“I know You’re able and I know You can,
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand,
But even if You don’t,
My hope is You alone.” -Mercy Me
“I don’t care if they know it’s me,” she says with a wave of her hand, “They can know!” I’d asked if she wanted to pull her hair back or take off her ring or any other identifiers, something I suggest to maintain a level of anonymity.
“All right,” I tell her, explaining that she doesn’t have to remain anonymous. She’s like that, though: charismatic, funny, nonchalant. Her personality is as big as her large, green eyes. She’s in her yoga pants and most-recent favorite sweater, sitting criss-cross at her kitchen table with a big cup of coffee.
“Send me that picture,” she tells me after approving the one I snap quickly with my phone, laughing about using it on her own Instagram and I shake my head and promise to send it. She’s a full mess with a laugh you could recognize in any crowd. She’s known for her sense of humor, open laugh, eye for detail, and sarcastic, but honest, opinions.
I go into the interview like I do any other interview, with professionalism and poise, but she shuts me down quickly when I begin to nod my head and throw out, “Mhm,” and “Yeah,” in that weird you-can-tell-I-majored-in-communications tone we all pick up along the way.
“Don’t do that,” she says dryly, protesting, “It’s just me.”
“This is my work,” I laugh, “This is just what I do.”
It’s a phrase that has seen her through tough times: never stop laughing. As a kid, she says, one of her favorite things was that no matter how hard things got, her family always knew how to crack a joke or make something funny.
“Granted, do we do it at the best times? No,” she laughs, “One time it happened at a funeral, but you laugh it off and you move on. The point is like we always know how to have fun, we always know how to laugh. To me, laughter is the best medicine.”
Growing up, life wasn’t always easy for her. The youngest in her family, she was the one who took on the role of cooking for the family at a young age and played mediator between her two older siblings, always working to keep the peace. During her childhood and teenage years, things were really hard financially and her dad was constantly moving from job to job while her mom went back to work full-time to make ends meet. But things were still hard.
She and her older siblings were homeschooled and up until her older brother graduated high school, she went through an online school for two years of her high school career. After that, she didn’t feel like being home by herself so her parents enrolled her into a public school a few miles from their home. Going to school was a confidence boost for her and she met some of the best friends she’s ever had during that time, being the social butterfly she’s always been.
From there, she went to college and found a love for teaching and working with kids who may have been in the same situation she was in just over a decade ago. She met her best friend while working at a daycare for pre-schoolers, someone who’s been by her side during some tough times.
These days, she’s your average twenty something, still living in Greenville and working on getting to where she wants to go. She’s a 2 on the enneagram, so she lives to help people and have connected, happy relationships. While she loves Greenville for its homey, southern vibe, she’s not against the idea of one day moving somewhere new. It just depends on what happens in the next several years.
For now, she loves hanging with her friends and family, drinking mimosas, and is working towards a goal of one day soon owning her own space. She’s single, for the moment, and content to focus on her career, but still holds dreams of being married with kids someday. She has an associates degree in early childhood education and is holding off on getting her bachelors degree for a few years while she works on building experience into her resume, working as a teacher’s aide for a kindergarten class.
“I’m helping our kids with their letters right now,” she explains, adding, “So right now I’m supposed to be pulling kids to help them fix some of their math they’ve been working on because some of them have never been taught how to write numbers….I will eventually do ERI, which is early reading intervention, so our low kids on the spectrum of reading who aren’t getting it, I’ll take them and we’ll do a small group.” She says a big part of her job, essentially, is to take the kids who are struggling and reinforce what the teacher’s working on with the class.
Planning, she explains, is a large part of her job as well, but admittedly it’s one of her favorite parts. The night before doing an activity requires a lot of preparation—printing off sheets, gathering pieces for any games that will help the kids understand, preparing activities, cutting out shapes, etc. If you don’t plan ahead, she says, the kids will be more confused and everything will be chaotic.
The rest of her time is spent mediating childish arguments, keeping kids in line, and making sure they’re paying attention and not talking. “There are some days, it seems like the hardest part is just walking down the hallway. That sounds bad,” she says, saying that —while it’s such a seemingly simple task—when two kids start talking it seems to go downhill from there, adding, “So we have 27 kids and you get two kids who are talking and then two other kids who start talking and it’s like a chain reaction. And then next thing you know you can’t get them to shut up, or they’re going crazy, they’re kicking walls, they’re doing stuff, and it’s easier when there’s two of you there because one can be at the front of the line, making sure they’re doing the right thing, and then I can be at the back of the line, making sure they’re doing the right thing. But when you’re by yourself and you think you’ve got the first half doing well, but then the back is going crazy. And then you go to the back and the front loses it.”
While she admits her days are crazy, she’s learning a lot. Kids, she explains, are like sponges—something she was always told, but is seeing firsthand more and more each week. It’s the middle of the fall semester when we sit down for our interview and she tells me her kids are starting to form words out of all the letters they’ve spent so much time working on. She says it’s interesting that no matter where her kids wind up, they have to start out with them—with the basics. She feels that her purpose, at least for now, is to help these kids on their way.
Another thing that’s made an impact in her teaching career is getting to teach the power of “yet”—meaning that even if you haven’t grasped a concept it doesn’t mean you never will; it just means you haven’t yet. “It’s like no, you’ll get it; you just might need more time,” she says, explaining that she never got that as a kid and it’s something she likes getting to pass onto kids who are more insecure about learning.
Outside of work and hanging with her friends, she loves drinking coffee and reading a good book, holing up in her room, and going on adventures. Her favorite color is purple and she loves working in the kitchen, trying new recipes and feeding those around her. Sundays are for church or brunch, in her world, and she loves driving around on beautiful days, blaring rap music. She’s all about good times and Instagram-worthy memories, working to always see the good in life.
One of the hardest things about being her is caring too much, she admits, adding that a lot of times she may not show it but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. “In the past, I feel like I got hurt a couple too many times,” she elaborates when I ask why she doesn’t show emotion, adding, “And people took advantage of the fact that I did care.” Emotions, she explains, have gotten her in trouble a few too many times as in the past she’s either gotten in trouble for reacting to something or was told that she over-reacted to a situation. On the other hand, though, a lot of people will tell her that she comes across as emotionally available or uncaring when she doesn’t open up about how she feels. It’s a lose-lose situation sometimes, she says, but the truth is she really cares too much.
Expectations, much like described above, are one of the biggest things she wishes she didn’t have to deal with. Expectations for her career, her love life, and her education are a few examples she gives, adding, “Some people? They do the college thing, they get their four years, they get married right afterwards, they hit all their high marks when some people deem they’re supposed to, but I’m learning that’s not always how it is.” And while she’s not in all the roles she thought she’d be in by now, she recognizes that these supposed detours are helping her gain experience and build her resume, preparing her for her own classroom more than those who graduate and immediately start teaching.
And as for relationships? Marriage and kids is something she always has and always will want, she says, but she knows there’s a reason it’s not happening right now. “It will come when it comes,” she says, “That’s what I’m learning….God has his plan.”
We begin to get to the last handful of questions, her full of opinions on girls on Instagram and people being fake and dry sarcasm to drive every point home. Finally, I ask her where she feels safe and she knows the answer immediately. The place she feels the most safe is her room, a hovel-type space she’s decorated and filled with things that bring her joy–a comfy bed, a Keurig, a coffee bar, and a large tv where she binges on shows like The Office and Bob’s Burgers.
“That’s my hole,” she laughs, saying that if she could fit a mini-fridge in there she totally would. I laugh and wind down the interview, after nearly an hour of nodding and prying, and ask what she wants on her gravestone and she gives me the same phrase that’s seen her through her best and worst days.
“Never stop laughing,” she says, adding that one day she’d like to get it tattooed somewhere, but her mom will kill her.
Never stop laughing. It’s so her–whimsical and positive, but simplistic as well.
Hey, #8–I hope you keep on laughing and bringing it to others, the way you do so well.