June 2016. It's been a year since I graduated. A year since I was busy celebrating with friends, finishing academic projects, packing up memories and looking to the next chapter. There weren't too many question marks in my immediate future. I'd go home to Texas for the summer, return to the Bay in August to begin my first "real" job and move into my first apartment with a good friend. I knew which church I'd attend and which Safeway I liked best. Foothill Expressway was my go-to route for driving just to think, and I knew a handful of places I could find a swing set should I wish to be particularly stress free.
Similarly to many students, I lived in a bubble, the Stanford bubble. I studied medical anthropology, basically how people and cultures perceive and experience health, disease and healing. I knew how deeply rooted systemic injustices were and I knew they existed within a mile radius. The advice at the end of the year brought warnings of the labors and dangers awaiting me beyond the Eucalyptus grove in the world of post-college life. I nodded and smiled. I'm just moving across the 101 highway. "I'll be fine." (My mom's favorite phrase.)
My first responsibility on the new job: plan a game day for the kick-off of StreetWorkz. Ooh-kay. I chose a series of minute-to-win-it activities and created a relay for two teams to compete. Every station was properly stocked with supplies, each student would only have to do one activity and I'd walk them through the seven stations before beginning. Middle school kids love competition and silly activities. How hard could it be? (Famous last words. You saw where this was going a mile ago.) I was hoarse before the first 15 minutes of that hour and a half. I was stuck in a stupor with an expression of utter denial on my tensed and worn features. I didn't get it. How did they not get it? I knew it wasn't impossible. I'd seen it done before. College did not prepare me for the peculiarity of children's moods, attitudes and thinking.
When I returned home, I told my roommate a play-by-play of the evening. Or, at least I tried. I couldn't explain what happened. Every description trailed off and left me muttering to myself (and the floor and ceiling in turn), "what just...I don't...I don't even know". It was outright mutiny. Defiance of logic. 90 minutes turned my belief in reasonable communication upside-down. And my belief in myself. "Jesus, I feel so lame," I thought. "Can I not even plan and play a game? Am I seriously preparing to pray over our next icebreaker? How am I supposed to get to deeper stuff and love them? They don't want me around, understandably; I'm not kid-friendly. I'm useless to your kingdom." (Yes, I'm melodramatic. Welcome to my the joys of my family.)
That was nine months ago. I've signed on for year two.