This morning I had the pleasure of reconnecting with someone special. While my network on Linked In is slowly growing I never really considered it a place where I would reunite with someone particularly special. I’d expect a reconnection of that sort to happen solely on Facebook or even in person. I have been fortunate to have many people come in and out of my life as angels in disguise, and I’ve done my best to sustain those relationships. However, when I was younger I was unaware of the importance of maintaining some level of association with individuals who have brought change to my life. I do believe some people come in your life for a season, but I truly believe there is always an opportunity for one on one homecomings overtime. So yes, there’s a reason that someone was in your life for that season, but it does not mean their involvement is limited to that particular time. Any how, back to this special person! I have been fortunate to have many mentors and great teachers throughout my life. It’s so funny how blogging can instill this pensive perspective that allows you to be cognizant of the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this introspect, I remember way too much good in the midst of what one might consider the bad and the ugly.
I received a network request from my 11th grade homeroom and math teacher on Linked In! For many, this isn’t exactly thrilling, but for me it was. Thinking back on my many teachers I realize, if I knew what I know now, I would know that my future was indeed promising. From my elementary school teachers at Mary E. Fogarty, Mrs. Housman and Mrs. McBride, to my last years in early childhood education in 4th grade with Mrs. Wayland. They were all very sweet teachers, who honored excellence as a mandate in the classroom. I’m a firm believer that expectations can always make a significant difference in someone’s life. Moving forward, I realize that middle school is a blur, I’m sure it is for most people. But teachers like Mr. Akers and Sister Edwardine made me appreciate the sciences and the different areas of theology. High school began and so did my love for foreign policy, history, and civics; thanks to Mrs. Haines and Mr. Kennedy who laid the foundation for my obsession with transnational current events. And then there was my loving math teacher, Ms. Cunningham. Cliche lines are super corny but she’s definitely beautiful inside and out! Teaching for her went beyond the four walls within the classroom. It went beyond the different class periods and made its way into the different time periods of life. She’d humbly boast expressing that math is a universal language and was able to make math relevant to real life — sharing the possibilities of others being additions to the life of others. Her enthusiasm was contagious and for a minute, I almost thought I loved math.
I remember high school always being an awkward time. I had friends, I wasn’t ugly, at least I thought I wasn’t. Maybe I wasn’t the most popular, but I wasn’t the most hated or as half as nerdy as I am now — isn’t that all that mattered in high school anyway. High school at St. Mary’s Academy-Bay View was a wonderful but sometimes difficult adventure. I was grateful for my uniform which created this union amongst us; we all looked the same, but deep down I knew that my white collared polo, blue skirt, and knee socks wouldn’t suffice for equality. Beyond the typical school girl outfit that brought us together there were these intangible demographics that isolated us and made the union very fuzzy.
Attending Saint Mary’s Academy Bay View, a nationally recognized blue ribbon all girl’s school was the best thing for me! It shaped me in ways that no other journey could. Most of my classmates were privileged young women coming from affluent families. They were ignorant of the struggles of inner city youth like myself. I never really voiced those conflicting emotions because I just wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want to be badgered with questions as to why I couldn’t do sports, or afterschool activities. Girls didn’t understand what it meant to get a ride across town or have to take the two buses home late in the evening. I never wanted to have to explain why I didn’t go on that field trip last week or why I was still wearing that worn out skirt. I just wanted be a Bay View girl, minus all the complications that differences in demographics brought.
I remember Junior year came around and so did our moment to be the little Cinderella’s that we all dreamed to be… Prom. Conversations focused on where girls were looking for dresses: Cache, trips to Boston + New York to fancy boutiques. I wasn’t a very great addition to the conversation, but I’d do my best with ad-libs, a quick laugh or verbal exclamation to stay present in the moment. My friends must have noticed how loud my silence was during these times and kind of figured out, just like the trip I missed, or track practice I didn’t attend, that prom would be the same. It simply wasn’t going to happen. I knew my grandparents wouldn’t be able to afford the $60 ticket and a dress, along with jewelry, shoes, makeup, and hair. Yeah, it was sad, but such was my life. All I could do was sigh and move forward. Luckily I was fortunate to be surrounded by a caring group of people. My friends expressed to my teacher how disappointed they were that I was not able to attend prom. I didn’t want to have discussions about it. Life’s not fair, but would they understand and is that even an excuse?
I remember the day Ms. Cunningham pulled me to the side and said she’d really like me to go. What did that mean? She told me not to worry about any costs. Go to the mall she said. Find the dress you want and put it on hold, I’ll have my boyfriend pick it up. What about my shoes, hair, and makeup? If I was going to pull off Cinderella, I wanted to do it right. After all, this was a Cinderella story. Don’t worry — I’ll pay for your ticket. Your hair, makeup, and shoes, let me know the costs. I didn’t understand. Surely she was an angel in disguise. Why did I deserve this? I received mediocre grades in her class, I was far from a mathlete all star, and I had my issues with tardiness during homeroom. I still don’t understand it to this day. Why would she want to help me? All I know is that I’m blessed to have had her want to see me enjoy that one day of glory. Certainly she changed my high school experience and life. She reminded me of the beauty that can fall between the haves and have nots and that is the beauty of sharing; and using the universal language of math to be a positive addition to someone’s life. Thank you Ms. Cunningham.