Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Walking into the storm
Maybe we are crazy to take this gigantic leap now while every report for the economy stresses the severity of the financial situation for the world. I had job security, and I had a job where I inspired people. I had a job that I loved for so many reasons. I tell people, "There were 1,000,000 reasons to stay and 1,000,001 to go" and so I chose to go. And I say "we" because my husband and I are both in agreement that this huge life shift - leaving my solid high school teacher profession (where I spent the last 15 years of my life) - was the right move for him, me and our two girls.
I guess from an outside perspective it seems ridiculous to leave a teaching job. Teachers make good money by my local median salary projections. It is one of the few professions remaining that actually has a pension, and some sort of safety when you retire. I have my summers off. I have vacations when my kids have vacations. I get to use creativity, and see people every day. And even more I get to inspire people every day.
The other big thing to know about teaching is that the students are not the problem. Ever. I think over the last 15 years of my English teaching profession, when I tell someone what I do, they usually make a strange face like they just ate something sour, and then they say, "Wow. Better you than me." People believe teaching teenagers must be the equivalent of Oedipus gouging out his eyes with the bed curtain pins over and over again. Most people can't fathom the life of a high school English teacher just like I cannot fathom being a chemical engineer. The difference, though, is that everyone seems to have opinions about education in the United States even if they could never really understand what a day, week or year in the classroom is really like. And, just like it would be incredibly hard for a chemical engineer to describe her job to someone, I don't really want to spend this entire opening of this blog about books describing my job to you. I really want to discuss books.
I created my identity around books. I hide in books, I search in books. They protect me sometimes, too. Like when I lived in London, I never really left my flat on Turnpike Lane without a book tucked safely under my arm. It was more important to me than my wallet or my umbrella (which I know my friend Cari would never understand since she thinks I have an OCD about having my umbrella with me everywhere. So sue me; I don't like drizzle (my four year old calls it dribble) on my head, or mist, or rain or precipitation of any kind. Maybe the occasional snowflake is fine, but once it starts to really snow, no thank you. Yesterday, though, my daughter Story and I were at the grocery store and the skies opened and dumped water in this terrific end of spring downpour. It was comical, really. All these shoppers looking out into the rain with forlorn expressions on their faces, their full carts and plastic bags overflowing with groceries blowing in the wind gusts, getting dusted with the rain mist. I watched in awe as the rain blew sideways under the overhang of Giant. One mom kept telling her 2 year old to stop making noises, as if any of us waiting for the rain to subside cared about her daughter listening as her voice echoed on the concrete walls. Story, my 4 year old, and I looked at each other and the pouring rain. I asked, "Well, honey. What do you think?" She looked at me with serious eyes and tilted her head a little and said, "We got this, Mommy." So I just walked right into it, not even a run, but a gentle walk. I gave Story a reusable bag to stick over her head like a little platform, but the rain was on all sides, not just coming from above and the puddles in the parking lot were sucking my flip flops almost making it like I was floating over the water - hydroplaning over the asphalt. Story started to cry and said, "The thing is, Mommy, that I am getting really wet. Everywhere!" I could see the panic in her eyes, and hurry into more of a trot. We made it to the car and I shoved Story in the back as I struggled with our reusable bags which were full of sopping wet groceries. My kiwis were swimming in their container and the pasta box holding angel hair was collapsing spilling noodles in the bottom of the bag. But somehow even with my daughter red faced and wailing and the rain all around me, I smiled and laughed thinking the whole situation funny. With my white t-shirt stuck to me, my hair slicked, my mascara in my eyes and hardly making it to the cart return as more rain dumped on me, I peeked back at the onlookers - those afraid of walking into the storm watching me and checking their phones. The other shoppers with their freshly bagged groceries stood looking helpless and lost, like the rain was somehow stopping their day, their lives at a halt. I walked right into it. And I know that sounds ridiculous, like my walking into the downpour was a rebellion, but sometimes we just have to walk in the rain, even when it stops others.
Which brings me back to my reason for starting this blog - books. And the reason for leaving teaching - because I loved teaching, but I didn't love it all at the same time. I felt like I was in an odd prison surrounded by books I never had time to read while I always encouragemy students to read and check out my books. I was buried by the weight of paper and odd slow demise of logging grades and attending meeting after meeting where I was supposedly developed into a new version of a teacher that I didn't want to be. Whatever the state wants. Whatever the administration wants. Whatever the package they bought or the latest principal objective. And I didn't want to spend another year by the frantic pace of the school calendar. I couldn't experience another choking Sunday night with hours of grading, my head bent over a stack of research papers that I didn't have time or energy to grade. These reasons led me to walk right into the storm of the unknown. The little voice inside my head sounded just like Story's little voice, "We got this, Mommy" and even if I cried a bit at the fear, I know that even when the rain gets hard and dumps on me, I have a warm towel waiting for me, and the rain will eventually subside.
As much as I loved teaching, my first real love in life was books. Then, my second love was writing. My third (and truest) is my husband, and then the two newest loves of my life - my daughters Raina and Story.
And this summer I want to focus on all these loves of mine, and I want to create a habit of writing about them.
I read voraciously, and I love to write about what I read and recommend the good stuff and warn against the bad stuff.
In my high reading cycles, I read about one book a week, and will post a blog about each book. I also will return to some of my favorite highlights of my reading year. During my last year of teaching I read some incredible (and not so incredible) books and I can't wait to share my thoughts with the stageoflife.com audience.