How Forbidden Cake Empowered Me

Nov 11, 2019 1:13:51 PM Sarah Rymer

If you have ever read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, you can sympathize with Alexander’s woes of waking up with gum in his hair, not being able to please his teachers, discovering a cavity at the dentist’s office, and losing his best friend to someone else. 

birthday cake

Though his irrational response to his bad day, “I’m moving to Australia,” makes us laugh, some of us living abroad have had similar reactions to bad days.

I could write a sequel to the story, entitled, "Angelina and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Work Week." My bad week began when I delightfully walked up to the school’s entrance with a cake I had baked for my co-worker’s birthday and was stopped at the gate by the security guard. “What is that?” he asked me in Arabic. I told him it was a cake for a teacher’s birthday. “Not allowed,” he said. I explained that it was to share with the teachers, not with the kids. “Not allowed,” he repeated and reached out to take the cake from me. Surprised and confused, I expressed my displeasure and surrendered my cake. I later learned that it is forbidden to celebrate birthdays at this school. At that moment, I thought, “If I don’t get that cake back, I’m going back to America.”

This event was the first in a series of events that would drive me to consider giving up and quitting. In my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, I received reprimands and criticisms on my abilities as a teacher. My spirit was crushed, my joy was stolen, and I wanted to leave. Since I was still within the “trial period” of my contract, I thought a lot about resigning. I reasoned that my superiors were dissatisfied with my work, and I certainly wasn’t enjoying it. I had a way out; an opportunity to leave and to find a place where rules and expectations are logical and where birthday cakes are welcomed. It seemed I had nearly every reason to quit.   

But, I didn’t. 

I chose to stay. My one reason to stay far outweighed all the reasons I had to leave. I remained certain that God chose me to work at this school with these staff members and students for this time. I took the option of leaving off the table and determined to come up with a plan on how to persevere. 

Unexpectedly for a children’s story, Alexander’s day doesn't have a feel-good happy ending. As the story concludes, he went to bed still having a bad day. Instead of a resolution, the author offers a pearl of wisdom: “Some days are like that,” his mom said, “even in Australia.” The reader is faced with reality. In my story, so was I. My reality is that some weeks will be hard here, just as they would be if I were in America. 

But, when those hard days come, I will remind myself that good days are more prevalent. I will remember that someone intervened for me, and I got my cake back in time to share it with the teachers. And, my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week was followed by one of my best weeks. Persevering in the midst of the trial allows me to experience the joy that comes with the struggle.

So, I choose to keep going and to keep staying right where I am. America will have to wait. 


About the Author: Angelina is an IDEAS Associate and an English language teacher at a private Jordanian school. She is in her fourth year of teaching in Jordan. Click here to enjoy other blogs by IDEAS Associates working in Jordan.