It’s official! Since I have last posted, I quit my job, got a new one and started graduate school!
The quitting itself was long overdue and necessary, but still sad and disturbing. I loved being a teacher, and I loved my school. I learned so much and met so many people that changed me; I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have been accepted into a community that I never would otherwise have had the chance to get to know and understand. I didn’t want to leave; I was forced out. To have stayed there would have been to lose self-respect, integrity, and joy. I understood the term “soul-sucking” in a way that I had not known.
I guess it took me so long because so much of my identity was wrapped up in my career and the students with whom I worked. A long time ago, a friend told me that someday I would have an after school special made about me. Of course, that’s ridiculous, and I didn’t give it much thought (but maybe Lili Taylor or Patricia Clarkson or Toni Collete or Emily Mortimer or Katherine Keener or Amanda Peet or Justine Bateman could play me, and I would win a really big award for being amazing, and Bob Dylan would write a song about me, but nobody would understand all the words, and I would buy a small house in Whitefish, Montana and another one in France, and I would be reclusive, but super-intellectual people would find me and seek counsel with me and I would inspire paintings and poems and a song, that oddly enough, would be ska, and some real smart, totally hot musician would become hopelessly enamored by me, but I’d reject him, because I’m done with all that, and I’d go to the Emmy awards, where my after school special was nominated for three awards, and I’d meet Jon Hamm of Mad Men, and after that it’s really none ya bidness, so back off, Jackson!), but I didn’t think that it would all end with me being unwanted. All of those years ended with me handing Principal Jong-Il a form, which she signed and handed back without a word.
My family supported me 100%, even when I told them I was leaving my job with nothing else lined up. My mom held me and told me I was doing the right thing, and not to worry. My sister jumped into action and made a million plans for me, and made me a special Friday night dinner with all of my favorite foods, and it wasn’t even my birthday! My dad, who can be very critical, kissed me on the forehead and told me I’d land on my feet. My brother-in-law stood at the end of the driveway and applauded my every step to the door, in slow-clap, to make it even more meaningful. I felt like Rudy. My cousins showered me with their best wishes, righteous indignation, and loving words. My family never wavered, not once, in their strength when I felt weak, their optimism when I was dark, their confidence in me when I felt unsure and shaken.
My friends told me over and over again how proud they were of me. They called from long distances and from around the corner, bringing me gifts and dinner, sending me cards that arrive and delight unexpectedly, like butterflies in the mailbox. They reminded me of good things that I had done, and told me they would have liked to have been in my class. They toasted me again and again until I forgot what we were drinking to. Chi Toh took me to a fancy restaurant and held my hand across the table while I cried and cried. Chm Chm left me the same message over and over again: “Did I tell you how proud I am?” Denichiwa was a mother hen, clucking over me, pecking at me to get my nest in order, Jill helped me clean out all of my files and pack my things in boxes.
Several of my students said that they would shank the principal in the third floor bathroom if I wanted, and they gave me their phone numbers to text them. Sergio, a grown 18 year old, cried like a baby, and Julio asked if we could date now, or at least would I buy him some beer. Alexis finally brought back my gray sweater with the sequins on it and told me that she felt pretty wearing it, because she thought she looked like me. They said they’d miss me, and asked me not to forget them, and to promise to be at their graduation.
My colleagues threw me a party, and Sara brought me white roses and chocolates. They said they were right behind me, and that I was brave enough to do what they wanted to do and that they respected me for refusing to be miserable, and for being a good teacher. They made me promise to be active in education reform and to try to get Jong Il fired.They used words like “admire” and “inspire”. Rickey said that when I first got there 17 years ago, he thought I was a babe, and he still thought so, but now I was something more; I was a lady, an educator, and a friend.
This could have been a point in my life that I would have found it difficult to recover from; I’m not tough or brave, and, because I have never been treated badly, I have trouble understanding why people wouldn’t be nice to me or like me. But instead, I left with my head held high, with confidence and hope. I feel proud of what I have accomplished and the the help I have offered. I discovered aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed, and I liked what I saw. Because of the people in my life, I wasn’t sunk by shame, guilt, or hopelessness. I was buoyed. I was lifted. Not only did I get my after school special, but I got to eat it with Ding-Dongs straight out of the freezer, sitting on a bean bag right smack in front of the tube!
And now I am happy. I am doing new things and learning a lot. I am being challenged, meeting new people, and am feeling creative. I’m on a small adventure and I’m excited about the future, whatever it may bring!
I end this post as I have so many others; I want to thank all of my people, with the utmost sincerity and gratitude. Because of you, I feel loved, respected and utterly secure. Because of you, I will always be just fine. Thank you for the gifts you give me. I don’t take them for granted, and I won’t waste them. I will work hard to make us proud! Yay, you! Yay, me! Yay, happiness! Here is my wish for you:
And here’s a little gift! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IArxakPsPE0
P.S. Additional thanks to Trixie, Bonnie, KB and Jonny Cool, Kathie, Reid, Scherry, McAdams, Em, Mario, Karen, Sharon and Robert for his good wishes from across the pond.
This post goes out to JC (not that JC!) for reminding me that it’s way past time! Thank you for caring!