Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Growing pains

A question from a former prof about a week ago Friday has my brain aching. Paired with a too-true remark about my current career, I think my brain is about to implode.

When I started at my current place of employ, I was reeling from three years in a private high school. It hadn't been a difficult place to work; I had a few good friends there and a principal I trusted. It was just... well, I'm a good high school teacher but, I think, a better college teacher. In general, I seem to have a better rapport with the over-18 set.

Anyway, in the last three years, I've regained that confidence and then some. Students tell me that they ask for my classes, that I'm one of the few that control the criminal justice students. They come in to class and tell me how what we did in management class related to something in their workplace. They bring in letters and resumes for me to help them edit. There's a need that goes beyond academic: many of them lack basic skills so many of us take for granted.

Classes sometimes turn into coaching sessions where we talk about what to do when a boss is unprofessional or when a co-worker is pushing for a fight. We'll discuss what to do in interviews and how to be ethical at work without feeling as if they're selling out or going against the world they grew up in.

It wasn't all giving. I took a lot too. So many students asked how things were going, didn't complain when I was too emotionally scattered to remember to even bring my board markers to class -- five days in a row. I think I lost more markers in that time then I've used in the last ten years. I only cried in class once, when a student gave a speech about his mother dying from cancer.

Even now, with Dad gone and students who didn't know me while he was dying, they still give and I still take. My classroom evaluation last Wednesday was spectacular because they wanted to help me, so while my supervisor sat and watched, they were perfect. On-task. Focused. Interested. The women who are old enough to be my mother tease me about having a second child someday; those who are my contemporaries compare notes with me on child-rearing. The men, of all ages, are generally respectful -- or smart enough to keep silent. Word has it that I won't allow anyone to swear, let alone make remarks of questionable taste. Enough of the male population has heard my "creating an uncomfortable environment" speech, I guess. It's long, drawn-out, and scary. Once you hear it, you never want to hear it again.

I haven't gone nose-to-nose with a student in years. Haven't had to kick anyone out either. I'm settled, organized, comfortable.

Too comfortable, I fear.

So what do I want? To write, to learn, to design, to present... to be everything.

In first grade, I had a list of things I would be when I grew up: an artist, a ballarina, an actress, a teacher, a writer, a singer... the world really was my oyster, and I was smart enough to know that I could do anything.

Somewhere along the way, I learned the wrong lessons and discarded the optomism for what I thought was a better reality. Thank God for college dorm life. It cracked, then shattered, the fishbowl I grew up in.

Little Miss Doesn't-Have-A-Voice ended up running the campus newspaper and making it number one in the nation. Twice. The same girl who turned red each time her grade school teachers asked her to answer a homework question regularly interviewed the college president, dogging her on the school budget. In my senior year, we took on the student council as well, questioning voting procedures and the incumbents' integrity. Our stories were so tightly written that the underground rag found little to pick apart, only hammering us once on a date rape article that was, admittedly, "unfocused." Our paper went from eight pages to twelve and two-page spreads were normal. My staff was incredible: without them, The Setonian would have been nothing but birdcage liner.

I met people from other fishbowls and bigger aquariums... and learned that dreaming really was okay again.

So what happened in those ten years since graduation? Don't say marriage, that's absurd. Erik gives me so much leeway that it's astounding. He sent me back to college for an English degree, racking up more debt, when we were living in a tiny rental house and buying generic everything. Our house was furnished in what I call "early hand-me-down." Aside from our bed and tv, we bought nothing. I could have been working somewhere and paying down our credit cards, but instead I was sitting in a classroom demystifying Hamlet and critiquing Wordsworth. Even now, when I'm talking about my Ph.D. in two years, he says "go for it."

Tonight I'm up here on-line. I just finished another entry for Killing Julie, www.mkilou.easyjournal.com, and am trying to finish this blog. There's laundry to be folded and our living room probably needs a dusting, but he's not worried. He told me to go ahead and write, then picked up Gavie's toys then settled down with the book he's been reading. Tomorrow night he's taking the little one out for new shoes. When I come home from physical therarpy (screwed up my shoulder), I'll have the house to myself and will be able to take care of whatever chores demand immediate attention... and then turn my attention to this PartyLite business.

My first party is next Sunday. I'm still trying to figure out what the hell I was thinking when I signed up. Probably something about new furniture for my formal living room (which has nothing but a couch and a piano, both hand-me-downs). Anyway, I'll do what I can. I've no intention of making this into a career, believe me. It's all about short-term financial gain to feed my materialistic nature. If I do one or two shows a month, I'm happy. And, if PartyLite's dissatisfied with that, c'est la vie. It's not a job I plan to stress over.

(I wonder if PartyLite will fire me for being an underachiever? That might be an accomplishment in itself. Can you be fired from a pyramid scheme?)

Anyway, Erik gives me more then enough room to grow. I've been in no-man's-land with my life (willingly) on hold for so long that, even though it's six months since, I still feel like I'm waking up from a long sleep. Dreams? What are those? Am I allowed to think like that again? I am. Really! How amazing... don't you think? To actually be able to look into the future without "before" and "after" in the sentences, without time being divided by a black dress and a grey casket.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

liked it a lot