In the mornings, I usually take some back roads before getting on the highway to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a little taste of home, one thing I have no qualms about splurging some of my Americorps living stipend on.
I-215 takes me through West Valley to exit 297, and with a couple more lefts and rights I arrive at my new home, Midvale Elementary, home of the Mustangs.
I set some things down in my room and wander the halls across the school to the front office to check my mailbox, and I visit with my “ladies”, the secretaries, for a few minutes. Anyone who has ever worked at a school knows how important it is to have these amazing women on your side.
By the time I get to the office, I’ve already have racked up over under 20 high fives from students who are so happy to see me they could burst. It is, of course, a scientifically valid fact that there is not a single thing in the universe that can’t be fixed by a smile and high five from a kindergartner.
The core of my day today will consist of the following:
Organizing and moderating all the games and activities for 12 recesses, grades K-5, and, yes, I will get to play at all of them, in fact, it’s part of my job description.
Leading 4 Class Game Times, individual 30 minute directed play sessions with teachers and their students.
I will meet with my Junior Coaches, a group of 15 young leaders at Midvale who help facilitate games at recesses and act as role models for their friends at school.
In the evening I coach my 4th and 5th grade girls in their inter-school league basketball games.
Somewhere in between I’ll find time to eat and breathe and do some general administrative duties, but most of the day, I play.
The move from Boston to Salt Lake City started out as a whim during conversations with my brother, who planned to move to Utah post graduation from college to work at a ski mountain for a year or two before returning back East. Eventually, it became significantly easier for me to find reasons to move, than reasons to stay. I had this looming fear of becoming too entrenched back East and missing out on experiencing a different part of the country. I knew there was a good chance if I did not make a change now, I might not ever make one. The one caveat I placed upon myself was the need to find a job worth uprooting my life for.
Playworks is a national non-profit organization, now in almost every major city in America, that leverages the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. Yes, it’s real. As a Playworks coach stationed at an elementary school, I do that by teaching games, conflict resolution, teamwork, and empathy through games in the classroom and playground. The games are silly, but directed, extremely fun and incredibly purposeful. I am a teacher, and recess is my classroom. More simply, I get paid to play. Broken down further, I have the best job in the world.
So, on August 3rd I left my job at one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in Boston. On August 4th I packed my life into the car and spent one last night at my childhood home. On August 5th, I began my solo drive across the country. On August 7th, I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah to begin my next adventure.
Boston is a city where the rat race is alive and well and thriving. It’s a place where, I think, many people find it hard to quite literally, stop, and take time to smell the roses. It’s a place where everyone’s everyday insecurities are masked by blank stares out the window, sunglasses over their eyes, or headphones in their ears. When everything around you is so much of the same, it makes for a hard environment in which to form a viable identity.
The life I left in Boston was a very satisfactory, uncomplicated one, filled with the coveted safeness and predictability our society and most people in it embrace.
We work our whole lives in the hope that we will earn enough money to retire, so you can spend all your time doing something you love, but perhaps it’s worth thinking if that’s not a touch backwards. Perhaps it’s okay to leave a little bit more of our lives up to fate and risk and circumstance. Perhaps happiness, that single state of being where everything inside and out is alright, is made up of more of a mix of all those things than we think. Perhaps happiness is simply not knowing the whole story.
Monotony is not good for the mind, and to all of you whom something from this rant resonated with, I recommend you switch it up. Mixing it up in life, I would argue, can rarely turn out to be detrimental. Removing yourself from your comfort zone, as I’m now doing everyday with Playworks and in my new world here in Salt Lake, is refreshing and stimulating and scary. And it’s good, it’s really good.
So, here I am tonight, writing after getting home from Midvale, still not completely understanding the feeling I get everyday there. That feeling of being where I’m supposed to be, of being home, even though I’m 2,000 miles away from the home I’ve known forever.
However, in that same moment of uncertainty, there’s a comfort in knowing that I’m 2,000 miles away from that satisfactory, uncomplicated, safe, and predictable place. There’s a comfort in knowing I’m one step closer to figuring it all out.