One of the requirements of Teach For America’s pre-work is writing a story of self: an anecdote that showcases a bit of your personality! Read on for mine… no judgement if it’s a bit dramatic
For the longest time, I’ve had an odd sense of guilt for leaving my home state. The eighth-biggest city in Wisconsin, my hometown is full of tucked-away gems, like painted Victorian houses and impromptu prairie restorations.
It’s also a town that loses most of its college-bound students, in a state with even greater brain-drain issues. The city’s largest employer was an ancient General Motors factory, which rolled out its last vehicle two days before Christmas in 2008.
By that time, I was finishing my first semester in digital journalism at Columbia College in downtown Chicago.
Updates of my city’s slow dissembling came in short phone calls from my grandparents, clippings of the Janesville Gazette my mom sent, and the slow closing of businesses where high school friends once worked.
It wasn’t until junior year of college that the reality of this set in- when Wisconsin got governor of the college dropout variety. Friends and family began supporting his radically anti-education initiatives with his focus more on low-income factory jobs than high-paying, high-skill careers. In his first year, he cut more than 1.6 billion dollars from public schools and universities.
At this point, I was studying abroad in London. More short phone calls, more newspaper clippings sent in shoe boxes with other, mixed in with articles about the Snowpocalypse. All for a governor whose election I didn’t even vote in.
All of this came to a head in the summer of 2012, when I was frantically knocking on doors and urging my neighbors far and wide to vote against him in the recall election. A stabbing feeling of guilt mixed in with my democratic spirit: I left this state, I didn’t vote in the election that led to this situation… and my mom’s a teacher. Who have I become?
On Election night, June 5, I opted for Family Guy reruns, unable to stomach the impending results. That night, I lost a bit of pride for my home state and was given a hearty serving of the bitterness that seems to slosh about in greater and greater quantities in people as they age.
In some ways, I felt that maybe I should leave the state for good. Maybe my ideals aren’t a good fit. Lord knows I’d get along better in SanFran or New York City. But if I’m anything, it’s stubborn. Those who voted conservatively made me want to dig my feet in the snow and stay all that much more.
After all, there is a silver lining within the whole issue: in my home county- the one where I spent a week canvassing, texting, calling friends, debating family members- voted against the standing governor by more than 10,000 votes. It was in that moment that I knew my state would, eventually, get back onto the right track. Myself, and more than a million other people were ready to see this through.
I had worked for an issue I so strongly believe in. I failed. Myself and a million others failed. But I am better for it. And I’ve learned from it.
What’s more, I personally was over feeling guilty for going to the big city, or heading over to Minnesota. I’m ready to take every experience I have gained, every experience I will gain, and keep my voice in the future of the great state of Wisconsin.