Monday, November 19, 2012

mistakes were made

The icky non-apology-apology.

I've been thinking about Steve's question about my biggest mistake. I ticked off a list in my head and decided that kind of post might land in the hiring/firing folder, lose me friends, and worry my mom.

While this may not be my biggest mistake, I got really lost once and still feel awful about it.

In college, I volunteered with a small group of students who visited a juvenile detention center once a month to lead poetry workshops. I used to think about those kids all the time. They were sad and broken and recovering or not and their anger and pain came out of hands clenching pencils and voices that spoke too low to really hear. After a couple of workshops, the boys got comfortable and spoke up and really liked to read their poetry. And I really liked working with them. I did this for three semesters and the last semester I was in charge of driving volunteers up to the detention center. Usually I drove with a copilot who remembered the turn-offs or I had a map. The last drive up, I had no map, we were already a little late, and I guessed that after a year of visiting this place, I'd recognize the roads and get there.

I didn't recognize the roads and we didn't get there. I remember the drive being a lot of pine trees and county highways named K and H. The other student and I talked about whether to keep looking or just turn around and go back to Point. Eventually we turned around. I had a knot in my stomach. In the backseat were boxes of the boys' poetry, typed and bound in a short anthology for each to keep.

I felt awful. I felt awful because I was missing my last poetry workshop with those boys. I felt awful because they'd each contributed poetry for the anthology and we wouldn't get to open it together. I just felt awful.

I called the teachers at the detention center school. One was more understanding and forgiving than the other. The other yelled at me and told me I had let them all down. I had. Mistakes weren't made. I got lost because I didn't bring a map and because I got lost, the boys spent an hour waiting for us to show up to a poetry workshop. The angry teacher yelled that after all the people who had let these boys down, now I had too. I called my coordinating professor, crying because I had messed up and felt stupid and angry and couldn't do anything to make it right.

I didn't go back to the detention center or see those boys again. I talked with other volunteers and my professor and the teachers again after time cooled anger to disappointment. I still feel awful. Sometimes I feel like anything I or the boys learned about poetry or from each other during those workshops is negated by a drive of tall pines on either side of the road, a knot in my stomach, and a box of boys' poetry in the backseat.


Anonymous said...

Remember, to pray.

Steve said...

Yes keep Mom happy. :)

I like this story, and you are kicking butt in the 30/30 days. :)

Things where we get misunderstood are hard things. That is for sure.