I hung wallpaper for a short time, around 1985. I sucked at measuring and cutting. My boss complained that I was weak and needed too much direction. (He was not wrong.)
Next: I entered tax forms for the Internal Revenue Service. Was a whiz at the 10-key, but pregnancy nausea put the kabosh on that desk job. Keystrokes were counted; I spent a vast amount of time hovering over a toilet in a dimly lit government-issued bathroom stall. (I wasn't fired. I quit.)
Years later, after three children and a newly elected seat on the local school board, I scooped ice cream at a mom and pop business as a stop gap between reporting and returning to the classroom. Also, I created a chicken salad concoction that became a kind of legend on the Square in downtown Liberty.
Reporting and teaching: the bulk of my career. Twenty years. During those years, I was also raising kids, laundering thousands of socks, grocery shopping twice weekly and preparing meals twice daily. My husband traveled six months out of the year. He ate meals out and slept in nice hotel beds. I was left at home, trying to get myself and three children under the age of six up and out the door by 6:45 a.m. Needless to say, I was tired and bitch-cranky. My PMS was severe; at one point I (seriously) thought about running away from home (and work responsibilities), maybe head to New England. Chop off my hair and peroxide-dye it. Pierce my navel ~ hell, FIND my navel. Get into shape. Get a tattoo. Create a new identity that had nothing to do with motherhood or teaching or asking complete strangers prying questions.
For two decades, I was passionate and pissy about those two jobs. (There were some good days.) Now, I tell myself those feelings were valid, and not emotional fabrications to ease the psychic pain of withdrawal from the newsroom and the classroom. It's what I did. Was good at. Defined by. Paid for.
Look. At heart, I am an introvert, and as such, I am a person who not only adores solitude and quiet but needs it. As you can imagine, it was tough for me to go out into the world (read: my community) with a smile and a notebook and interview superintendents and lottery winners and city councilmen. I always felt artificially poised and posed, there in my pumps and business suit, as I asked questions and wrote furiously to record answers. Showtime! (Jazz hands.)
Teaching high school was one big show, too, but only six chaotic times a day ~ in profoundly noisy fifty-five minute increments. The hooligans needed fun assignments or else they were bored, apathetic, and problematic. With the energy I expended day-in-day-out, I might've trained to swim from Cuba to Florida. (Bet Diana Nyad never taught high school English.)
And now, here I am. Forty-eight years old. I am one lucky lady, thanks to a wonderful and supportive husband who goes to work each day loving what he does. He is the major bread-bringer-homer. Me? I freelance and pick up some money here and there. I am a (paid) morning and after-school childcare provider. (Love my pseudo-grandchildren!). And ~ and this is BIG ~ I am owner of a kick-ass writing room; I am no longer a slave to a school district. Not on deadline to write. No assignments to give. No grading. NO GRADING! I tell you: When Sunday evening rolls around, I am euphoric. I read in the evenings, or watch some television, or bake a pie, or hang out with my sis, or talk with the hubby. I look forward to seeing the children I watch in the morning. These girls, ages nine and six, are sweet and not noisy and very loving and optimistic and kind, everything adolescents are not. They are imaginative and creative and funny. My mornings are now filled with laughter and sunshine. Fruity Pebbles and fun.
Used to be, I'd awaken on Sunday worried about how much I wasn't going to accomplish; by mid-afternoon, I'd hyperventilate because I didn't get my EIGHTY essays graded or SIX CHAPTERS of a book I was teaching read. Sunday evenings meant headaches and anxiety attacks. Sleepless nights. Tossing and turning and sweating and occasionally getting out of bed at three to hover over a toilet in the master bathroom. Morning commutes where I thought so many times that driving my car into a guardrail was preferable to turning into the lot of the middle school (where I ended my teaching career, 2011).
Not any more (Jazz hands!)
I am liberated from those twenty years of hand-wringing and artificial posturing.
In twenty-five days I am heading to Nebraska with my trunk packed with teaching files and lesson plans and old spiral notebooks that for some reason I've been hanging onto. I am going to an acreage where trash burning is allowed. My plan is to set the trunk contents aflame (my classroom pain), to bid the shit adieu, to return the papers to the earth in an ashy pile. I will finally be at rest, once and for all; I will no longer have the boxes and crates clogging up my home environment, clogging up my brain.
Would say I'll report back later, but I'm wanting to lose that moniker, too.
I'll get there. One significant step at a time.