On my walk to work in the morning, I'm a woman on a mission. When I walk to work (which is typically September/October thru May/June), I take Mass Ave straight up to Dupont Circle where I work. The mornings are full-on hustle and bustle, dealing with the angry and aggressive drivers, creating my plan of attack for the day, running through crosswalks to beat the light (and thereby saving myself precious moments for a hopeful pre-work Starbucks stop), and hauling a massive bag of varying size and color. I see the same people most days and we all pretend not to be giving each other the early a.m. once-over.
My evening walk home from work/school/gym/etc is an entirely different experience, as it has become my "me time" these days. It's the time I am allowed (or rather, forced) to think about my day, my week, work, school, social life (actually, the lack thereof), my students, the condition of the world, or my plan for dinner (which usually results in trying to recall the scraps of food that are in my apartment that I might be able to scrape together and season well enough for them to be edible as a unit).
Tonight was no exception. I had an exceptionally productive day at work, and even managed to squeeze a productive researching session between work and and event. After work, I attended an appreciation event for all of the teachers and tutors at the language school where I teach ESL to non-native English speakers in the DC area. One of my students said some of the most amazing things about our class, which actually brought me to tears. For most people who know me fairly well, tears don't flow easily for me (until recently for some reason). But, when they do, they're real and they are meaningful. After the reception I headed to the gym for a couple of hours, which then had me walking home at the prime time for people ascending upon the Dupont Circle area - but then again, when isn't it prime time in Dupont?!
I used to think that by leaving where I was, I was destined for greatness elsewhere. While that still may be true, DC has been an interesting experiment. Whereas I used to think that I needed to be surrounded by people who act and think like myself, I'm not so sure of that anymore. I feel like though I am surrounded everyday by people who are similar to me, I still have a vastly different experience than most. There is something about the everyday (wo)man that has fallen by the wayside. And by 'everyday' I do not mean the businessman being driven to his office downtown or on the Hill or the woman in the power suit who is busy shattering the glass ceiling that hangs above all of us. The everyday woman and man I refer to are the ones I see on my long walk home at night - attending to the cars parked in the garage across the street from the swank new club in Dupont; cleaning the office after everyone else left several hours ago; the homeless women and men settling in their makeshift dwellings for the evening; and, the bus driver who carefully shuttles people to and fro at 10 p.m. on a Friday evening.
This learning experience I referred to has a purpose; that purpose has yet to fully reveal itself to me, but through faith I believe it exists. I must believe in a greater purpose for being drawn to live (and continue to live) in a city that boasts the same environment as the frat houses on the Alabama campus. For one reason or another, most people don't seem to understand why I continue to give of myself in the ways I do, which is understandable as I don't really understand how so many people can exist as useless sponges, managing to comingle and move around dirt, without offering a reverse contribution in any way.
I do not think I am some wonderwoman, nor do I think I can 'do it all' and do it all well. I do what I can, I give of myself as much as I possibly can afford (physically, mentally, financially, emotionally), and I spend as much time as possible learning how and creating a plan to give back as much of myself that I possibly can once I have 'made it' in my own right.
Tonight, my long walk home enabled me to spend some time thinking about how blessed I am to be able to be part of so many amazing people's lives - even in such a small way as teaching English to my students one night a week or being allowed the opportunity to learn from such wise professors and mentors - and what I can do to ensure that I do my part so that those opportunities are afforded to the next generation.
While I may not have the same life as the Hispanic woman I saw vacuuming the conference room on the second floor of the building at 17th and L NW as I walked home at 10 p.m. this evening, but we have one fundamental cause in common. She is working so that her children will have the opportunities that she never did, such as good education leading to a higher income career; I'm working to help others understand what she has already experienced, so that her children have the same opportunities I do.
We will all leave a legacy. What will yours be?