The day I arrived at Dandelion, it was Sunday. I nervously headed to my old classroom. On my way, I saw one of my students and rushed over to him. As I neared him, I was shocked; he was taller, and when he spoke, his voice was a bit deeper than before. He was still the same bubbly person I remembered, though, and we walked toward our classroom together.
As we neared the door, my heart started to race. My feet were suddenly heavy, and I couldn’t move any further forward. Through the blurry window panes, I could see the silhouettes of my students bustling about, finishing up their homework before the school week started. I felt like I had been swept back in time; things had changed in the past year, yet somehow, everything was still the same. And for a moment, I stood still, watching their silhouettes, listening to drifting, familiar voices that my ears hadn’t heard in months.
The moment was ephemeral, and my student soon pushed me onward through the doorway. I passed into the classroom silently. All of my senses were attacked at once. A wave of shyness swept over me, and I quickly slipped back out of the classroom. My student pushed me forth again, and I rushed back out again. But I had been spotted, and my students rushed out to greet me and drag me into the room.
This time, it was comfortable to step into the room, like slipping your feet into warm sand after months of cold weather. I spotted one of my tutees. He had grown taller and older, but his face was still the same as I had remembered. I said hello.
His response was short…
…and two octaves lower than a year ago.
My brain stopped working and took a second to process the dissonance between how I remembered his voice and what it sounded like now.
I sat down slowly, dizzy with surprise.
Dizziness from car sickness is caused by a disagreement between your balance system and your senses. Your balance system may tell your brain that you’re moving, while your senses are convinced that you’re sitting still. In this case, it was the disagreement between my memory of how things once were and my experience of how things are now that made my head spin.
Since returning to Dandelion, I have been surprised multiple times by how things have changed. Students who I remember having long, sleek ponytails now have pixie cuts or short hair and bangs. I tried in vain to find a teacher who hasn’t been working here for months. I went across the street to buy soap and shelf liners from a supermarket that moved out, its entrance blocked off now by new street vendors. Sad but unworried, I tried visiting another supermarket down the street that is now just a pile of rubble.
Regardless, I know that I have to be flexible and willing to adapt. So, I get supermarket recommendations from Dandelion’s teachers, adjust myself to my students’ new hairstyles, and learn to recognize my students’ new voice tones. For me, that last part may take a while.
It’s a good thing that I’ll have the whole summer.