Fulbright Fellowship: Day 1 (Nashville, TN)

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On Friday, I received what I assumed to be a routine email from the Fulbright Commission. Walking the halls at JT Moore I opened the email fully expecting a form letter reminding me that I had applied, a notification that they hadn’t forgotten about me.  If I ever want to mercilessly drown someone in shattered dreams I will be sure to make the first word of their letter of denial “Congratulations!”

The few friends who have embarked on this process implied that late April, early May, was the earliest I would hear back.  To see that I had been offered the grant in mid-February wasn’t shocking.  Shock, I believe, requires some frame of reference for comparison.  This news lay so far beyond the realm of expectation that confusion was the prevailing emotion.

Tears came, I think.  Not big roll-down-your-cheek tears, just the ones that slip out when you’re smiling and breathing too hard.  Tears of clenched emotion when all you want to do is jump and shout and hug, but instead you shake and clench and smile, peeked out quickly to be erased with a cough and deft forearm swipe.

That first day was bittersweet.  It meant I was leaving.  I was really leaving.  After two years as a TFA Corps Member at JT Moore Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee, working relentlessly, sleeplessly, passionately, angrily, inspirationally, proudly, I would be leaving.  My colleagues’ lives whose souls I had spent two years burrowing into would be left behind to complete the vision of excellence we dreamed. And Team Possible.  My students.  My scholars.  My kids.

It wasn’t a lie.  I promise.  This is something I have to do.  You may not understand this yet, but I am upholding our core values.  I am showing Community.  A community needs role-models.  A community needs people to look up to – people who have dreams and chase them even if the path leads them away.

I am showing Optimism.  The safe solution would be to stay.  The comfortable option would be to stay.  To avoid the fear of the unknown is pessimistic.

I am showing Responsibility.  My work and impact cannot end here.  I have more to do, more to learn and share and create.

I am showing Excellence.  It takes a lot of hard work to be good.  It takes only a little bit more effort, when everyone else packs up for the night, to be great.

If all goes according to plan I will be in Indonesia next year.  Lying wrapped in a handmade Cal blanket I think of the nights spent on the top bunk of the Stereo Room hearing the whispered words from below, “Good brings good” and nodding back, “Experience equals privilege.”


jared brett