I like writing when I’m sick. Just like driving when you are sleepy, shopping when you are hungry, or texting when you’re drunk, you know you’re going to arrive somewhere, but not quite know how you got there. The destination may be questionable or amazing, but either way it’s going to be an adventure. Thus, without further ado, we’re off!
A couple of weeks ago I was Uber’ing to work. The driver was sporting a fantastically awful, 3/4 length sleeve, Miami Vice pink jacket with shoulder pads. He had a Latin accent that would have been wildly sexy had he not been suffocating me in the back seat with his cologne. I pushed through the pain to make driver-passenger small talk, and we landed on Uber’s rates in different places. “It’s not a problem to live in a surge zone for some people, but for regular people like you and me, it’s a lot,”he said. I assume he’d gleaned my “regular people” status because I’d told him I was going to a babysitting job, but as the words came out of his mouth…I LOVED THEM! I wanted him to say them again and again “regular people like you and me, regular people, regular people, regular people!”
I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with the presumptions and role playing that surround the title of “teacher.” For the record, I’m sure many of us are to one degree or another. In non-teacher gatherings, when I told someone what I did for the first time, there was always a quarter second of silence, as if the person was checking back through all the things they’d just said. Were they serious enough? Were they smart enough? And dear holy bejesus, sometimes when I knew I probably wouldn’t encounter someone again, I’d tell them I was a math teacher just so I didn’t have to hear self-deprecating remarks about how bad their grammar was.
Teachers hold the same fake mystique for parents, although they show it many different ways. I understand that a little more. Parents know that anyone who is doing what they are doing on a regular basis–keeping these weird, magical, frustrating mini-humans alive and developing–must be of a different breed. But I still remember the first time a parent cried in front of me and asked what I thought they should do with their child. I was twenty-three, just ten years older than their eighth grader, and although I wasn’t as free with the swearing then, my internal response was something along the lines of, “How the fuck should I know?”
Now that I don’t hold a fancy schmancy title anymore, the distance between me and other people feels smaller. Part of that is changes happening in me, and part of that is carrying around fewer expectations of others. I quit my job at the flower shop a few days ago, and when I came in the next day (I agreed to stay a few more weeks since my boss was taking off to see to an ailing father in Taiwan), the people I worked with put their questions to me straight up: “Why are you quitting? We like you.” Or, “Is it true you’re quitting?” And there was no malice, no passive aggressiveness, no judgement of motives, no secret emotional content of any kind in the questions. They just wanted to know, and they felt no need to hold back that desire to know. Even though my current cold was building steam that day, I felt invigorated by the interchanges. And they didn’t make me nervous as they did when people were trying to support me/figure out why I was leaving teaching. As I come more into alignment with myself, my own definition of integrity, I don’t have to try so hard.
And I want to make clear that this is not a self-esteem issue. It’s not that I feel unworthy to carry the title of teacher. I was a good teacher with moments of greatness. In fact, when I set my mind to do something, I get as good as I possibly can at it, as quickly as I possibly can. But I don’t want those titles, those accomplishments, to separate me from myself and others anymore. So why don’t I go back since I’ve now had all these insights? Not only have I been offered subbing, but an actual ELA position already at my old school. The simple answer is that it’s not that easy. I can hold this understanding now, but could I do it in the midst of multiple layers of spoken and unspoken expectations? Could I refuse to be a “teacher” even though I’m teaching? I refuse to call myself a nanny since I’m really just babysitting, so maybe it’s possible. But I don’t know yet.
What I do know is that feeling into my regular peopleness seems to be having an interesting side effect of bringing up all sorts of foundational beliefs I didn’t know were hiding. I can’t quite articulate the cause effect relationship here, except for to say that I know there is one. I’ve already written a little on here about dealing with a scarcity mindset. I’m now starting to look at things like my belief that I can’t fully take care of myself and my belief, although it’s already shifting, that I should be stressed and things should be difficult. This is some major breakthrough stuff, and it’s just gently floating to the top of the pool all falalalala, no big deal but here I am, decide what, if anything, you’d like to do now that you can see me.
Being regular people is both exciting and terrifying. By the end of tomorrow I will have lost money on a day of work and three different sitting jobs by being sick, roughly 300$. I can’t really afford that, but I need to rest. Yet at the same time, I’m getting the rare privilege of remodeling my internal landscape without the prompting of death or other major losses. I know not everyone gets to do that. I hope to get even closer to the original hardwood floors and tiles before I’m all done, for this round anyways.