This has been a long, trying summer that has pushed every one of my boundaries and challenged me to really understand how much I can handle before I break. Apparently, it's a fair amount. Regardless of what you are waiting for: agents to get back to you, editors to respond, your book to come out, reviews to come in, strikes to end, school to start-- the very act of waiting is a tedious, debilitating thing. That sounds dramatic, but I find that waiting is so much harder than just having to face something and deal with it. When we are forced to sit on the sidelines, unknowing of what is happening behind the scenes, what the outcome will be, and how it will truly affect us, we are under far more pressure than having to actually make a decision and act.
Between the waiting for responses or waiting for this strike (the longest teacher strike in BC history) to end, I have felt an overwhelming restlessness that refused to abate. Every. Single. Second. There is something about having no control that makes this feeling worse. Alas, (yes I just said alas because I like that word) it is coming to an end. Tomorrow, three full weeks into the school year, after missing the last two weeks of June, we are going back into the classroom. Am I happy? Yes. But I'm also the opposite of happy. Not sad. Happy, defined by Websters, is "delighted, pleased, glad, over some particular thing". Yes, I am those. But when I think about going back, reestablishing a routine that involves working full time, being with my family, and fitting in writing, my chest gets tight and I wonder how. How I did it before and how I will manage again.
Change of routine can be a hard thing for many people. For me, it is a multifaceted trigger. I don't like when things are over, but I like when things start. I don't like getting up and going to work, but I love being there. I don't like being away from my family, but I enjoy being with others. I know that I managed to write more than one full-length novel, while working full time and being a reasonably competent (sometimes even good) mom and wife. Yet, I can't get my mind around how to go back and do that, starting tomorrow.
I would imagine that there are a lot of people with mixed feelings about tomorrow. Happy and sad. Excited and worried. The more I write, the more I see the correlations between teaching and writing. It is something you do because you can't imagine not doing it. That is what I was faced with quite often this summer as I subbed my newest manuscript and waited for any sort of news about the strike ending: I wondered, is this still what I want to do? Do I want to teach? Write? Put myself out there, in the classroom and the writing community when I'm not sure that it'll always be a positive response? That it won't always work well, that you can't please everyone? The answer ends up being yes. Even when I tried to explore the idea of what I could do other than teach, I couldn't come up with anything (other than writing) that I wanted to do as much as I have always wanted to be a teacher. Same with writing. I could stop now. I could close all of my open word documents, take a break from Twitter, and just be done. But it doesn't stop it from being there, from wanting it. So I guess, if anything good came out of the strike, or out of some rejection letters, it was that it made me sure.
I'm as sure that I want to keep teaching as I am that I'm not ready to close up my word documents yet. All of this waiting, this hovering around inside of my own gloomy thoughts, showed me, for sure, that there is something worse than waiting: the thought of not doing either of the things I love at all.
I guess the simple reason we put up with waiting and not knowing and not getting the answers we want, is because the opposite of that is giving up and letting go. And if you think I'm bad at waiting....you can't even imagine how bad I am at letting go. So I haven't and I can't see myself doing that anytime soon.
But thanks to my powers of second guessing, I'll likely regret positing something that's nothing more than a random jumble of feelings that probably didn't need to be shared. So read quick, in case I pull the post ;)
There are so many things happening around me right now that are out of my control that it feels impossible to sit still and encapsulate how I feel about that fact. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with #yesallwomen and I want to weigh in but I'm not sure how to summarize all of my feelings so I basically just read the hashtags all week. Because yes, I think, all women, but I also think, all people. We all have a fundamental stake in being good people. To others and to ourselves. Every day, we should be the kind of person we would want our kids to be proud of, be the kind of person we want them to be. And if you don't have kids, then be the kind of person you'd want to be friends with. The kind of person that you would count on. One of my favourite quotes (ever) is "The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday." We get a blank slate every day to right wrongs, make better choices, be better people. Women and men. Kids and Adults. All of us.
Something else weighing heavy in my mind is the politics surrounding teaching right now. It's horrible. It's horrible to watch and horrible to be part of. When you become a teacher, you want to work with kids. You want to make someone's life, day, next ten minutes just a little better. You want to see them succeed, get over the hurdles, and achieve their potential. There are a lot of deterrents in that path. There are crowded classrooms, higher needs, budget cuts, and mountains of curriculum. That's not what bugs me though. And no, it's not the wage either. What bothers me is the overall shift I'm seeing that makes me think that people are devaluing teachers. Not all, maybe not even most, but some. Margaret Mead says “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I love this quote and find it quite true. The flip side of it though is that a small group of people committed to making you see the negative can actually create change too. When I was growing up, I loved a lot of my teachers. There is an undeniable bond, for most people, between themselves and a least one teacher in their memory. While we were on strike today, we talked about who that one teacher for us was. For some it was their home economics teacher. Others, it was their Language Arts teacher. For me, it was my high school drama teacher. Whoever it was, it is very likely that you had a teacher touch your life in a positive way. Teachers shape us, spend time with us, watch us grow, notice when we surpass our own expectations, applaud us, push us back up when we fall. When I was little, we studied community helpers: police officers, firemen, doctors, and teachers. They were people you could trust. People that wanted to impact someone else's life in a positive way. We still matter because your kids will always matter. They are the next generation that will make choices based on the core values that we instill in them, together.
The last thing that is on my mind is the Book Expo of America. I'm an odd person in that I am intensely jealous of all the wonderful people that I "know" who are there now, walking the aisles with Rainbow Rowell, Neil Patrick Harris, Jeff Kinney, and so many more. I wish I were there. But then I think, what would I do if I were there? Most likely, I would freak a little at the thought of talking to these people. I'd be ultra nervous and quite certain that every wrong word ever invented would come out of my mouth at exactly the wrong time. I would laugh too loud and babble incessantly. Someone who was brave enough to say that yes, they were actually with me, would smile politely and yank on my sweater sleeve, trying to save the poor person I'm talking to. This is why my interaction is better online. The delete button doesn't work in real life. Which brings us full circle-- #yesallwomen, #yesallpeople because the delete button is not an option and we don't know what word or gesture, attitude or comment will impact the person around us, or how. We all matter. It's important that we not only remember that, but teach it to the next generation-- to your children, your friend's child. Manners still matter, thoughtfulness isn't out of date, thinking before you speak never goes out of style. And you really don't understand someone until you've walked in their shoes. So instead, walk beside them, without judgement, and just do your best to keep moving forward.
Sorry if this was just straight up rambling, but I did warn you in the title that it was #allthethings