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Takeaways from Travels, Graduations, and Random Encounters

The last couple of weeks have been nothing short of go! go! go! all of the time. I traveled to both Washington DC and St. Louis for my two paternal cousins’ graduations from prestigious universities while still managing to teach the full week in between and get in my long runs and Teach For America meetings. On one hand, this frenzy of activity has been a bit draining. On the other, though, it has provided some great sources for inspiration. All in all, I have run into with a few important takeaways:

  1. No matter how hard anyone tries to give an original commencement speech, it’s kind of impossible. Perhaps that points to the importance of the traditional messages: Never forget to make choices based on meaning and not just money. The people matter. Nobody’s perfect, so expect mistakes rather than beating yourself up for them. Set goals for the journey, not just the destination–so that they set you up for a life well lived and enjoyed, not a life of complete sacrifice and martyrdom.
  2. I’M SO THANKFUL FOR THE PEOPLE IN MY LIFE!! Sometimes my family seems too small and disjointed, but in times of celebration and travel I find that I am completely and truly blessed to have family members with such sound moral compasses, solid work ethics, and creative minds! Sometimes you need to spend time doing extraordinary things together to refresh your perspective of those closest to you.
  3. Running is my meditation and is TOTALLY necessary. Every human needs something like it where you can reflect or just plain de-activate your overcrowded brain for a while, realizing as we come out of our “flow” state that we’re human, and that it’s all ok. (Well, it’s really not all ok, but all we can give is what we have. And that’s enough.)
  4. Education should inspire questions, not answers. My cousins who just graduated, and their parents for that matter, are all really smart. They’re all working to be leaders in their fields, much like many of my fellow Teach For America corps members and alumni. Whether studying neuroscience, computer science, nephrology, or education, when you are really doing education right, you think up original questions and apply your findings to the world to make it better.
  5. It seems like educational inequity will persist as long as our neighborhoods are so racially and socioeconomically homogeneous. Or at least, it will not be solved JUST by putting devoted Teach For America teachers in the classroom. There needs to be a greater societal awareness of the dual existence that is in each city of our nation: On one hand you have predominately homogeneously white schools that are well funded and set kids up for success in college and beyond. On the other, you see underfunded schools where the minority is the majority, totally isolated from the upper-class mainstream with crumbling and underfunded schools. Nothing will change unless the people born onto the the life-success highway are aware and care about what’s happening to those less affluent folks a neighborhood over. AWARENESS IS KEY!

That’s all for now. I shall continue my manic frenzy of activity. How long will it last? Probably forever. I hope.

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