Friday, February 22, 2008

I work for a living, how bout you?

Working for a living, living to work, good jobs, bad jobs, crazy bosses, being the boss, mentors, getting paid, office space, working overtime, going back to work, getting fired, getting your dream job, being a morning person vs. night person, carpools and after school, daily routines and why we break them.

To grad school or not to grad school? That is the question. I’ve been servicing nationally for close to two years now and I’ve yet to determine what my next move will be. And its not like I haven’t been trying. I really want to know. I just wish someone could roll a magic pair of dice or an eight ball and tell me what I should be doing next year, and the next, and the next after that in order to be happy. I wish it were that easy.
I always dreamed I’d want to be a teacher. Teachers were so confident, sure of themselves, and warm. I never hesitated in asking a teacher for their opinion, or for approval. I graduated from a major university in the southeast with a degree in Early Childhood Education with the intention of becoming a teacher, but why would that work for me? I’m shy, I’m withdrawn, and I hate public speaking worse than death. Why would teaching be the career for me?
My mentors said I’d grow into the position. I was intelligent and hardworking and I’d find an age group and grade and school combination that would work for me. But they weren’t there the day I chose to ask a million questions and successfully resign my third-grade classroom after two weeks in the classroom. They weren’t there also when I was willing to take on a first grade classroom and give that up only two months later. I hated the idea of doing the same thing everyday. I hated the idea of being the decisive element in the classroom. Or did I? I loved it and hated it. But how can a love also be a hate?
I had so many questions. I was drawn to elementary school teaching after a few successful camp gigs and babysitting jobs and a love for the unconventional career. But what I loved about it turned into being what I hated about it. I worked harder than I had ever worked before in setting up my classroom but I still couldn’t bring myself to face children on a daily basis. I dreaded going to work everyday. I loved going to work, but what would everyone think of me? Was it just the anxiety talking? I wanted so desperately to be loved by my coworkers. I had no life outside of work, because I didn’t believe I deserved one.
Fast forward three years and I find myself back in a school, only five states north of where I began my teaching career. I’m still desperately alone and desperately seeking approval. But I no longer am responsible for a classroom. I am an AmeriCorps member and a loyal classroom assistant/tutor/mentor/general do-gooder. I like this much better, but I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
I don’t know how much longer I can continue knowing I could be doing so much more. I could be challenging myself beyond my potential. Instead of doing what teachers tell me, I want to be the teacher telling someone else what to do, but I know I will probably freak out knowing that I have to do just that. I’m clueless about the work world, and with a degree, I’m just as clueless about the classroom.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of working in a school and being single. No, I’ll amend that statement. There is nothing quite like moving from over a thousand miles away to work in a school on a National Service stipend as a single woman over the age of 25. It gets much, much better. I have a teaching degree and I’ve been out of school for over three years. I absolutely love the judge-mental stares I get when I tell people that no, I didn’t move here to follow a guy and it didn’t work out. I just came up here, to Minnesota, on my own. It would almost be better if I did follow a guy up here and get dumped on the spot. I’d get more sympathy that way.
Not that I’m looking for sympathy at all. It was my decision to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I’m sticking to it. Below zero temperatures and all, I wanted the experience of the north Midwest metropolis for at least a year and I sure as hell got it. It doesn’t matter that I spend most of my weekends alone. Contemplating what got me into this mess. Some people choose school, others romantic relationships. I choose the relationship I have with myself, and with the country.
My dreams were shattered in Georgia, and are being lived, as much as they can be, in Minneapolis. I’m a teacher’s assistant. I’m lower than a teaching assistant. You can’t get any lower on the school staff food chain than me. I’m an AmeriCorps tutor and mentor. I take shit from more than teachers. I have eight different bosses. And what’s worse is I don’t even know if I want to be a teacher anymore!
I have the opportunity to move to New York in September, and I have no idea what I’d do there either. I just want so desperately to get away from here, to make a fresh start.
The harder you fall, the higher you bounce.
Doug Horton

If this is the case, when is it my turn to shoot for the moon? I feel as if I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ever since I walked out on my teaching contract back in 2005. When is it my turn to feel really successful because of something I did?

And don't ask me who Doug Horton is. I don't know. But if you would like to tell me, that would be cool too.

I watch the snow swirl from the cafĂ© in the dark on Nicollet Ave. Who would have guessed I’d have landed myself here? I was the invisible girl five years ago. Five years ago I was in college. Five years ago was 2003. I was in my junior year of college. Acknowledge the fact that you are recovering from an eating disorder coupled with an anxiety disorder of sorts. It’s hard. You struggle. But you shouldn’t have to struggle alone. You should be able to sit and watch the snow swirl in the street lamps with an arm snuggled around you for comfort. You shouldn’t have to do this alone. You should be able to talk to someone about this. Did I move to Minneapolis to run away? What am I running from? And why did I choose the frozen North Country?
I’m so confused right now!

But the snow seems so peaceful when you watch it swirl from the comfort of a heated room. It’s chaotic, but poetic at the same time. It’s almost as if each flake has a destination. It spirals around aimlessly, like it’s looking for something, a mate, perhaps, and then crashes to the ground. Where it will either make it into a pile of banked snow or melt on the asphalt. And pretend that it never existed.
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