I was telling my friend the other day that I graduated from school in 2006, a few months later, the war broke out. A couple of months after that, I started university. I finished my last courses in August 2010 and in September, I started teaching. Right now, I’m going through the last days of school and in a month, I’ll be on the other side of the world, pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University as a Fulbright Fellow. Time passes quickly? Things change at a frightening pace? Yes. And yes.
Last year, I was asked by one of my professors to describe myself in a letter. Knowing me, I could never send a typical “Hey, my name is Dima and I am 21 years old…” letter, and this is what I came up with:
(She is weighed down by three literary anthologies she is holding in her left arm, her hair is a mess and she looks tired.)
Dima: Just give me a minute, I’m catching my breath here! I just ran all the way from ACS, carrying all of this! (She tries to lift up her arm to show the anthologies, but she has lost all feeling of it. The anthologies fall to the floor with a big thud) Oh well. I have to run up to chair this meeting we have once a week, where representatives meet and we all play university; more complex yet more boring than playing house because you don’t get an easy-bake oven! Afterwards, I have to meet Lana for lunch so we can have our daily nagging session. For us, the cafeteria is one big couch and the food is our Freud! Analysis… here we come! We discuss the good old days and worry sick about the future. The present? Who has time for it?! Then, off to class. Literature: a world where women are mad and usually live in attics, where a pen is never just a pen, it is a phallic symbol, where we swear to say the whole literary truth and nothing but the truth while putting our right hand on an anthology… so help us Shakespeare! Fortunately, after classes, I have a little break. So I head to our campus minister’s office, fall on a chair and start talking about how the world is falling apart. He listens all the time… he must really like this university. Sometimes I show him my latest paper or the latest book I’m reading. Of course, I do so with my right hand, my left one being rendered completely useless due to the weight of the centuries that has been placed on it. Off to tutor the young minds! I sit with the kids and we make home-made play dough. They have cutters of different shapes; bunny, star, heart etc… one of the girl makes one of each and I help. Suddenly, she loses sight of one of them and asks in panic: “where is our heart?! We lost it!” O! Her prophetic soul! Then I rush to drama practice where I can finally take Dima off, give her a break and I put on another character. Thank God for theatre! By the time we’re done, it’s the evening and I rush home for dinner and a good episode or two of whatever teenage series I’m watching at the time. Lana calls and we discuss literature, Turkish series, soul mates, Chinese food and our general “malaise du siècle” and melancholy. After we’ve exhausted every subject or ourselves (whichever comes first), we call it a night and head to bed. That’s where another section of an endless day begins; a time for thoughts, dreams, wondering and prayer. I finally drift off to sleep with the hopeful certainty that tomorrow is, indeed, a new day.
(She lifts the anthologies off the ground, then lifts her own left arm and throws it over her shoulder.)
After finding this letter and reading it, I decided to write a similar piece about my year in teaching.
DIMA: Let me introduce you to what I’d like to call “the one-eye syndrome”. It happens when you are SOOO sleepy that you are physically incapable of opening both eyes, and the numbers on your cell phone clock seem like one big blur through your exhausted, heavy, sleepy eyelid. That’s me. Every day. I get up at 6am, try to put on an outfit that looks remotely professional and head to school on the bus while the 10th grade girl sitting in the front seat blasts “Excuse me, I might drink a little bit more than I should tonight” by Pitbull, and I sit wondering where the good ol’ innocent days have gone. “Today class, we’re going to have a fun activity”. A student raises his hand: “Miss, is it YOUR kind of fun or OUR kind of fun?” (Dima hides the Hannah Montana poster she brought to class in order to teach characterization) Back home, I sleep, work, correct and eat. Not necessarily in that order and not necessarily allocated the same amount of time. All the while, I whatsapp Lana, updating her on my every move: “I’m in the kitchen now – salad looks good – I’ll have the chips – reading Harry Potter, again – wait, I’ll send you a picture of my dinner plate.” I still watch series, live vicariously through them and think: “wow, it must be nice to have a social life… I wouldn’t know.” Next thing I know, it’s the one-eye syndrome all over again.