My friend Bonnie once said something very wise: “Self-growth is a lot like lot being on ladders. When you reach for something, you know you’ve stretched just far enough before absolute panic sets in. We all need fear to grow. ”
Problem is, I have always had a paralyzing fear of heights.
But that didn’t stop me from skydiving, all metaphors aside. I can remember waking up in sheer terror a few weeks ago. Disorganized chaos was racing through my head. Oh God, I thought, I’ve stretched too far. I can’t do this. What was I thinking? … It felt exactly like boarding that plane last May. I had made a fatal decision and there was no turning back.
Truth be told, I was rejected once from Georgia Tech due to ‘lack of leadership activities’. That letter stayed with me for a long, long time. Obviously I was bitter. Of course I cursed their selection process and blamed it all on politics. It took teaching in Georgia to realize they were right.
The idea of starting a library had been with me from day one. At that boiling hot September meet-and-greet, I dodged round two of feasting and kissing to survey our school’s book collection. There were only eight English books – and all of them had misspellings. Something inside me, that not-quite-right feeling, snapped.
Every lesson brought a new reason to take some initiative: Nana knew grammar, but she could only phrase something one way. Giorgi’s spelling was atrocious. And Lasha was convinced that people in California eat salad, and only salad. Books would, eventually, remedy all these problems; not only would their vocabulary and grammar dramatically improve, their eyes would be opened to the fascinating world around them.
Fast forward ten months, and I’m on another plane. A thirteen-hour flight from Istanbul to Chicago can do crazy things to a person. After you realize pacing, sleeping, and/or clawing your way out are no-gos, you resort to logical thinking, and lots of it. My thoughts kept drifting back to my students and their books.
Then I decided just to go for it. Just like jumping out of a plane, simple as that. Think about how much we allow our fear of failure to repress us; however, when you are truly a part of something greater than yourself, your own inhibitions come second to the joy your work brings. Before you know it, those inhibitions disappear completely, and you find yourself so immersed in your work that you would take on the world to see it through. You find you have crossed the threshold from existing to living.
It’s been a month since I arrived in America to start our project. So far, I’ve collected over 1,000 books. My former school here and my school in the village have become sister schools. All three schools in the county are participating in a book drive to help us meet our goal of 2,000 books by August 19th. The wonderful staff at Greenheart Travel awarded us the very first Greenheart Grant – $500 to cover renovations. And today, I launched our page to raise funds for shipping costs.
For all of you out there who doubt yourself, don’t. Another wise friend’s quote that has helped me through tough times: “When you’re about to give up, remember why you started.” With 22 days left before I return for my second year and the project comes to a close, I’m not about to give up.