I reach out to my students’ families through phone calls, texts, and emails. Not a day goes by without a conversation with a student’s mother about her son’s need to improve in some areas and how she will talk to him about what he needs to do. I call home with both good reports and bad, but the motive is always the same—to keep their mothers (many students’ fathers aren’t in their lives) informed about necessary steps for their son’s to be successful. I am not a traditional teacher, in that my job description values relationship building much more than academic content. My fellowship is giving me the opportunity to work full-time at a high school without being responsible for comprehension of ‘testable’ material. I continually think that the content I am responsible for is scarily right up my alley. When I applied to this job I was told that I would teach ‘humanities based life skills’ classes. I have learned that while this is an accurate description, it is difficult to explain exactly what I do. I think of my position at the school as one of support—to students, to families, and to the general transition process from grammar school to high school for the class of 2017. (Gulp, naming my students by their high school graduation year makes me feel a tad bit aged). While I am a teacher of a class than can be described as ‘life skills,’ I am more an advocate for students’ overall academic, social, and emotional well-being. These kids have copious amounts of stress in their lives; I come to work every day to slightly dampen their struggles with a smile.

This week we finished the Identity & Community unit in my class. Some topics included: who students perceive themselves to be, what ‘race’ is, how Chicago is a cesspool of social stereotypes, the events in their lives that have shaped their complex identities, 6 Word Memoirs of their life stories, the etymology of their names and cultural history of their families, etc. The first five weeks of class have been revealing to say the least; my students have quickly relayed what it’s like to grow up a young Black man in the United States. I have already begun compiling lists of eloquent quotes I read on their assignments and hilarious comments from class. This year will be full of feeling; hopefully nourishment and support on the part of my students, and not too much frustration on my part. I am learning slowly what it means to be a teacher. I’ll tell you this so far—educators hold a thankless profession that deserves all of the praise and resources available. There is much to be uncovered this school year for me, both about my chosen field of work and the direction I want to take my growing professional passions. I will follow up when I can about the city, my school, my students, and my ever-expanding book of questions about existence! I am happy to be writing again. It seems I will stick with my tendencies this year just as I have the last few. My posts will be infrequent, but surely pack a word-count punch when they arrive. I hope all of you are well at this time. Even though I have only purchased and sent about four postcards since moving, I am thinking about you all. Please consider this long update a ‘Hello, how are you?’ from me to you. I’ll stop writing now so you can do whatever it is that gives you energy in this complicated life. Enjoy today.

Holding 9th period in the stairwell. Gotta be flexible when classrooms are booked!

Holding 9th period in the stairwell. Gotta be flexible when classrooms are booked!

Mr. Johnson giving a charismatic presentation.

Mr. Johnson giving a charismatic presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d love to hear from you! My new address:

Kyle Rapp

315 S. Peoria St.

Apt. #509

Chicago, IL 60607

 

 

Unraveling The Potential

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Snow days might be a forthcoming occurrence.

I am less than one month away from a life that is not defined by a scholastic transcript. I think of hazy memories from elementary school. I think about my performance in this quarter’s midterm exams. And I think of everything in between. How has my academic career come to such a sudden halt? Or is this halt disguised as a blurry pathway to continued learning? If you and I have ever discussed school, I have likely relayed to you my strong emphasis on the latter. My undergraduate days are surely dwindling, but I sense several beginnings on the cusp of emergence. The direction I go and the beginnings I uncover do not yet have names. They are not called graduate school, occupation, or career. They are seedlings of interest and passion, churning as waves in my mind. I write to you now with the intention of subduing this internal chaos. Or rather, reclassifying the chaos as reassurance for my future.

I entertain daily thoughts about working in realms of education, service, and youth development. But I am not fully sure where my ideas will take me in the long run. To some extent, I am not as concerned about the timeline as I am my process of growth. I could take a year off in Seattle, work part-time (write way more blog posts!), and enjoy the existence of a twenty-something free of academic duties. I could move across the country, engage in a new living and working community, and excite myself with new sights. I could return to California, live cheaply with my father, and reconfigure my locational roots as a breeding ground for coming experiences. Or I could continue to think about what I could do. I am ready to act on one of these multifaceted options. (There are many, many more than mentioned. Of course there are—I could truthfully do anything next year). Each game plan contains strands of positivity and threads of apprehension. I cannot make one best decision. Thus, I turn to the aforementioned notion of growth. Where I am and what I do will lead to personal and professional formation. I must maintain that I am not selfish in considering the where and the what. Rather, I am intentional in constructing a logical and healthy corridor to helping others. After all, what I desire most are new relationships and experiential learning. I hope to meet these desires working with others—as an educator, mentor, employee, partner, or peer. So in this post-graduation decision process, I feel the need to highlight opportunities that could breed vocational exploration. During the course of this last year in college, I have mentally surveyed the work environments to which I think I might valuable. I have tried to couple this with a position that will foster my own development and meet the daily needs of those I love. Manifesting these internal explorations is a complex task. I might not be able to make the one best decision for the where and the what, but I can certainly guide my decision toward the training of the why.

I have an overwhelming intention to address the privilege I have reaped since birth. All I have known is how to take—from my family, my teachers, my coaches, and more. I am ready to learn how to give. While I have practiced this notion through volunteer and work opportunities, I feel there is a gap in my comprehension. I need some tangible action. I need to be surrounded by the social issues I read about. I need to break free from philosophizing about poverty, economic disparity, gender inequality, and environmental degradation—I need to see these things. I won’t feel the full extent of their consequences, as I have a monopoly of privilege wherever I find myself. But if I connect to individuals who experience noted struggles, I might better understand ways to utilize my position to make change. My presence alone is not the answer. Just as money alone acts for social issues as nothing but a Band-Aid, my work alone is one small link in a long chain of community. It’s not about transferring my privilege—privilege has no compass, it is blind and falls where it may. It is more so about creating partnerships and friendships, relationships that reside above social inequality. So how do I simultaneously pick the right direction for personal formation and for those I wish to serve? Well, it has to begin somewhere. Allow me to denote the conceptual piece to my vocational discernment, so that perhaps I can come closer to answering such a question.

If we have talked about the future during any time that you’ve known me; did I discuss the ‘realm of education’? That’s usually the phrase I use. As general as it is, education is the body of occupational place in which I think I belong. Recently I have come up with some specifics to add to my ambiguous plan. At some point I would like to achieve a Master’s Degree in Student Development, or something similar in phrasing. I discovered this idea through volunteer work for student groups on my college campus. I realized that the people advising these groups have jobs, and that their jobs revolve around student support. Moving further away from wanting to teach for a career (or even wanting one career, really), student services became very attractive. I have since researched the field of student affairs, which seems to provide a multitude of places for my interests and passions to actualize. Thinking about where I want to end up, I now lean toward academic advisor or counselor. This role is typically housed on a college campus, but could also be a position at an education non-profit. This positively narrows my lens slightly; I have a general direction to walk.

Electing specific opportunities to reach this ultimate goal is now the task at hand. Not only do I have a professional set of ends towards which to strive, but I feel inclined to maintain the communities I have built. This is a combination of friends, family, places, and weather patterns in whom/which I have found comfort in Seattle. But is this a logical step? Is it even feasible? Should I attempt to keep in place my exterior college life when I am moving on internally? Perhaps I do not want wholly the same communities to continue in my life. Rather, I want the presences of people I love and locations I enjoy to live through me. I don’t need to be in Seattle for this to occur, and I know I can always return to the place I truly felt at home for the first time. I sense the tide coming in, leaving room for me to step into the ocean of the professional world.

If you’ve read this blog on previous instances, you know a few things. 1) You will be confronted by more writing than you really want to read 2) My sentence structure preferences aren’t what would earn me a high grade in an English Lit class 3) I will likely talk about ‘the process’ at least once in every piece. Well, here’s number three. I don’t need to be as concerned about the finish line until I handle the hills and the curves of the race. The first leg is coming to a close, and I see a winding road ahead. Taking the literal first step is at the forefront of my being. I want to hold my Seattle community in mind, delve into a new pool of meaningful relationships, and strive toward my goal of becoming an academic advisor. How might I do this? A few months ago I applied to an education fellowship at a charter high school for African-American boys. In my interview I talked about my passion for mentorship and college access, and I learned about the program’s dual teaching/mentor role. A few weeks ago I was offered the position, and told I could join 17 other fellows from around the nation to work toward systemic change for education in urban areas. As far as my professional process, this opportunity fits nicely. The future educator in me wanted to take the position right away. But I had more on mind than my occupational path. I was not sure about making such a substantial locational shift. This is due to a minor detail—the inner city school that offered me a job is located on the south side of Chicago.

Moving to the Midwest would not only affect me. I would be far away from my family, who all live on the west coast. I would be separated by states from the continuing students, staff, and faculty I have come to know at Seattle University. And I would be away from all the friends I’ve made in school who are moving elsewhere to pursue their own personal development. With this said, I am excited to relay that I would not be leaving everything and everyone. Since the fall I have been in a relationship with an influential and inspiring woman. We have grown to maintain a healthy and happy existence together, and we are currently working on being in the same city next year. Francesca is applying to jobs in Chicago, and continually getting tracked down for phone interviews. Knowing that we could make a big move across the nation together not only calms me for logical reasons of comfort, but gives me energy to have someone in support. Throughout the past year I have been pondering what my next step will look like. And I have come to a point where my next step looks like our next step. We support each other in our ideas and endeavors, and I hope my words reflect happiness in moving this forward. I am glad to share this with you all in a time when we are grateful to have the opportunity to continue to build our relationship.

If you haven’t already guessed, I have accepted the fellowship in Chicago. I start my job on July 15th! While teaching isn’t everything I want to do in this world, I think the placement and the students will allow me to grow as an educator. I am hoping to fail a few times next year. I am looking forward to challenges more significant than any paper or group project. It feels comforting to know that I have selected an opportunity that will breed useful professional skills and connections, a thrilling new environment to explore, and a chance to maintain relationships that matter to me deeply. I have a feeling I might be back in Seattle sooner rather than later, but next year I have chosen to try my hand in the windy city. I guess my next step is actually owning professional attire and a winter coat—thrift stores here I come!

Segments of The Self

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The parts of me continually unfold.

I have come to mentally configure this blog as an arena to expound on my recent thoughts. Within this electronic notepad are noticeable gaps among the posting dates. I do not yet allow myself to delve into the world of lengthy, uninhibited reflective writing whenever I please. Constructing personally meaningful tales of the self and society is an activity meant for my academic breaks. This means summer and winter vacations. Such a temporal scale is of course dependent on my enrollment in a form of traditional education. Although I am very close to end of my undergraduate path, I still abide by said writing period regulations. The simple reason for this is that I care too much about what I do. My coursework takes first priority when school is in session, followed closely by extracurricular commitments and social life. In college I have come to understand an appropriate balance of these whirling loyalties. And once I graduate I will begin a journey to find my balance all over again! However, until June, I remain subject to the life I know. The life of a student who only has enough time to put into his writing when he is granted a brief academic leave.

For some reason, I always feel the need to introduce my posts with a disclaimer about timing or a statement why I am writing on given subject matter. I guess it’s just a part of me. This is the exact intended topic of this piece. No, not just me, but the parts of me. And furthermore, the parts of all of us. Why do we do the things we do, and how do we come to have inclinations to do them? How are our thoughts formed, and from what originations do they stem? My simple response is that humans are complex. As noted, we all have parts. I refer not to only to our biological and genetic makeup, but to our practical and philosophical being. To illustrate what I mean; take the fact that I enjoy writing this blog. I do not question simply why I this is so. I rather wonder about the significant timing of the blog, why I turned to writing over other artistic expression, and how I came to discover the benefits of maintaining a blog. I attribute much of this blog to my formation in college. I was lucky enough to choose a school with incredible instructors that relay the excitement and beauty in reading and writing. Moreover, my college experience brought with it a chance to study abroad- the beginning space of this blog. But beyond this logical rationale, a passion for writing flows in my blood. I think it’s in my genes. Writing is a way for me to converse with myself and with others simultaneously. And I would not have found this outlet without exposure to writing in my family and friends growing up. What I have set up here is a type of reflective narrative of nature versus nurture. My position is that different parts of me are present for reasons sometimes obvious and sometimes concealed. Like anything with value in life, humans are not definable by absolutes. We shall not be classified or categorized, as we maintain too many personal elements to fit into one box. So I wonder how all this comes together. And I want to explore this matter through the human (I think) I know best.

Where do I begin when thinking about me? Well, one thing I do know about me is that I have been through phases. Phases of interests, locations, passions, and identities. I think all people can relate to the personal fad. We are, of course, ephemeral beings in the grand scheme of the universe. So just as our entire lives are temporary, so should be our identities. Allow me to provide a personal example. I have always enjoyed being active. From the early time I was able to strike worry in my parents with my every bodily move, I have enjoyed athletics. But my activity has come in the form of test runs. I tried anything and everything that my mother was unable to classify as a particular danger to my imminent health. I played baseball, ran sprints, body surfed, made up games of my own. Most of these athletic auditions failed to stick with me, but some did. I no longer see value in waiting for 15 minutes of physical action in a three-hour baseball game. I do, however, still see beauty and significance in skateboarding. The usage of my skateboard began as a phase, informed by the location of my upbringing (board sports Mecca, Southern California). I became interested through my school friends, which led to desire for a deeper immersion into the sport. I remember at one point qualifying my existence by the seemingly childish activity. I was a skateboarder. It was all that simple then, but now it is just a part of me. Do I still own a skateboard and take it for a spin every once and awhile? Yes. Do I continue to classify a curved piece of wood with wheels the central instrument to my self-understanding? Absolutely not. But I perpetually hold skateboarding as a piece of me. It inhabits a space in my being. This is the notion of the ‘parts of myself’ that I currently ponder. In a busy life with diverse channels of mental and physical behavior, I discover a new part of me each day.

I have had the idea for this blog post for quite some time. And I wrote the first few paragraphs with the intention of exploring myself through the various personal facets I can currently identify. But how can I look beyond the parts of me that I want to see in order to find the parts that are actually there? I guess this dilemma is a form of subjectivity- an egotistically necessary feature of human existence. I like to think that I have a knack for conversing with and relating to others. But who knows, perhaps that is a self-projection of a social being I continually aspire to be. It all must come to a point of agreement sometime, when the people we want to be are broken down into personal goals we have not yet fulfilled. I am thrilled at this opportunity to progress. Learning to me means identifying an end in sight and not worrying about whether it is met, but enjoying the process that so organically leads there.

Another part of me that shines through in this blog is the zeal with which I consider my writing topics. I aspire to write like I think. But as we all know, the chaos inside our brains is un-trackable, so I settle for a second-rate iteration. I write with no end in sight, no deadline or ultimate target. I let my thoughts breathe the open air of an easily editable word document. I go back in forth in my mind and on the page about what I believe in, how I want to exist, and why it all matters. This piece of me is just a piece of my brain. And the realization that my brain has compartments which I barely understand makes the world of brains around me seem that much more intriguing. In my mind turns a hundred blog post topics, but it is these words that have decided to come out at this time. I am writing to you now because I feel the need, the want, the urge to do so. This part of me is called timeliness. Sometimes we ask of each other, “Do you miss it? Do you wish you could have it back?” No matter what we are talking about, we figure whatever we had might resurface positively. But I am of the opinion that things simply happen when they do. Not when they are supposed to, or when a divine being intends them to, but simply and promptly when they do. So I respond, “Yes I miss it, but right now to have it back would be out of order. I am glad it happened when it did because now I have something else.” Yes, it could be true that I think of our lives as a series of occurrences. But the piece of this sentiment with which I most connect is the truth in the timing of our lives. The sun rises, the seasons change, and the globe revolves. This is all true. I suggest we follow the weight and truth of the natural world and consider each experience a blessing to be relished. Breaking my wrist one summer in high school was not what I was hoping for at that point. But instead of going to tennis camp I began to sketch. Things arise when they do because the flow of our lives is not linear. Positivity surrounds us- the encapsulation of this encouragement resides in our mental ability to appreciate.

When I think about the particles of my person, I think less physical and more spiritual. Spiritual as in the contents of my spirit, which to me is immeasurable. I consider the qualitative components of myself the most difficult to describe, and therefore the most significant to ponder. Any one of us can measure our height by the terms of an absurd system based on the inch. But can we relay to one another how tall our patience is? Can we explicate exactly where in our hearts we have room for others? Can we determine the weight of our dreams in ways that have nothing to do with pounds? The responses to these inquiries are not invisible. They many not be tangible, but they are certainly detectable. The basis for knowledge of ourselves is that we are us and no one else. I may have the same freckle on my nose as the next fair-skinned fellow. But my yearnings and momentary thoughts are mine alone. So when I evaluate me, I realize that I get my energy from other people. I often process information or feelings verbally, or perhaps through listening alone. I gathered this about myself through- you guessed it- conversation. I gain comfort through expression, hence why I love the blogging recreation at which you are currently gazing! I need to share to understand. In no specific order, as I often learn more from my ears than I do from my speech or written words. So my biology does not explain all that I question. I turn to writing, conversing, reading, and hearing to remedy my perpetual sense of self-confusion.

The shape of any human being depends on the day. I do not mean the extension of our stomachs or the state of our posture. Rather, I refer to the internal ins and outs of our days that pull us through emotional and philosophical mazes. I figure that the positions I put myself in each day will in turn affect the shape of my spirit. This notion privileges nurture over nature, as I assert to an extent that we become products of our surroundings. But there is something to be said for genealogy in regards to the activities we do and the places we go. I would not have been quite as interested in Seattle if I did not have blood relatives with residency in the Pacific Northwest. Forget the likelihood that I was influenced to live here when I visited various times throughout my childhood. I think I am meant to be here. There are people, things, and ideas here for me. So perhaps this part of me is a combination of upbringing and genetic material. How could any part of me be anything but a combination of several influences? As noted, absolutism creates boxes that we unnoticeably spill out of. Posing questions of nature or nurture, small or large, black or white, assigns value to the or. I say the and has more capabilities to include and to produce growth. I consider myself a product of the world around me and the world inside my head. How can I be only one or the other? We might feel the necessity to choose our allegiances for a cleaner sense of identity or maybe some social comfort. But just as the pathways of our lives are bound to be crooked, the people we are tend to involve muddled dichotomies.

Do you now have a picture in your head of what happens in mine? It’s unlikely, but I hope this heady investigation stimulated you nonetheless. If it did not, then perhaps some parts of you are functioning at a higher efficiency rate than others. Because even though I vary from you, and us from the rest, we all have space for each other. The parts of me can relate to the parts of the globe, of the city, of the soul. And the discovery of who we are involves the recognition of our finitude. We are granted limited time together, with no knowledge of the end, so new beginnings present us with the world. I suggest you explore the parts of you. I wrote plenty of single-spaced pages on this topic, and I can tell you I have just begun. My lifetime is still budding and blooming, nourished and curious for more. I am mostly convinced that pieces of us will never make sense all together as a complete personal mosaic. We will find the most success in self-understanding through intentional and deliberate behavior. This is the same for us all. A part of me tends to write about the process of personal perception, just as a part of you seemingly likes to read about it. Our unique components are who we are. The will to learn them means the desire to gratefully experience all that our lives provide. One part at a time.

Purpose in Place

Where my perspective begins is here.

It seems ideas for my posts need at least a month to saturate in my mind before I can hash them out on a word document. I thought I would write more this summer, but as it turns out I found many other free time hobbies to enjoy. Nonetheless, here I am again, explaining to you my most recent mental interworkings. The topic this time around- location. I have been thinking a fair amount about where I am, where I have been, and where I will be. I find it intriguing that the places I find myself hinge upon what I want to do. I would not have ended up in Seattle if I did not desire to attend college, spend more time with father’s side of the family, or enjoy rain over sun. Approaching the final year of my college career, I am faced with the question of the next place I will call home. This depends on what I decide to do- an overwhelming question mark that most students see before them. I began my summer in a hurry to find my next calling; researching graduate schools, fellowship programs, jobs, and post-graduate scholarships. I was so enthralled at the chance to do anything I wanted, thinking that the fall after I graduate would be where my life really begins. But in this rush to discover my future so far in advance, I found myself submerged in oceans of ‘what if’. I got lost in my search for place, and lost sight of where I am now. In efforts to reflect on my vocational and spatial discernment this sunny season, I want to review my past locations and survey some new.

Growing up in San Diego I always knew I would leave. I had a very fortunate upbringing in an area commonly deemed a sun-drenched paradise. But because I was a young student there for all the years I remember, I was always looking forward to where my feet would next stand. To write off my home for 18 years with a few sentences might seem wrong, but in this conversation of place it has little weight. I do not feel a connection to my hometown of Encinitas, California anymore. No more that just that- my hometown, a place to visit and see my relatives. It is a great place to call my first home but since I left in 2009 I have felt such deeper roots of meaning in my life. Perhaps it was the move from the south to north, or maybe the switch from blue skies to grey. Whatever steered me on course, I assumed a fitting living location in Washington state- the current place of my wandering soul.

My first collegiate year was not like anything I expected, but fortunately I had the sense to know Seattle was where I needed to be. Living in a city- rather than a beach town suburb- provided opportunities to learn the definition of urban. Public transportation, music venues, multiple coffee shops on each block; all things I had a slight concept of before living here. But that first year forced me to learn about everything I had never known. I was a naive 18 year old simply looking to play tennis and meet new faces, but I ended up with an immense passion for the many joys of life.

Before Seattle University I did not much desire academic excellence. I was most always a very good student, but was never challenged in any class since the beginning of my scholastic career. That changed quite rapidly. Schoolwork became my number one priority- not because I was forced to by anyone, nor because of any intrinsic drive, but because I thought that is what I was supposed to do. College students go to class, engage in extracurricular activities, eat at a cafeteria, study, and drink alcohol, right? This formula was what I thought was correct, so I went with it. However, I did not realize this somewhat stereotypical process of university life immersion would lead me to my first sense of true location. Seattle opened my mind to what is out there, who exists, and why it all matters. Although I tended to stay inside the campus bubble my first year, I knew there was more for me to come across in what seemed like a lifetime (disguised as three more short years).

The two summers I spent in San Diego after entering college were enjoyable because of the people I was around. But after meeting Seattle I had not again felt what it is like to be home. So I worked, saw family, and waited for the fall season to return to the Evergreen State. My sophomore year was the period when I commenced a search for identity within my community. I began trying new activities, meeting new groups of friends, exploring a few more parts of the city, until I eventually felt I was a true Seattleite. Not that there is one typical resident here. But because this place is a metropolis of diverse expression, I knew I was on my way to fitting in. Seattle has taught me to diversify- not only in my daily physical life, but to foster diversity of mind, and to put myself in positions of alternative perspectives. I summed up my second year feeling confident about the first half of college. Looking back to the start I felt I had progressed greatly, making me eager to see where I would go the following two.

As most of you likely know, because you are reading this blog, I spent the fall of my junior year studying in Perú. South America was of course a new place for me- not the San Diego I had become disconnected to, nor the Seattle I had been continually falling in love with. Little did I know that my five months there would equate to the most ultimate lesson in location. The urban life I learned in Seattle was trumped by Lima’s busy streets, extreme crime and violence rates, poverty, tourism, and homelessness. I realized while there that the United States provides much more safety, justice, and order than what I was previously grateful for. I remember looking back on academic discussions on global issues, thinking that I was finally seeing some proof. This place forced me out of my comfort zone and into a new arena of Spanish-speaking chaos. Going into my education abroad adventure, I thought I would realize a perpetual bug for travel. Instead, I discovered that I love the notion of a home base. I did not do as many weekend excursions as I thought I might, and rather explored the dense square miles of my new favorite capitol city. I thoroughly enjoy the simplicity of life in one city, one neighborhood, one avenue, or even one house. I came to apprehend that the world is extremely big, contrary to the popular phrase noting it to be quite the opposite. I figured if I had only taken a seven-hour flight from my American west coast home and was experiencing such radical differences, then there is much more to see and even more to begin to understand. While in Perú I thought up a remedy to my global confusion- simply piece together one part at a time and see where I end up. I cannot do it all, and I therefore cannot see it all. This in particular resonated with me immensely, and helped me transition back to Seattle with a newfound love for home. Lima will always be dear to my heart, although in very different way than Seattle. I returned to the Pacific Northwest with hopes to deepen my roots in Seattle, knowing that I had also planted some seeds down south.

A third year in college means the beginning of seniority. So I guess I should have felt a few years more confident in my home than the incoming freshman who seemed so infantile in regards to locality. But because this was my first year living off campus, it seemed my college life was restarting with a new sense of place. Residing in a 10’ by 10’ box with a roommate inhabiting half the room was quite the simple existence. The biggest change from my freshman year dorm to that of my sophomore’s was the addition of a miniature refrigerator. So moving into a house with three of my best friends and all sorts of new appliances, I was slightly overwhelmed. I felt I needed to reinvent my daily life. I was so used to awaking 7 minutes before my 8 am classes, as I could role out of bed, grab a banana in the cafeteria, and make it to class right on time. But now I had to walk a few blocks down a hill just to make it onto the campus? That was new.  And as for the banana, I had to make my own food in my very own kitchen? Another new concept. So I began the second half of my junior year discovering things I needed to learn how to do. Not because I did not have the skills yet, but simply due to my location. I was no longer dependent on my university for shelter and sustenance. The process of becoming an off-campus dweller hit me hard and quick. I distinctly remember speaking to my father on the phone a few weeks in, noting “I am going to be eating a lot of microwavable pot stickers.” I was living a basic life, which I was completely fine with. But now that I am sitting here writing this memoir on locale, I know I have significantly progressed. Let me share with you how this happened.

I did not mean to continually get to know Seattle in the way I did this past year. But looking back, I cannot imagine attempting to in any other way. I learned more about this place through the people I knew. My relationships have always been important to me, but as I delved into the second section of my college career, I felt this mean much more each day. I was getting deeper into my major, my student club and advisory council involvement, my athletics, and my social life. These diverse outlets provided chances to meet all sorts of beings, of whom I put together an unlikely crew of people I loved. Because I selected them from various portions of my life, often times not on purpose, they took me to the places they enjoy. I escaped the 3 by 2 block radius of Seattle University to discover the likes of the University of Washington District, the and Central and International Districts, and even more green areas outside of Seattle’s city limits. I did not realize it as it was happening, but I was engaging in relationships with new locations purely because I had made an effort to get to know new people. If we only knew people like ourselves, we would never leave our minds. And it turns out some new views was exactly what I needed. Finishing up my junior year, I said goodbye to many friends who were graduating and moving on from Seattle. As I watched them go, one-by-one, I thought forward to where I might go one year from then. I looked forward first, though, to summer- my first experience in Seattle during this time of year.

The nickname for my summerhouse was ‘The 17th & Marion Hotel”. Five of us lived there all summer, but due to summer travels and work experiences, we had various subletters inhabiting one of the rooms at different times. This meant that the personality dynamic was in constant flux, creating an ever-changing population of friends pouring in and out of our creaky door. Almost every weekend, it seemed, at least one friend of one of the roommates (including me) was over to stay a few days. At one point, we had 13 tired bodies sprawled on the floor, on chairs, and, yes, a few in beds. And it was not as if our modest upper portion of a duplex provided too much sleeping room. Although our place seemed busy all the time, with new voices and ideas filling the space inside the walls, it somehow felt right.  One visitor I housed this summer was my father. In the week or so that he was here, he took up one of the sleeping spots at our rundown four-bedroom abode, and I did my best to show him where I lived. We began by utilizing a spring investment of mine- a beautiful orange bicycle that I purchased and named ‘Julius’. We rode around Seattle until the city hills stopped our legs from any more movement. I took my father downtown, the centerpiece of my current city. We then reluctantly resorted to using my car, which had given me an enormous lesson in place as I road-tripped from San Diego to Seattle in early June. My father and I drove south to see our family, east for me to play a tennis tournament, west to walk on the waterfront, and even north to try new eateries. I sensed that in the midst of my chaotic summer life, my father noticed that I was becoming increasingly interested in seeing more. When he left I had about a month and a half to do more exploring of my own. I took a weekend trip to Bellingham with a good friend, an excursion to West Seattle to spend time at house of the Puget Sound, a ferry ride to and an afternoon on Bainbridge Island, and a quick jaunt to Greenlake to experience an evening on the porch of a removed lakehouse. This collection of Washington State and Seattle area outings lead me up to where I am now. A coffee shop, four blocks away from my new house.

I finished my internship a few weeks ago, moved into a new house, got my wisdom teeth removed, and then began training with my tennis team for the fall season. Although all these experiences were exciting, I cannot stop thinking about one of them. I love my new living situation; new people, a new neighborhood, and a very new style of house. I have shifted from an upstairs unit with mainly bedrooms, to a full-fledged house with a living and a dining room, and a generous backyard. Spending time with my recently added four roommates, decorating my new living space (a comfortably cool basement), and weeding our sizeable garden, have continually put a grin on my face. I could not be happier with where I am at this time, and I expect this joy to continue into fall quarter classes (beginning on Wednesday). I have one more year of college- here, and now. But then, I do not know where I will be. And as noted, my next place of residence will be dictated by what I will do. This is something seemingly so abstract and removed, yet scarily close to the present. Needless to say, some major decisions will be made in the coming six months.

Reflecting on my past locations, I now think a little about where I will go next. But more so, I think about where I am. I know I love Seattle, so why mentally move on while I can presently enjoy my place? I will try to keep you updated on where my feet take me in the future, but in the meantime I will be using my passions and interests to learn more about my current complex home. This concludes my humble number of Emerald Summer posts. I am not sure when I will write next on this public, internet-based chronicle. But I will at some point. I hope all of you enjoy the places you find yourselves today. Although we are not all together, we all have read this sentence. And in some way, that means our locations have crossed paths. We may be far away at times, but if we value the respective places we call home, those feelings of comfort will overlap. In the end, we are all here, wherever that might be.