I am tired of the killing of innocent people.
I am tired of innocent people being targeted as killers on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.
I am tired of feeling like there’s nothing I can do.
I am tired of being unhelpful.
I am tired of the sicknesses and pain that have ailed me physically, mentally, and emotionally this past week.
I am tired the constant war of my mind and my body against me.
I am tired of feeling ineffective and inadequate as a teacher and as a person.
I am tired of teachers at my schools giving up on their students and putting them into boxes.
I am tired of students who constantly put one another down.
I am tired of the self-hate that I can already see taking its roots inside of my students.
I am tired of feeling miserable.
I am tired and guilt-trodden when I put my problems in the perspective of the world.
I am tired of feeling so indulgent, when I should feel young, energetic and spontaneous.
I am tired of the world falling apart.
Two days after the deadly fusillade in Paris and Sainte-Denis this past Friday and during the same few days of shootings and suicide bombings, that went mainly ignored or portrayed as “typical” in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Kenya, I came across an essay by Duke professor Omid Safi. In the essay, Safi includes a poem “from the amazing Somali-British poet, Warsan Shire:
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
This poem instantly shook me to my core. Just a few simple lines came as close to articulating what can never be truly be put into words. Pain runs deep in every street, in every school, in every business in every place of worship, and in every household.
Everywhere people are walking a jagged line between life and death. Even the most seemingly still waters ebb and flow between peace(?–mild tolerance may be more accurate) and war. These wars are in the mind, the body, in households, neighborhoods, schools, streets, cities, countries, spanning oceans, time, and space (the space between us and the spaces we create).
The following is a post I shared to my family and friends this past Monday:
I’ve been very sick since Thursday night, but was determined to go to work today. The streets were somber, the schools are on lockdown. Once I finally got to the CP classroom (the French equivalent of first grade) the teacher was discussing with her students what happened friday night and what it meant. I’m very impressed with how she talked with them, and I immediately remembered being in school during 9/11 at age 8 and, perhaps even moreso, during the attacks of the dc sniper at age 9. I had 10 minutes with them, which I barely made it.through because of my health and was sent home afterwards. I told each of them to repeat the following:
I am beautiful.
I am special.
I am unique.
You are beautiful.
You are special.
You are unique.
I stand by these words. Even when feeling unhelpful and helpless, I must remind myself that resistance and resilience is grounded in the fight for self-worth and determination. Children, especially children of immigrants and refugees whose religious backgrounds, ethnicity, and races are often under scrutiny, need to hear that their lives are worthwhile and that their existence in the world is a blessing not a nuisance. Over the course of the week, I have begun to create a personal affirmation, one that may very well be critical in the fight for radical, sustainable change:
I am tired, but I am awake. Even when I am not awake, I am alive. That, within itself, matters.