Lava hisses from
My soul like ash
Hot and bold
I unfold into
A dance that
Can birth sunlight
And dim darkness.
I wish I had written those rich words, however I they are from a poem entitled, Neon Soul by Alexandra Elle. I’ve been staring at those words for the past few days trying to get at what they mean. I think I finally have an answer that my English teachers would be proud of. However, I’ll reveal that shortly.
My internship at Public Citizens for Children and Youth has been all that I hoped for and more. No other endeavor has ever touched me the way this one has, and I am sure I will remember the experience for the rest of my life, using it to inform my career and life choices. Not only have I learned so much about educational issues, government, policy, and advocacy–while also expanding my skills in the wondrous platform that is Excel; but, I also have begun to break down the walls within which I used to operate. The practical skills and the knowledge of the issues are great, but it is the mind-widening experiences that truly have made this internship invaluable.
I learned how to talk to people. Sounds a little lame however, I was never used to having to deal with people in a professional, polite manner when they aren’t so professional and polite. Thanks to the countless phone calls, interactions with legislative receptionists who weren’t ecstatic to see me, and other experiences, I have grown a tough skin. This emotional intelligence growth spurt will surely be of aid throughout my life, and for that I am grateful.
I also learned of the social injustices that are deeply embedded in our educational system. Access to early childhood education is scarce, to say the least. Pre-k is a cost that most families, even rather well off families, struggle to afford. Parents avoid putting their children in care to save money, and thus end up at home looking after them. At home, not working, and not making money. Then, their children end up entering kindergarten with no pre-k; they lack socialization and basic cognitive skills. They start off behind everyone else, and if they aren’t able to read by the third grade they can say hello to the jail cell. It is a vicious cycle, and it is not enough to tell someone, faced with impossible obstacles and barriers, to simply “work harder.” There is a strong selfish sentiment ingrained in our society. It’s all about my child, my home, my money and that others just need to “work harder”. It should be about investing in the country’s children through education, because that is an investment in all of our futures. I am thankful to have gained this sentiment.
Previous to my internship, my thoughts operated within a very small box. I have privileges being white and middle class. I was sheltered incredibly, and even after going to college and learning about these social injustices in class, it wasn’t until I was witnessing them in action that they caught my attention and got me to think. I was under the impression that the world just was a certain way; that everyone had a family, that everyone had a fair shot at success. I found myself shocked and emotional when I slowly found out this was not the case. However, I also found myself swelling up with the urge to take control and do something about it. I became more motivated to do my job, even if it was just working in Excel.
Tackling our country’s education injustices is an incredibly daunting and overwhelming task. However, I believe this monstrous change can occur because of this feeling; the pull to offer everything in your ability to make a change, to help even just one child. Organization, mobilization, and accomplishments are fed with the motivation, passion, and perseverance of the advocates who devote their lives to the cause.
I found Elle’s words to bring that concept to life. Neon Soul encapsulates a personification of the most fortified kind of strength. A strength through passion. Lava; hot, bold, colorful, and bright originating from a soul; powerful and beautiful, with the ability to accomplish the impossible. How do you birth sunlight and dim darkness? It’s easy when it’s a dance. When people are passionate, when they truly live for what they are doing, any goal is attainable. No matter what I end up doing with my life, I know it will be something that ignites my soul, and that arms me with the strength to accomplish the impossible.
I overheard the director say to someone the other day, with as much frankness and honesty I have ever heard in a person’s voice: “This will be the greatest thing you will do in your life. The greatest.”