Where should the first event be?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eleven Years

I knew I would return to the Golden State. My earliest memories, before I had reached three years old, recalled time I had spent in Sacremento before my family moved to Albuquerque. It is possible, however, that these memories are visions stitched from dreams. From time I spent imagining what that time would have been like. I have no real early memories of California, but I do remember stories shared by my father. My dad spent a significant amount of time in the state and in myriad locations and experiences; two of his tales caught my particular attention: the time he spent at 15 when he left home on an adventure, and his time at Berkeley after serving in the Army. Already planning to leave Albuquerque, these glimpses into my father's experiences were like morsels of possibility and encouragement that nourished a motivation to set out on my own. I spent many days beneath puffy clouds, where sunrises are the color of bright fire and sunsets reflect deep pinks and fuchsia; where thunderstorms bring atmospheric discharges of electricity that rip across the skies and shake the walls with deep vibrations; where chile comes with everything, where being Catholic feels more ethnic than religious, and all four seasons exist. Yet, even with all the natural beauty, steeped in culture over 400 years old, and some the best tortillas in existence, I never had the feeling that it was where I was meant to be. It was a great place to grow up, especially surrounded by immediate and extended family-- with so many cousins I'm not sure I will ever remember everyone's names. My parents supported the many activities and sports my brother and I enjoyed, and by the time I reached the end of high school it was expected I would be leaving. Among envelopes that arrived to my parents' mailbox in the spring of 2000 was good news from Troy that began over a decade in the City of Angels.
My time in school was spent socially as much as educationally, there were many things to learn about the world and people, and how to succeed and lead. Upon graduation I began a two-year teaching commitment in South Los Angeles through Teach For America. It was not so much my experiences as an undergrad that motivated my post-graduation choices, but my experiences four years earlier in high school. I saw the difference between the teachers of my magnet-program classes and those the rest of the students were assigned. Books I read in my HS senior English course left an indelible accent of the importance of empowerment and education/knowledge. However, what I learned from Dr. Bennis and President Sample in the spring of my college senior year absolutely catalyzed the decision to spend 2004-2006 teaching 7th grade, there was nothing better I could have been doing.
Those two years have been the most formative of my life so far. What I learned and who I became as a result of that time is too complex to describe in a few sentences, but has fundamentally shaped me. Perhaps a different entry at a different time. Spring again brought more change and I was told I would be assigned a different content area and not be able to continue math education with my students who would be entering eighth grade. Having shaky confidence in the algebra education opportunities my students would have I was compelled to join Teach For America's Recruitment Team to do my part in ensuring my kids and those of our nation would be more likely to have even stronger teachers in their future, and more people would have the experience that I did so that even more committed citizens would fight for educational equity and the broad reaching increase in the future global success of our country. After a year of recruiting I was planning to leave the organization but decided to work at the training Institute before work for a different organization. I enjoyed discussing my experience with college seniors and getting them excited to join the movement, but I found it very challenging to not be able to work with rejected applicants to help them learn to become stronger. The experience of coaching and developing over the summer uncovered my desire to work in a role that had more management and coaching opportunities. I spent the next three years working as a Program Director in Teacher Support and Development of our secondary math and science teachers. Second to teaching one of the most life-changing professional development experiences-- too much to expound upon here, but likely a good additional entry later. With the ever-changing leadership tides I had the opportunity to take the lead of our Program Team this year as one of our two Managing Directors. With a seat on our regional Leadership Team and additional opportunities while my partner MDP is on maternity leave with darling Sophia this year has been fertile for growth in leadership and management. My employment trajectory seems like mostly a smooth curve, my geographic trajectory not so much-- I have moved nearly every other year on average, and so I have been able to experience quite a bit of LA. While in school I lived near campus, but spent a good deal of time exploring mid-city, Hollywood, and the South Bay. While teaching I lived off of Crenshaw and Washington to secure an easy commute and spent a good amount of time in mid-city, WeHo, and Culver City. While recruiting I lived off Beverly between La Brea and Fairfax where I truly discovered some of the city's absolute best food and spent more time heading a bit further west and north depending on the activity. At the end of that lease I had not confirmed a next step and so moved my belongings mostly into a storage unit and beneath the staircase of my best friend and her husband's condo. After a summer reverting back to dorm life (while at Institute I lived in the dorms at CSULB, the last summer before it was moved to LMU), I moved to downtown LA with the help of two of my very good downtowner friends. I fell in love with the blossoming nature of it and ran for and won a seat on the Neighborhood Council. At the conclusion of my term with a new job on the horizon and a possible move out of LA in 2012 I decided to move west and spend my possibly last year living near the beach, less than a mile from it, in Santa Monica. Over the past three years, through the supportive and sometimes demanding guidance of my Sig-O, I have grown to love a new sport, road cycling-- yet another top reason to live further west. At T-minus five months I find myself at the precipice of another journey. I will soon depart Southern California. Definitely not for good, but for now. But not before doing a few things right and sharing some more "that is so LA" experiences with my dearest friends.