A Potential Reality: Gaining More Than I Give

I was in a Tufts 1+4 orientation session when I scribbled down the phrase
that “success can be more abstract.” I scribbled this phrase into my
notebook after I asked a question about the potential guilt that will
accompany gaining more from my gap year than the community I will be
working with. One peer mentor responded by saying that I was most likely
thinking of success and improvement in a tangible way and that I needed
adjust what success meant to me. She then gave me an example of intangible
success; building a relationship that would not only influence me
positively but the other person in the relationship as well. At that
moment, I began to include intangible successes into my definition of
success. However, after three weeks in India, I started to feel guilty
again with my impending apprenticeship, Teach for India.

Thinking of success in intangible terms is hard when I feel guilty. I
cannot get over the idea that I will be gaining more from this experience
than people who already have had less than what I’ve experienced even
before this gap year. I do not think it is fair for me to walk away from
this gap year benefiting from something that most of them will not be able
to experience solely because they come from a low income household.

I am a teaching assistant for a third grade teacher. This is unlike any
third grade classroom I’ve ever been in due to the lack of electricity and
the sheer amount of children crammed into one, average sized classroom. A
question that keeps coming to my mind is, “how can I think of intangible
change when one classroom holds 110 children?” At the present
dysfunctionality, there is no importance in my self-growth when the
children that are supposed to be learning cannot because of an overcrowded
classroom. Where is the tangible or intangible success in that?

I know that, realistically, I won’t be changing the lives of these
children drastically. I, also, know that just because I want to improve the
world does not necessarily mean that the space I am going into to “help”
actually needs my “help.” However, I still feel I should be a part of a
bigger change. I feel like my individual growth is not a big enough
contribution to bettering society.

As I reflect on what success means to me and why I am feeling guilty, I
also begin to put my upcoming experience into perspective. Here I am, in
Hyderabad, India, about to begin my apprenticeship with Teach for India,
and my nerves are shot because I’m afraid of not bringing enough good to
my work and to the children I will be working with. I can only bring what I
know I have: compassion, happiness, and love. As I bring these three
attributes I will, hopefully, see a positive impact manifest (even if that
manifestation comes about in a surprising, indirect way.)

Overlooking Old City, Hyderabad during Sunset