Tally Mark One, Tally Mark Two…: A Chronicle of Letting Go

Tally mark one

You, my beloved green notebook, were an impulse buy. Why would I ever spend $24 just to say that I had a “cute” notebook? But I had run inside the store, snatched you up, and opened the fresh pages on that BART ride.

A stranger asked if I was writing my life story as I scribbled along the pages. I said, “No, I’m writing a story of letting go.”

Tally mark two

I’ve always been convinced that the best form of therapy is writing. It clears my head and allows me to think through the more dangerous forms of emotions: anger, blame, denial. My writing has saved me from many moments I would want to reach back and erase.

Tally mark three

As a teacher, I have been told that if you want your students to break a habit, they should keep a tally mark of every day they do not do whatever it is they want to break, and on the 20th tally mark, they would have broken the cycle. I guess I will know soon enough if my own advice was right.

Tally mark four

I stopped by your house with a box of your things, but you were not home, avoiding running into me, so I mailed them instead. I packed my bags and was greeted on the other side of a short flight by a best friend awaiting with open arms and bottles of wine. (I am grateful for that night you made me ‘get it all out’)

Tally mark five

I sit with my feet in the ocean writing poems–some romantic, others oozing with the voice of confusion and regret. The ocean breeze revives me and I begin again.

Tally mark six, tally mark seven, tally mark eight…

And we’re back talking again. I think things may go really well this time. I’m elated at the idea that things will smooth themselves out and we’ll move forward from previous mistakes

Later that day, I bought an ocean someone was selling in Arizona.

But I believed that “Love comes to those who still hope after disappointment.”

And I begin again.

Tally mark one, tally mark two, tally mark three…

I guess the third time is not a charm. And I’m angry because I should have known better

Tally mark four, tally mark five, tally mark six…

It seems silly, but I convince myself that the tally marks will stand the test of time. That one day, I’ll open up the snaps of that green notebook, and find the next tally obsolete.

Tally mark seven, tally mark eight…

In fact, I started writing this over two months ago. It laid forgotten in the depths of drafts I thought deserved more attention. And then I forgot all about it. My mind firmly focused on other, more positive things.

Tally mark nine, tally mark ten…

You send me an email asking for my new address across the ocean and saying that you had cried over old letters I had written you were reading.

I am tempted to send you a page from my beloved green notebook. Or better yet, a photo of my tally marks. But instead I let it go.

Tally mark…?

I don’t remember when I stopped tally marking.

“He offered her the world. She said she had her own.”


When the Teacher Becomes the Student Again

Idealism and perspective.

Two words and ideas that have come to form the foundations of my research and practice.

Yesterday, at the end of the first meeting of my 15-person route on politics, development, and democratic education (PDDE), the head of the route, who is also now my personal supervisor, told us that we would have to dig deep within ourselves to find a place that allows us to keep our idealism in the face of an onslaught of heavy criticism. I smiled as I wrote down her words in the cover of my notebook.

I smiled because it’s what any passionate teacher does. We work tirelessly for our students–our children–in the face of a relentless onslaught from callous adults, blinded school administrators, and a bureaucracy that has tried everything to ensure that a joy of learning is stomped out of the school systems. It would make even the biggest and warmest of hearts fall prey to the dark depressions of October onward. And it takes support from colleagues and the faces of your students to keep that idealism that things can be fixed, day in and day out.

But then again, that’s just the representation and perspective I have come to adopt as the reality of my life. I understand that there are different value systems, different viewpoints in life. What I loved most about the introduction to my course was that they honored those different perspective and want for us to deeply engage in that.

During one session they showed us a map of the London tube. It was a very dense map of all the stations that the tube has and looked like it covered a large part of London. Then, the instructor showed us another map. This map was a geographical map of the London tube. It showed us how many areas in which people would think they lived far from, they were actually direct neighbors of the people in that community. The map also showed us all the areas that were vastly missed by the tube and went without underground rail service. The third map the instructor showed us was a map of the wheelchair accessible service of the tube. There were very few stations that were wheelchair accessible, and it was obvious how hard it would be to get from one point to another in a wheelchair on the tube. In fact, when the tube was out of service for awhile and people were complaining about the stops that were not operating, one handicapped individual said that it was what the tube looked to them every day. That’s perspective.

What the instructor challenged us to was the idea of representations of truth. She said that the more we know–such as in the case of seeing different viewpoints of the map of the London tube–we would question the notion that sources are reliable. She pointed out that he more we knew of those maps, the more we were willing to look at things differently.

We have to challenge the representations that exist. For so long, on a macro and micro level, there has only been the voices of those in power. We have to find the sweet spot between knowing that what is represented can be skewed by those in power, but also acknowledge that as humans, we need to represent ideas and issues in order for people to understand them. It is a problem and a paradox all in one. I have always been taught by my mother and the professors that I have come to treasure that those are the questions that determine the role of the historian, the researcher. Oftentimes, I don’t know if I am doing any of this right. I do know that I take my role as one who represents and whose representation are taken seriously very much to heart. I want to be the voice of the marginalized, but I don’t want to BE their voice either.

It is a careful road to walk on. I look forward to the discourse and the challenge.


Perspective is finding yourself lost in a new country

It’s being reconnected to the world for the first time in three days

To find your first communication makes you feel

even more alone than you did before

It’s feeling like you wish you could turn back the clock

and send you more letters, more emails, more notes of appreciation

Held on a little longer despite the strains of distance

To tell you just how mesmerizing your love of life was

How my truths were always safe within the walls of our conversations

And that we all loved you- Te amo

And can’t believe you’re gone

Perspective is not wanting to make new friends

Because you lost an old one

Ripped out from the pages of a grand and beautiful novel

From a selfish and weak soul

Perspective is feeling overwhelmed by the pain of loss

But simultaneously overwhelmed by gratitude

For moments shared, and lives you touched

And knowing that the work you did and loved

I will continue in my own path doing–

I owe it in your remembrance to keep going.