I’ve been asking myself often why I’m here, on Reunion Island of all places. In fact, the reason I chose to come to this island instead of the others, or France for that matter, was because of 2 pages in my 2nd year of French classes at Concordia College. One of those two pages was occupied entirely by a picture of a typical surfer, tanned with long golden hair and the name of the island emblazoned in the wave: La Réunion. The second page was a 1-page description of what one can do on the island. It was a number of years ago, but I remember well that the passage spoke of the beautiful hiking trails, that it was a paradise for rock climbers, runners, and mountain biking enthusiasts. So, when I was writing down my top three choices of where to be sent, I chose Réunion as my first.
Beforehand, I memorized only the basic facts on Wikipedia to answer the questions that people would ask me about the island: Where is it located? What is the population? Which religions are practiced? How many people are there and of what ethnicity? As excited as I was to go to the island, I was just as reluctant to leave Minneapolis.
Before today, my first day of class, I had heard so many friends talk about their experience with TAPIF and teaching that I put the idea of actually teaching up on a shelf, not to be considered until last night at 10pm as I was planning my first lesson plan. And as easy as my assignment was – making a presentation for my classes to explain who I am, where I come from, what I like to do, etc. I sat in my apartment hating every minute of planning that presentation.
Perhaps it was because it wasn’t challenging, because it felt like busy work, because it was a shock to even consider that I would actually be teaching something to someone else, but I felt so low. Enfermé, coincé, like there were brick walls closing in on both sides and the situation felt inconceivably hopeful. After I finished preparing a presentation to last an hour or so, I took out the journal from my nightstand and wrote every concern that I had to better fall asleep.
Why am I here? Can I really do this, be a good teacher that is? Why didn’t I stay in Minneapolis where my friends are, where I can continue to do something I know how to do and occupy the space that feels most secure. I miss the coffee shops, hell, I miss the cold even!… And on it went until both my hand and head were tired.
I woke at 6:30am to catch a ride with one of the English professors. He dropped me off at the middle school 40 minutes before I was to go to class and present. I redid my slides, overlooked my notes, and met some of the other professors in the teachers lounge. Anne found me, the professor I would be with, and we walked together to her first class, my first class.
She had me stand in front of the class as they asked me questions from the sheet that they were given. They were extremely friendly and sweet, great at listening, overall good students. I felt completely at ease the moment I began talking. In eighth grade I distinctly remember winging a presentation on a book called Running With the Buffaloes and received an A. It all felt completely natural, and that’s how my first class went. At the end, after asking me what I like to listen to, I played a song by Girl Talk from Feed the Animals, an album that I have been listening to since leaving Minneapolis. They loved it.
My second class went exactly the same way, easy, natural. The final two were no different.
Even at the airport I was still considering bailing. The thought had popped into my head multiple times a day until last week when I finally handed over the majority of my savings to my landlord for first months rent and a security deposit. The little remaining money I had went into a bank account, somewhere around 230 euros. Even if I wanted to leave I couldn’t afford the plane ticket home.
Honestly, I strongly feel that that is why I am here, to quit the habit of bailing. I’m a great bailer. It comes so naturally to me to quit something, a relationship even, when things aren’t easy anymore. I don’t know why, but that’s how I have been since my first year of college. Perhaps its because of all the responsibilities in high school I felt I had to take on: AP classes, working a part-time job, doing three sports a year. Perhaps it’s because I was always pretty carré, square, never drinking in high school or experimenting with drugs, etc. When I entered college I had so much liberty to act as I pleased, I ended up skipping a lot of classes, getting poor grades adopting a lot of unhealthy habits.
I have gotten better in a lot of areas, but still, bailer. I bailed a week before I said I would stay when I worked on a ranch in Montana a few years ago. I nearly left French camp after two weeks because I felt uncomfortable trying to be a teacher. If it weren’t for a good friend of mine, there is no way I would have stayed. I have bailed on relationships early on because I tend to overthink them, I often bail on pursuing things with my life that might be a little difficult: graduate school for example, pursuing a career in writing. There was a video from Vimeo I posted on here once entitled The Scared is Scared, the message continues to say, … of all the things you like. Why is it that we’re often scared to pursue what we want?
I am not saying that being here is necessarily something that I really want, nor am I someone who always looks for a reason to explain why something happens. I do however believe that I am here, on Reunion Island for these next seven months, to quit my habit of bailing. I have no choice but to stick with this program and see where I find myself at the end.