SoDak it Hurts

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 06 2010

The Longest Year of My Life

I think I’ve figured out how to slow time down.

The last year of my life was easily the longest year I’ve ever lived.

May through May felt like an eternity. In a good way.

When I was younger, my father would talk to me about how our lives seem to lengthen when we do things differently – when we have large events and memorable moments to punctuate the timeline of our living.

You know when you’re on a vacation and you look down at your watch and say, “It’s only 11:00am?” – or when you drive someplace for the first time, it seems really long, and each time after just gets shorter and shorter? – That’s it. New events happen to us more slowly.

The way I see it, we’re on this timeline that’s scattered with hash marks – birthdays, the first time we watched an R rated movie, high school graduation, first time to drink a pina colada, college graduation, new job – but then there’s this line that persists between the hash marks that involves sleep and work and jogging and showering and television – time that’s unaccounted for and time that gets away from us.

This last year involved me moving to South Dakota, living in Chicago for the summer, starting a teaching job, becoming a part of a community I previously had no ties with, cultivating a theater program, exploring a new state, playing in a band, experiencing a real winter, learning to drive on snow, experiencing loss, experiencing loneliness, teaching summer school, trying my hand at writing curriculum, going to Switzerland and trekking back to Texas for a bit with some new life inside of me.

Whether intentional or not, newness was a part of most everything I did. And the effect was a year full of vivid memories.

It’s memorable moments that keep us awake and alive. It’s refusing to allow our brain to commit too much to muscle memory, it’s remembering that when we are uncomfortable – we are learning, when we hurt – something new is coming into us.

Of course, I understand we can’t live our entire lives without a Place, a home base or a routine – but it comes down to the simple things: for instance, when I worked in Dallas, one morning I went over to my friend’s parents house for coffee before I went to work. I’ll never forget the blue tint of the room, the slow moving of the dogs as they came into the waking world and the talk we had around the table. Out of all the mornings I had that year, I will always remember that one.

I’ll never forget the first snow here in South Dakota. I stood with my roommate in the dark morning outside the high school and looked at him, “Remember this moment,” I told him. And we turned our faces to the sky and let the snowflakes sear themselves onto our faces.

Again, we always remember the first time we do something.

We can only brush our teeth so many ways and there are only so many legal routes we can take on our drive to work – I know – but we skip on too many opportunities to eat dinner with someone new, talk with someone new, ask a question, hear a story, be honest, try something challenging – we let our time slip right through our fingers.

So – I want to slow time down. And I think it happens when we do big things, when we do different things, when we take risks.

I hope to run my classroom this way and I want to live another year that is both lengthy and memorable.

Here’s to the stories we work toward over the next little while.

4 Responses

  1. shelbi

    Bravo my friend! I like the way you think! :) Miss you!!!!

  2. mathlovergrowsup

    This post is so inspiring. Life without constant challenges is not quite the same thing. Sometimes I wonder if I ever want to do anything as hard as first year teaching again, but this post gives me hope that there will come a day that I’m ready to take that on again! (Might need a few more years to recover first though)

  3. Misty Hollis

    Amazing. I have had your family in thoughts and prayers today. I went ahead and pulled up this blog to read again and tears flowed.

    Do cherish time my dear Cousin. I can hear Papaw Pugh’s words of “relationships relationship relationships”.

    Time and people….which create memories. Love it.

  4. mattie

    Mr. Pugh, truely awesome and an absolutely beautiful piece. At 17 and often finding myself in that awkward teenage angstful rut, I’m truely inspired by your writing. You must be one kick ass teacher.

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About this Blog

I taught 10th Grade English on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota between 2009 and 2011. Currently blogging at

South Dakota
High School

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