A lot has happened since last year. A lot. First job, first car, first time joining a dance company, first time zip lining and rock climbing, and many, many other things. It has undeniably been a beautiful and fruitful journey. I guess I’m finally sitting down and taking the time to write about all that has happened since 2014 up until now.
I will start with my first job experience. Yes, I was offered and worked my first paying job at the ripened age of 22. That’s right, 22! Anyway, I had the privilege of working at Wellspring Texas, a wellness camp program for children, adolescents, and college students that struggle with overweight or obesity problems, in San Marcos as a Camp Counselor from June to August. My job, along with another Camp Counselor whom I worked closely with throughout the duration of camp, consisted of waking up my campers (14-17 year old guys) every single morning at either 6:45 a.m or 7:45 a.m. (Weekends) to meet outside with the rest of the Wellspring Texas family; overlooking our campers all throughout the day to make sure they stayed replenished with water, covered in sunblock, and doused in encouragement; finding, creating, or participating in fun activities during their main four activity blocks (i.e. dance choreographies, exercise routines or circuits, sport games, game room time, etc.); and so much more.
Our sign-off, when the staff would walkie-talkie each other saying goodnight and other random nothings, officially ended at 10:30 p.m. (Thank you God for those well anticipated off days once a week, much needed). With that, in addition to some of the descriptions of what I did as a CC, it should be somewhat clearer how taxing, time consuming, and long the days were for this job. However, those mental and physical demands fail highly comparably to the intrinsically gratifying rewards I received, such as seeing a guy that weighed a little over 500 lbs lose over 100 lbs by the end of the program or receiving letters of appreciation from your campers and other CC’s campers letting you know how much you impacted their life within such a short time. Even getting to have impromptu one-on-one talks with various campers during the camp’s morning walks proved to be some of the most fulfilling times for me that summer because they enabled me to learn more about the campers and enabled them to open up to me about personal issues they were comfortable telling me. Those moments remain rightfully brag-worthy of.
And I have to brag on the staff I was able to work with. Those guys were so much fun and very supportive! From my Director and Supervisor to the Behavioral Coaches, Dining and Cleaning staff, and other Camp Counselors, they were all simply delightful. Despite those eternally long hours and particularly frustrating days in which campers felt that rebelling was the best option, I would happily be part of such a life-changing experience and body of people again.
With the job finished, recently graduated from college in May 2014, and slowly nearing the pestering notifications and impatient deadlines of loans wanting to be fed cash, I was back in Houston with no complete or clear idea of what in the hell I was going to do next. Well, there was this one potential thing.
I promise you this will make sense as to why I’m going back another year when I just mentioned twenty-fourteen, but in December 2013, I contacted a guy I went to high school with because an event he was hosting popped up on my Facebook newsfeed in regards to dance auditions for his performance crew. At the time, I could not audition because I was going back to school for my final semester of my undergrad. Fast-forward to the last week of July 2014, I contacted him again to see if he was having anymore auditions and stumbled across another event of his, this time for a dance lock-in on a Friday night. To slightly disregard a few details of the story and speed things up a bit more, I ended up joining his dance company that August and have been part of it since.
(Interested in what we look like? You better be! Check out this video of us at the Houston Salsa Congress!)
So yay, dance company! Yet I was still without a job at the time and would be jobless until I started substituting in October. The time prior landing that job, however, was pervaded with filling out applications, attending interviews here and there, waiting dreadful periods of time, and hearing my fair share of nos. Concurrently, I was also trying to figure out what I could do with a B.A. in Psychology. I came across a few things that seemed like great opportunities but only great temporary ones nonetheless. And though I had this degree, the options or careers it offered weren’t topics I was all too passionate or thrilled about unlike some of my alumni peers with their Psychology degrees.
The searching and exploring continued.
Finally in October, things started to pick up some moderate tempo. The first Monday of the tenth month of the year, I started my first day as a substitute teacher and teacher’s aide. Additionally, that following Monday I would be having my final interview with Teach For America, a non-profit organization whose mission revolves around eradicating educational inequity.
After participating in the interview and subbing for about a month, I finally received an email from TFA about three weeks later while assisting some of the kids with their math. It was a no, a no that definitely sank to the bottom of my stomach and took some time to digest. And this wasn’t the first time I applied to them and received the “Thank you for your interest” and “I am sorry to inform you” status upon logging in to check my application progress . I first applied to them during the Spring semester of 2014 and only made it past the online application to the phone interview. Indeed close but not close enough.
Still subbing, I continued looking at various teaching paths that I could potentially walk to smell the lilies of and then suddenly had an incoming wave of various opportunities I could consider via emails. (Thank you TFA for referring me!). Organizations based in Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, New York, a fair share of Texas cities, such as San Antonio and Austin, and even places outside the U.S. all became possibilities I could delve into and perhaps select as viable options to further my teaching ambitions.
As November waltzed along, I began scheduling informational chats with different representatives from teaching organizations and school systems that whet my interests. The one I would begin pursuing the strongest of them all would be YES Prep Public Schools, an open-enrollment public charter school system serving students grades six through twelve in Houston’s, and soon to be Memphis, Tennessee’s, most disadvantaged communities.
I emailed, talked with the Manager of Recruitment of YES Prep, heard her experience firsthand, and became extremely hooked. What she breathed and felt during her teaching years, I wanted. And it was that gripping desire that egged me on to apply for YES!
And later, I discovered I’d be invited to a phone interview. Inching there slowly but surely. I had the phone portion of the application process on December 5 and it went well. I would soon get a ring-a-ding-ding on the cellular following up from the phone interview while subbing at a different school. The call was from the School Director of the Southwest Yes Campus and he wanted to invite me to a finalist day on January 12th, a Monday. That was such a frightening but joyful call. Frightening because I was not sure if he brought good tidings or not. Joyful because he indeed brought good tidings. Inching with more oomph now.
After Christmas Break, I have my finalist interview, meet some of the amazing staff at the Southwest Campus, engage with interested students, and enjoy my momentary stay at the campus; it was a warm atmosphere despite the shivering December weather.
Two weeks pass by and I get some not-so-happy news: I wouldn’t be selected for the position. Son of a Mother! Another distasteful gulp that I had to stomach. Son of a Mother’s Mother (grandson by the way)!
I informed the Recruitment Manager I had talked to before and updated her on the Southwest’s decision because I had been in close contact with her throughout my entire progress of the application. She was tremendously helpful and supportive the entire time. And she, surprisingly to me, seemed more bummed about the announcement than I did.
A week or two later, I received another call from YES. This one, though, had a sweeter and brighter tone to it. It was a member of the Selection Team notifying me that the Director in which I had interviewed with not too long ago, referred me to the future Director of the new YES Campus, believing that I’d be a better fit for that location.
I was going to get another finalist interview day, which inevitably meant a second chance at a full-time position as a teacher for the 2015-2016 school year. Just like the interview before, I experienced the same formalities: sample lesson, debriefing, interview portion, and so forth. And just like the interview before, it ended with another no.
Okay, that’s a lie. I was offered the position on the spot and will be a 6th grade ELA teacher starting in August!!! PARTAAAY!!
Yeah, that last sentence right above this one is legitimate. The Director was impressed (as I was madly shocked) and felt he did not have to wait to make a decision or think if I would be a potential fit.
You ever have a moment when your insides are bursting with happiness and joy but for reasons untold and unknown, you pathetically try to withhold those internal emotions from displaying on your outsides? Definitely one of those moments.
To make you chuckle, to give you the 411 of my journey currently, to let some of my many rampant thoughts become black and white – these are some of the reasons I wrote all that I wrote. However, I mainly wanted to convey a message that reminded you to never back down from your heart’s greatest passions and desires, even when you get discouraging or unfavorable new, and never begin to see yourself as an incompetent or failure of a human for trying. Going after your dreams to make them tangible buildings, organizations, books, jobs, hobbies, technologies or even make them others’ tangible dreams can be a daunting and difficult task. You may get denied. You might get held back. It’s possible all the work you were investing in may break or fall into shambles piece by piece.
Follow. Your. Dreams.
Don’t. Abort. Them!
Don’t see rejection or the nos as a mocking jest tallying up your future failures, but rather see it as a beautiful, though stinging, learning experience to spring your closer to your touchable manifestations. Look at those set backs as waiting periods to smile, laugh, and keep your held high. And even when your dreams start appearing to take on nightmarish qualities because things go awry and awry again, may you be immediately reminded of how gifted, amazing, and useful you are. May you be struck by a jolt of affirmation that electrifies your being into believing and dreaming again. Realize that your dreams are not meant to stay hidden in your heart or circulate endlessly in your mind but rather cultivated, released, and enjoyed by a powerful walking, breathing, living entity – You!
The Universe awaits you, Stars.