Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I Learned from a Bad Job...

I don't want to get into the specifics of the problems I had teaching this year for many reasons, but I would like to give myself some closure on my blog before I move on into the much more hopeful future that awaits me.  My last day with students was last Friday, and I cleaned out my classroom on Monday.  So now that I've finished and can finally breathe and feel like myself for the first time in MONTHS, here are some things I learned about myself while enduring this year:
...

1.  If you are dissatisfied in your work to the point that you must medicate, it deeply affects your self-esteem and self-image.

2.  There is a double-edged sword to the job security that a teaching job provides in that it lacks flexibility.  The consequences for quitting before the end of a contract are extreme.

3.  It is hard to be a generous, caring, understanding partner when you are profoundly depressed.  Corollary:  My marriage is worth more than my career.  I need to be reminded of this one sometimes.

4.  Bureaucracy can be more than a nuisance that you must rise above; it can make it impossible to do what you are supposed to do.

5.  Not all problems in education can be solved or overcome by the hard work and dedication of a single teacher.  Not even most of the problems in education can be solved that way.  Believing this is naive.

Much of my idealism about teaching (an especially about public schools) and my faith in my own abilities as a teacher have been blown up this year.  I have taught successfully in many situations and many different groups for six years, but this one year at a school that was a bad fit for me (to use the politically correct phrasing), has made me question all of my previous accomplishments.  I am not a person who backs down when facing a challenge or gives up easily, but this year just knocked the crap out of me.  I will not return to teaching again until I have had enough time to reflect on this.  I do hope that I one day decide to try again, and that the fear that I'm no longer capable of teaching students does not prove to win the day.  But I do not know.

For now, I'm loving my new job at the hotline, looking forward to a vacation over the July 4th holiday, buying big clothes for the expanding belly, and updating this blog about my recent and planned adventures.  That's right--I'm back, baby!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Life's Little Changes

Yesterday, I heard the very fast, tinny heartbeat of my thirteenish-week-old soon-to-be baby at the OB's office on something that I swear she called a Doppler radar.

I know what you're thinking--I'm about to run off into a sloppy, sentimental tear-jerker about how joyous and bubbly I am at the thought of giving birth to my "little miracle" as the literature on classes offered by the local hospital likes to call it.  But you're wrong.

Being pregnant has been a hell of a ride.  Besides the hormonal rages, exhaustion that felt like when I had mono in college, and ongoing battle with morning sickness that could only be made tolerable by the use of acupressure wristbands, the emotional shock to my system is jarring.  As I enter the second trimester and the physical nastiness is subsiding, those emotional issues have nothing left to hide behind.

I'm experiencing a kind of raw vulnerability unlike anything I've ever known in my life.  I can't plan or predict or adequately prepare for the reality of motherhood--the very concept is beyond me.

Every decision, no matter how mundane or trivial before, is now being made as if under the bright hot lights of a police interrogation room.  Are you sure you want to get the ant traps with chemicals?  They could cause birth defects, right?  And let's not even get into the career-path choices I'm dealing with at the same time.  (Why oh why are you switching to a career earning $20K less per year than your already underpaid profession???)

But it's not even my own decisions that are killer.  I can control those.  Own them.  It's the decisions other people in my life make, like my husband, that are impossible to handle.

I have to rely on people, especially Min Gi; I'm only just now beginning to fathom the extent to which I cannot control the actions and behaviors of others.  This loss of control at a time when I need it the most to shape and form the best life for this future person growing inside me is unbearable.  Now, I know I'm a control freak.  And I've learned by and large to let go of this less attractive side of my personality over time, but it's rearing its ugly head with a fiery vengeance in the wake of the terror at the responsibility I am about to assume.

Don't get me wrong here; I want to have children.  Min Gi is excited and bubbly about it.  I have a lot of support from family and friends and current and future employers.  But I think this glowy-happy-angelic view we have of pregnancy only makes those of us (and I suspect there are more of you out there than will admit it) with some ambivalence feel alone.  Isolated.  Abandoned.

The combination of the fear, isolation, and loss of control is not pretty.  I'm fighting.  With my mom.  With Min Gi.  With my friends.  With myself.  I look at myself and see not a grown woman capable of raising a child with joy and poise, but a scared little girl that needs tending but fights back at everyone who tries to get in to help.

I hesitate to post this to my blog (which not that many people still read... thankfully) because of the public nature of the forum and knowing (hoping) that these feelings are temporary and will be overcome and replaced by others of a more positive and possibly nausea-inducing sugar-coated variety.  But I hope that both in revealing the pregnancy and in discussing the feelings I have about it honestly, I might be able to pull myself through it a bit faster.  And maybe, just maybe, make those of you feeling something similar less afraid to reach out and talk to someone about it.

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