I don’t have anything nice to write. Sometimes you get exactly what you deserve, and that is what is happening at work. Ridiculous.
In 307 days and a little over three hours, I’ll be out of education. My best days are behind me in this industry.
I started late as a teacher; I was 26 when I landed my first classroom position. The first half of my twenties I spent in a casino and being, generally, an asshole. Not one of us put money in financial markets. Most of us had some money in savings, but the rest we spent as quickly as we earned it. I knew about compound interest, I just didn’t do shit about it.
Here’s something funny: working three decades in a job you don’t really want in the hopes of earning a pension large enough to live on when your health fails. That was The Plan in the Ohio Valley. A post-industrial American Dream. None of us thought far enough ahead to consider whether or not we were spiritually capable of such a feat.
I’m certainly not. So, now, just like I did when I was seventeen, I’m researching viable career paths and studying the steps to pursue something else. It’s complete bullshit. And utterly necessary.
Teaching was a “calling” for me, and I never really drank the Kool-Aid, although the ladles never ran dry. “Nobody got into teaching to be rich” is commonly uttered. True, but a salary that keeps pace with inflation might be a reasonable, achievable goal.
I’m slow-witted. You wouldn’t know it to talk to me, as I can be obnoxiously charming and even maybe funny. Beneath the sarcasm is a long-running loathing. I’ve known for a long time I was wasting my time teaching. Here’s my payoff: my last two full years in the classroom were the best. There’s no going back, and those days are gone. I learn slowly. It takes months or years of near-disaster for me to wake up and do something aggressive. In some cases, I’m lucky I got fed up before forty.
All the things I wanted to do but didn’t, I will do. Life is far too short. I can’t reverse time and make up for the $100 per month I should’ve have been auto-investing since age 20, but I will stop the batshit consumer behavior that keeps me from working toward true freedom: financial independence. It won’t be easy. But I won’t be 65 when I “retire” with crossed fingers that fifty years of insane blood pressure won’t drop me.
Take a walk with me for the next 307 days. I think it will be interesting.
June is always something. For me, it is a time of transition, and I look forward to at least one out-of-town trip. I was thinking about this, and the Grand Scheme of Things in general, when a thought occurred to me: it really isn’t the intricately-planned trips or events that hold the most meaning.
It’s the Random.
Everything that has surpassed my expectation has done so due to lack of expectation. My overwrought planning never did accomplish much. There are a few exceptions involving larger life events, but I mean this in a general sense–more of an everyday guide. All is best with a simple plan: gather, drink, listen to a band, line up a safe house, whatever. Do something not normally done. And it always worked, as long as there was a plan to get safely home. Or stay somewhere. Back to the grind at the beginning of the week. At least there was a day or two that departed from the Norm.
Adventure doesn’t have to be complicated. Yet the days pass, and not much comes of the best laid plans, but we rinse and repeat. A few years pass, and then a few more. Suddenly, its hand-wringing time. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. How ridiculous.
Think back to the best times you had–the real defiers, if you will–they weren’t planned out completely. Sometimes they don’t even cost much. Or anything.
This should happen more often.
You didn’t have any way of knowing it, but you were my playlist at a huge time in my life. Before our time together, I lived in a sinking city. I jumped around in grade levels and in content, working lots of side gigs trying to figure out what was the best fit for me in this whole “adulthood” thing.
In our class, we departed from fanciful standards-based instruction and data-driven assessment and we explored deeper life. You became academics at the peak of the awful beauty of adolescence.
I depended on you. I needed your humor, your triumphs, and your struggles. I hope I brought something different to the table. I tried. Each day we were together, I felt alive. Inspired. It’s not something that happens often as the decades pass.
I knew you were a special class, but I confess I underestimated your impact. Something was missing when you went to the next grade. Our merry little band of dreamers broke up, and life wasn’t the same.
You taught me more than I taught you.
Working with your creativity and your brilliance made regular public education an unreliable narrator. Grades were rendered irrelevant, in the larger scheme.
For our time together, one was either “there” or not. There wasn’t anything else.
I don’t teach in a classroom anymore. I know that you were irreplaceable. So, now that you are graduating, this is the birth of Possibility. Once you cross that stage, you have officially traversed the first void. You are now free to fill your worlds as you see fit. Make sure you try everything. Never tell yourself that what people planned for you is enough.
Thank you for the gift of walking a little way with me.
Dream a little dream for me, Class of 2017.
I become aware of how utterly relaxed I am as the alarm jars me from a dream in which an other-career acid folk guitar strummer leans into a microphone at an amphitheater venue and has a nice sunshiny connection with the crowd. His is a micro-set, and even though he has played for years, he’s not really sure if he is good enough. There is a sunset, a breeze, and his chord progressions are springlike.
The alarm sounds. I am face-down, a lower-case “h” and my body temperature is just right. I touch the Snooze button on the face of my phone, and while the nine-minute counter ticks away, I drift back into the most remote level of dream state. This time, Neutral Milk Hotel’s “The King of Carrot Flowers” is playing, and I’m really still half-awake, trying to remember exactly when I ate and how much wine I had last night in order to hopefully simulate the same sleep experience again tonight–every night–if possible.
Nine minutes are up and now the layers of sleep are drifting away. Still in awe of how at peace I am, I slowly pull my legs up until I’m in a curled position. I breathe in slowly through my nose and hold the air in as I swing my left leg first out from the bed. Once I stand, I close my eyes for just a second to stretch briefly. Left hand cupped over right, I noiselessly close the bedroom door behind me. With luck, I’ll sleep like that again tonight.
I’ve become barrel-shaped, which is an odd look for someone of my build. Blood pressure is too high. Sodium is lower, mostly thanks to a giant drop-off from my (at least) four beers a night routine from the last, oh, twelve years. Wine last night with and after dinner, but inexplicably I was dead-tired and was asleep before 10. I’m sure being worn out from the adults with whom I work is a factor, but still–before 10 on a Friday night is sad.
1.5 miles on an elliptical followed by 1.5 on a treadmill to start the day. The big difference was that I put on my shoes and got started instead of thinking about it. Time to do the same thing elsewhere.
Not going to be a fitness junky. Just want to get some things done.
In another life I was a mountaintop teller of tall tales. I sat on the wraparound porch of a small cabin and looked through the trees to see a stream sparkle at sunset and sipped from a mug. Only those that wanted to listen sat on the porch, and we all took turns talking. At night we closed our eyes for peaceful rest, oblivious to the demands of the coming day.
Air is cleaner a thousand feet high. There are no calendars to sync, no phone calls to return, and no follow-ups to meeting objectives. Trees do not care about deadlines. My blood pressure lowers from better breathing and thirty floors of elevation change. I feel less stress just by walking. It is a simple trick, but unexercised.
The surreality of a town like Eureka Springs is not far-fetched. I have seen it in other forms: Thomas, West Virginia. Snowshoe Mountain. Coeur d’Alene. What makes all of those places unique to our daily travels: people seem to be doing what matters to them. This is not to suggest that we do not do that at lower heights, but if we do, we do so inconsistently. In such cases, nature bests nurture.
I am twenty feet in the air as I write this. Earlier this morning I stared at the back porch for a minute or two as I stood at the kitchen sink, but the sun was moving and the coming shade would have decreased productivity. Even now, I am wandering in and out of characters and settings. I am not there yet, but I will be. It can take a long time to awaken habits.
Last weekend was an important small victory in reminding us how easily we can reframe. I never could work for the weekend; it always seemed like a pop-up book of surprises that somehow stole all of that free time, and the promised land of rest and focus never materialized.
We will be in the mountains again soon.