Don't Belize The Hype

Six years ago, I met Carrie at Teach for America Institute. At first, I didn't like her because I was smoking a cigarette and she said, "You seem like a really cool person, and those will kill you, so I wish you wouldn't smoke that." I hate it any time someone points out that I am making a mistake. I want to be the kind of person who never, ever makes a mistake, like George Clooney. I'm not unique in this, I don't think. Most people want nothing more than to be right all the time. Especially most seven-year-olds. Which is my age, after you adjust for emotional maturity.

At first I didn't like Carrie, but then the powers that be at TFA herded us all into a room and made us tell each other our deepest secrets. It was kind of cultish. But also, it was one of those humanizing activities that keeps you from disliking anyone, because you realize that everyone has gone through their own Real Shit. Everyone except Laurie Mellon, whose deepest secret was that she was sad about having to be in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend of four months. Go do some real living, Laurie, and then come back and talk to me. Laurie always wore the DUMBEST T-shirts. You know the ones I'm talking about: they say things like "I'm Mean Because You're Stupid," or "Drama Queen" in the shape of the Dairy Queen logo. Laurie Mellon quit teaching within the first four weeks. Which was probably good for children.

Anyway, I liked Carrie after that, and I learned a lot of surprising things about her. She's a tiny blonde who wears a lot pink, so I had assumed she was one of those Teach for America girls who had been on the organizing committee of her sorority (little-known fact: 90 percent of all TFA corps members were on the organizing committee of their sororities). It turns out, Carrie hadn't been in a sorority at all. Actually, she was a few years older than the rest of the incoming corps members; she had already been a teacher for several years, and she wanted to be a teacher for the rest of her life. She was married to a man who lived in Belize. It turns out, Carrie also lived in Belize. Well, she used to live in Belize. Now she was in Teach for America.

For the duration of my first year of teaching, I was borderline suicidal. Carrie, who worked at a seemingly functional school, wrote me notes telling me to call her. I didn't call her because I was way too depressed.

I kicked my smoking habit up to roughly a pack a day to deal with the difficulties of teaching public high school: a job that requires the same strength and training as fighting killer sharks. (Is that a real job? If not, it should be.) Then I got fired because the school was closing down. (I always say that the school was closing down when I talk about being fired. That was true, but also, I was VERY bad at my job.)

I went to interview for new jobs, but nobody wanted me. I couldn't blame them, really, because I showed up to interviews smelling like an ashtray, wearing what I considered professional attire, but in actuality were just wrinkled throw-aways from Ann Taylor Loft I found at Goodwill when I was 15. Then I ended up at the seemingly functional school Carrie worked at for an interview, and she was in the room interviewing people. Five minutes after I left she called me and said, "You're hired." She is the kind of person who can work at a place for one year and then be allowed to call people and tell them they are hired.

That school was Langston Hughes Academy. The job I took was co-teaching with Carrie in a second grade classroom -- which is probably the best job I will ever have. Within four weeks of working there I quit smoking, almost entirely because I didn't want to disappoint Carrie, who had evolved in my eyes into some kind of demigod that I wanted to make sacrifices to. (Side note: NOT SMOKING IS GREAT! You have NO IDEA how great not smoking is if you are a smoker. You don't realize how much stuff you are NOT SMELLING because you smoke. You think honeysuckle is good now? Try it as a non-smoker! It's insane. Also you can run so much farther without wheezing. Really, it's a win-win. I highly recommend it.) I had intended to teach for two years, like Teach for America says you have to. It's six years later, and I'm still teaching. I'd like to say that that's because I have a moral compass, but it's almost entirely because of Carrie.

Every year since then, Carrie has talked about going to Belize together. I always say that's a nice idea, but I secretly thought, "That will never happen, because it's BELIZE, and I'm terrified of doing anything that is unfamiliar to me." But this year I decided that I was ready to hug all the things that scare me, and the timing seemed right since my parents are in Greece for Thanksgiving and will therefore not miss me at all. So I booked my tickets to Belize for Thanksgiving week, and was ready to go.

She sent along a packing list yesterday afternoon:

- Good running or walking shoes

Obviously.

- A sports bra

Is there any other kind of bra?

One or two pairs of jeans, sweatpants or other long pants

Two pairs of jeans? That seems excessive. Well, OK. I can do that. 

- Bathing Suit

I have been trying on my bathing suit and modeling poses in the mirror in preparation for this trip for the past month. 

- Tank top or t-shirt to wear over bathing suit while snorkeling

We will have to discuss snorkeling. I am pretty afraid of fish.

- Contact solution

The solution to contacts is glasses. HAHAHA. I'm so funny. My packing list commentary is comedic gold. 

- Passport.

OK.

Raincoat.

I have such a good raincoat for this! 

Wait.

Did she say passport? 

Passport.

PASSPORT.

I did not have my passport. I mean, I had one. The last time I used it I was 16, when I lived in Portland, so that's where it was. In Portland. I, just as a reminder, was in New Orleans. I would need my passport to be in New Orleans if I wanted to move my person from New Orleans to Belize.

It felt like hitting a raccoon with your car because you were texting while you were driving. (What? Who has done that? No one does that.) At first I was like, "THE UNIVERSE IS CRUEL AND OUT TO GET ME." And then I could no longer justify the situation as anything but my own fault.

My sister Alexis, who is staying in the same house in Portland that my passport was also staying in, Fed Exed it to me, but it was too late. The flight left this morning at 6 a.m. It's 8:24 as I write this, and I am not on a plane. 

It feels bad when to get caught in a mistake. As soon as I realized the repercussions of my short-sightedness, I thought, "I want an oatmeal creme pie from the gas station now. But I do not deserve an oatmeal creme pie! I deserve to be cold and alone. Woe woe woe woe woe."

I went into the kitchen to eat a handful of spinach, which seemed like a good punishment of a snack. My roommate Derek was in there. Derek loves eating handfuls of raw spinach, so he didn't realize I was upset until I outright told him what had happened.

"You know, situations like these help me to empathize with other people who make mistakes sometimes. It reminds me not to get frustrated with them when those mistakes affect me, because we all do that sometimes," said Derek.

Then Derek and my other roommate Hannah made me curry, and I told them about how I'd been to a yard sale that day where I got three books about polyamory for one dollar. Things were not so bad. 

I felt bad about screwing up this vacation that Carrie and I have been planning for so many years. Carrie NEVER seems to screw up, and she has made my life so much better, I just hate the thought of letting her down. But years ago, she was disappointed in my smoking habits, and she didn't stop liking me just because I was making a stupid mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, after all. The best people in the world are the ones who can see that about the people around them, and also about themselves.

I'll get to Belize on Wednesday, with my ancient, Fed-Exed passport. It cost me $500 to change my flight: just the slap on the wrist I needed to feel sufficiently punished for my ignorance. Until then: when plans change, plans change. Maybe there will be some amazing new thing in New Orleans to discover, that I would have missed entirely if I had been in paradise.