Monday, April 09, 2007

taking risks

It seems typical that spring has charged up my thoughts, bringing new life to things I moaned about over Thanksgiving turkey, and I keep thinking about taking risks.

How scary it is when we face a decision like this. Option one includes staying in the teaching profession (even if I can't get a job for next year, I have hope I would be able to find one the following year fairly easily) where it is undeniably safe: health insurance, steady paycheck with reliable nudges in increase, job much related to my field of passion, inspiration for others (one would hope), regular expanses of time off. Of course, there are the downfalls: times when I do not feel like I am any good at what I am doing, times when I am too tired to do simple chores or read more than a page or two before dropping off to sleep, large expanses of time where my life feels owned by a system I do not always agree with, the need for deep wells of patience and calm, the neverending stack of papers to grade (and the feeling that you might not be teaching them anything at all so what is the point?), the being "on" for all those hours in the day when you must be baby-sitter along with teacher, the high octane stress level that involves a balance between pleasing student, parent, administration, community, and self... Option two is going back to school, acquiring an alphabet soup of degrees, adding myself to K's insurance, a meager stipend and brief part time job to not rely so heavily on his own paycheck, and the abundance of joy that is me pursuing my own academic interests and focusing on the creative self, which lately has been clambering and crying and now pitching a monstrous tantrum within. I could allow this voracious beast its desire (provided acceptance), or I could continue on a path comfortably traveled.

I think about taking risks, small and otherwise: images of leaping into a summer lake, legs scissored and grin wide; I think of traveling around the globe, fiercely determined to have a mosaic passport at the end, finding the tucked away beauty in new geography; getting married and trusting that person will be your sounding post and steady beacon at the beginning of each morning, at the end of each night, and through every certain and uncertain moment between; having children and believing that you are good enough to mother them; asking that person out; driving a little faster; giving yourself permission to write poorly because you know this is rehearsal for better things to come; trying a new recipe; failing but then trying again; moving across the country; learning a new language; surgery; confessing; acts of dare-devilry, such as bungee cord jumping or leaping from an airplane; walking away from a career that is generally more than mediocre, with moments of great joy and moments of great anguish; falling in love.

Tomorrow I go back to school after a week and a day of being apart has passed. I had a dream last night that I was at school again, confused about the reading test they take tomorrow morning, students from student teaching there along with ones I have this year, a mix of familiar faces, all struggling students, some of which warrant a phone call home. I felt as troubled as they were in my classroom; I had overheads to explain the process, but I knew they already had gone through those instructions. I was vague. There were flashes--me sitting at the edge of a stairwell similar to an overhang at a mall, two boys I had last year shouting up at me, happy to see the teacher who was most tolerant of their goofing off. I dreamed my classroom was a cabin room where my mother was coming to visit, but when I closed the door and opened it again, needing it to be a classroom, it was. And in this dream, I ran to find Emily, my close friend and colleague, and begged her to find a way for me to stay, to be .6 or anything, because I couldn't stand the idea of leaving.

I have dreams sometimes where the events feel so visceral, so life-like, that the emotions carry over. I dream about old boyfriends and wake up missing them; when the dream-fog dissipates, I am surprised I felt any longing at all, especially with the company of K to outshine any other. So when I woke from last night's dream, I did feel mild desperation to stay at this particular high school, when I know this isn't true at all.

As I was cleaning the kitchen last night, I was lost in my own world, scrubbing down stovetop, sinks with flecks of paint, and I tried to pretend like I wasn't going back to this high school. I tried to pretend like I had already said good-bye, just to test myself, see if my heart ached, if only a little. It was startling how quickly I felt OK with going, especially when the panic of what-will-happen-next-year sets in, and I think some sadness is natural, but I am not so attached to HS that I cannot leave it. So many things I will miss: creative writing class, Emily, my department, the slant of light on my classroom floor in the mid-afternoon, sportcoat Wednesdays, the youthful exuberance of the staff, the school mascot embedded in the commons floor.

But this is not all of my life. This is not all of my sorrow, all of my joy. This is not the only high school with the only companionable colleagues, the only fluffy mascot, the only array of students who begin to brighten as they begin to "get it." There is life after all of this.

And the idea of the risk I want to take--the cleverness peeking on the horizon, the way my breath stops at the possibility of it, the way I had forgotten the natural way it feels to write and to analyze writing and to create--I cannot fathom the turnaround this could be.

I do not know what my occupational future holds. I do know these changes aren't a frightful thing though. Marriage, a mortgage, a million tiny sparks on a summer's night.

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