Month: October 2017

The Sunnier Side

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As is always the case with this space I’ve created, it’s been too long since I posted. It’s always in the back of my mind to come back here and vent, but then life gets in the way and I’m banging out pages for short story, an essay, or my memoir and this lovely place gets put on the back burner.

While it’s the middle of October–how the hell did that happen by the way–a lot has happened since my last post which was over a year ago.

In the fall of 2016, I hit the academic market hard. I was still restricted by geography and working full time at the high school, trying to get stuff published, being a mother, trying to be a decent spouse all took its toll. I had one interview, and it did not end with me getting the job.

Another major event happened, I left my high school teaching job at the behest of my wonderful husband. I was reminded with an ever-clear action that I was not respected or valued despite my students having increased their test scores–the only thing that matters in education right now–being nominated for teacher of the year, having high marks on my evaluations, and staying 3 hours past my contractual obligation to write engaging lesson plans that were proving to be effective to students in both affluent and not-so-affluent home. Yes, I’m tooting my horn because I was a damn-good high school English teacher. Damn good.

So after some shit hit the fan, I went home in tears. My husband gulped me up in his arms and said these magic words: Why don’t you leave?

I had been at this job for five years and had some hard times, which is the case at any job in any industry in any place, there were also fleeting moments of joy, and I really loved the folks I shared a hallway with. They made the daily shitstorm bearable. We talk and talked and when it came time to give the school my 30 days, I decided it was what was best and my husband agreed.

For the first time in my life, I am not in the classroom at 11 a.m. during a weekday. At some point for the past three decades, I have either been a student or teacher in a classroom. This August came and went and my time was spent (gulp) writing.

While I miss some elements of the classroom, I don’t miss any of them enough (yet) to warrant a return. And with things being up in the air with my husband’s career, for the first time since I graduated with M.F.A., geography may not be an issue.

So, for the past month, I’ve begun to hit the academic market even harder. I’m no longer limited to a commuting distance. Now, I’m looking at places all over the country. I can actually see it happening now. The dream. It feels so much more real. More tangible than ever.

In the past, I’ve been known to get my hopes too high. I will apply for the job and suddenly my mind has decorated my office, my work wardrobe for the next year is planned, I can see my name on the door. I’m doing a lecture at this college and walking my jolly-tenured ass to class. I’ve planned which audiobooks I’ll listen to in the car on my drive to work. This makes those rejection emails so much more painful. How can they not hire me? Don’t they know my nameplate is already on the door in the English department building?

While I still let my hopes run wild because if anything I’m an idealist, I’m trying to temper the decorating and audiobook planning. I have looked on Realtor.com and Zillow.com to see what the housing markets look like in the neighborhoods of the colleges I’m applying for, but I’m totally justifying this by thinking it be smart to have an idea of where my kiddo might start kindergarten.

In addition to hitting the academic market hard, I’m also looking for non-teaching jobs in my area because–money. We need money. Those student loans won’t be paying themselves off neither will our mortgage. That too has been frustrating because I’m over-qualified with no experience outside of teaching. I have faith something will happen and if doesn’t maybe the book I’m writing will be the silver bullet to our “good debts.” I told you I was an idealist.

I started somewhere with this post and now I don’t know how I ended up where I’m about to but whatever.

I will close by saying I know how f***ing lucky I am to have a spouse that can support our family financially while I spend my days writing and job hunting. I’m lucky my husband isn’t an asshole who holds this over my head. I know I’m blessed that he understands my happiness is just as valid as his and his support means I’m able to pursue my art.

When I decided to leave the classroom for the world of the starving artist who isn’t starving because she’s married, I told him I felt guilty because had we not been married and in the situation we are in, I would have to just suck it up and keep teaching high school. If I were single, I’d still be in the classroom not having time to work on my book and look for jobs in academia. Was my depending on him for money, anti-feminist? Was I hurting my gender with this decision? Should I try to keep doing what I was doing? Shouldn’t I be able to hold down a full-time teaching job while looking for one, be a decent mother and spouse, and still find time to write because it was important to me? Don’t people do that?

This is when I realized my problem. I have been comparing my journey to wherever the hell I’m going with others. I don’t know how those professors listed on those English department pages got to the point where they were the one selected by the committee. Their struggle was different mine, and I really needed to stop worrying about everyone else. Everyone gets to where they are going in their own way. The stops are going to be different, the type of snack they stop for is going to be different. The road bumps that will affect their ride will be different. Maybe there are some folks who are able to do it all, but I’m not one of them.

Last May I was in a dark place. I had reached the same weight I was when I was 6 months pregnant except I was sans baby. I was struggling to enjoy time with my husband. Most evenings were spent with us on separate ends of the couch joylessly watching TV then crawling into bed. I was pulling into the parking lot at work and sitting in my car trying to hold back tears of sorrow and pain because I was giving all of myself and not feeling valued. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t reading. I wasn’t exercising. I don’t know if this is what depression looks like because I’ve never been diagnosed with it, but I definitely felt like shit.

Flashforward to today, things are way better with my husband, I’ve been writing every day. I have finished a few books–nothing to write home about but reading is reading–and I’ve lost some weight. I feel great, and I’m scared.

Every morning for the past couple of months, I’ve been waking up early and working in my office on my memoir, job documents (one of these days I’ll post about the ridiculousness of those documents), and job applications. I’ve been exercising and have even taken to mid-day walks which do not count as my workout but do amount to one of my favorite times of the day.

I can’t lie and say life is great. It’s better. I’m still scared as hell because I don’t know if this risk of losing my full-time job with summers off and benefits is going to pay off with my getting my memoir published and my achieving my end goal of being a writer with a tenure-track job, but it’s sunnier over here, so for now, I’ll take it.

 

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