Because I consider myself, sort of, existing in a liminal space vocationally, I sometimes feel free and unbounded. I am overtaken by the desire to explore knowledge as I encounter it, not for some purpose but simply for the taking. I could act on this impulse concretely when I worked at the public library. While shelving or shelf reading, I’d indulge myself by checking out books on any subject. My inner narrative egged me on: Why not read a history of Marco Polo’s travels and his impact on history? What’s stopping you from reading an entire book about sound? I would check out books to read in my “vicarious free time” absent a vocation. I have all the time in the world, right?
But the piles of books just kept growing, left unread. If I wanted to learn everything absent the one important body of things, is the endeavor a waste of time? If the knowledge I’m gaining is for no purpose other than a filler, then is it really worthy of pursuit? In most cases, no.
In a couple of week’s (hopefully), I’ll have a clearer sense of where I should focus my vocational efforts for next school year. Will I be a Media Clerk? Will I be a teacher? Will I remain a stellar substitute? I will continue to be a copy editor. I will continue writing.
Saturday will be my last day working part-time at the library. The plan was to wait until the summer to resign. I reasoned I would know my fate for next school year by then, whether I’d have my own classroom or remain a Stellar Substitute teacher. The meager library pay would be saved, I thought, as a nice nest egg. As time moved one, the long hours began to wear on me. I worked at the library three nights a week and almost every Saturday. The costs far outweighed the benefits especially since I no longer desired a full-time job at the library. I came to a realization: the classroom was where I wanted to use my talents, where I wanted to serve.
I’ll miss the shelving. Yes, the shelving. Shelving books became a sort of meditation for me. I’ll miss being in such close proximity to all sorts of books I wouldn’t normally see unless I…umm…worked in a library. There are certain co-workers I’ll miss as well. I won’t miss those staff members who seemed to look through me. It was nothing personal. Some people are open and amiable and some are not. That’s life.
Seemingly out of nowhere, my copy editing clients went from 0 to 3 in the span of a week. Working two jobs certainly doesn’t leave space for this type of work! I really enjoy copy editing, well unless, it’s my own work. The reason for my copy editing boon? Word of mouth. I completed a project, and that client referred me to three other people, her students. I imagine I’ll pick up more work work this way. I enjoy the academic work, though I’d love to help fiction writers.
Forward, lo, I march without a clear view of what comes next for me. Will I get my own class next school year? Will I continue as the Stellar Substitute? Considering my desire to remain at my current school–the school is exemplary–I’ll have to wait until a classroom comes open. Attrition rates are understandably low there. It’s a waiting game. I’m an expert at being the new kid on the block, and I don’t want to do that anytime soon. I’m left with waiting, but not really waiting.
I’ve adopted a new outlook on this time. I am where I want to be. I have arrived. I’m not in a holding pattern. Each day, I bring as much presence, energy, and focus to my jobs, whether in the classroom or at my laptop, copyediting. This is not a ploy or a gimmick to tide me over while I wait for something else. I embrace each moment because that’s all I have, the present moment.
A homeroom teacher should never have to waste time taking attendance the old fashioned way: calling out names. There are a plethora of efficient ways for students to do this. A substitute teacher, in most cases, has to do so, although there are covert and efficient ways to do this as well. But if you ever have to call roll and mispronounce a student’s name, everyone but the student will correct you. They will correct you with attitude as if you did it on purpose. The student whose name you butchered won’t say a word.
Why is this? Why do the students think it is their, and not the affected student’s, responsibility to correct you? Why does the name holder sit back like a mouse? I mean it’s his or her name being mispronounced. Perhaps, this is the outgrowth of community at work. The students take responsibility for the student and the proper pronunciation of their name. This fascinates me, how learning communities are formed and their byproducts.
Hmm…I’ve been thinking. Perhaps I’ll do NaNoWriMo this year. Isn’t there a summer camp edition? A work colleague and I were talking about that today in the breakroom. She brought it up, inquiring if I’ve ever done it.
“No…I signed up, but never did it,” I said, “We should sign up together for encouragement and competition.” Then I offered some funny quip about us lifting each other up.
She doesn’t know I’ve self-published a book, but I’ve told her about my other writing, namely fanfiction. I wasn’t serious about us going at it together. I’m tired of being a perpetual champion or convener of groups.
I’ve begun some brainstorming. Oh, I have a long way to go.
I’m reading this great book, The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope. He expounds upon the dharma seeking stories of extraordinary and ordinary people against the backdrop of the ultimate dharma seeking story in the Bhagavad Gita. I’m halfway through and not quite ready to share my reflections as they are still marinating.
I can say this. The reading of it has calmed me, settled me in some way. I had, before reading this book, wrestled my angst and brought it into submission. But this exploration of my dharma, vocation, sacred duty, has given me a deliberateness of thought and daily practice.
Today, at work, I proctored an administration of a national test, the nation’s report card. Really, I observed the administration by the national staff who were very efficient. I was off from the library so I took advantage of the early time at home to engage in the deepest form of meditation: sleep.
I had two copy editing phone consultations. If business keeps booming, perhaps I’ll say farewell to the library. All of it will unfold in due time.
I am an unapologetic linguaphile. Languages and words are my lovers, but they are of the native English persuasion. I want some foreign ones! My dream is to make the transition from English fluency to fluency in another language, preferably written and spoken. Fluency, what a lofty goal, right?
In my lifetime, I’ve studied other languages (in addition to English, natively), but I’ve never achieved fluency. French and Latin were my starting places in high school. In college, I continued with French, but put it down for Italian. After just one semester, I transferred into Biblical Hebrew when I fell in love with the bible in my Biblical Literature course. The bible went from a prop at church to this mystical document to be studied and parsed. I added New Testament Greek in seminary while continuing my study of Hebrew. What was I missing in my language studies? It was ongoing communication that was divorced from some course where I was trying to get a grade. No communication. No fluency. Know communication. Know fluency. I think of all the new dendrites I could grow!
Along with traveling–this is my other aspiration–I want to add fluency in another language. I’m thinking that the language should be Spanish. The Latin American Association has free coffee hours for informal conversations with others who want to practice. They also offer formal classes. I neither have the time nor the funds to do either right now, but I will soon. There are a plethora of language apps on which I can practice, but I’ve never been able to maintain those. I know they won’t give me the fluency I crave. I need people, real live people I can communicate with consistently. If only there was some online forum of language exchange out there. Perhaps it could be a sort of PenPal Foreign Language exchange. Until I find it, I’ll continue to be on the look out for foreign language opportunities.
Do you need a beta reader? If you are, I am the one. If you are a newish writer, don’t try to go it alone. Words are magical such that when they ooze out of you and on to the page, they change and morph. I’m not merely speaking of the banal job of editing, but also of the process of fashioning your piece into the best it can be. In my own experience, I’ve tried to do it alone. Don’t do it. You need champions who will read, critique, and question.
Contact me. I’m waiting…
The first half of 2014 was emotionally and psychologically challenging. I think it was akin to what a butterfly experiences when breaking out of a chrysalis. I was very wishy-washy and unclear about key aspects of my life. Unfortunately, my actions reflected that inner waffling. I hurt those closest to me. I lost a friend.
In the midst of this, I had tasked myself with writing a novel that I planned to self-publish. By 6 months in, I had self-published the book! Hooray for me. But questions still lingered: What shall I do with my life? ShaIl I keep writing? Try to find a literary agent/publisher? Work harder at being a full time writer? Shall I return to teaching? Find another vocation? I began working part time at the public library which was good therapy and a reservoir for some fantastic reading. Shortly thereafter, I stepped back into education as a full time substitute teacher. By the late fall, I had two jobs! Loss and gain are inexorably bound like life and death, suffering and celebration. I am thankful for my husband for supporting and loving me through it all.
In the midst of 2015, I am extremely excited about what lies in front of me. I am committed to vigorously pursuing happiness. I am in love with my school. If a permanent teaching position materializes, I’ll be ready to embrace it. I want to travel more this year and in coming years so we’ve started a travel fund. I’m committed to fellowshipping with my family and friends regularly. I want to finish my Scandal Fanfiction stories! I want to commit to writing another manuscript to finish and shop around for publishing. Also, I want to cease agonizing over what folks think of me (only child syndrome). In many cases, folks are too busy thinking about themselves! Lastly, I want to be a lighthouse for compassion and love to others.
2015 here I am!
The sun rises and sets. Somehow in the natural rhythm of the daily ebbs and flows, I have found a sweet spot. Specifically, I have happened upon a professional sweet spot. I am calmer and less graspy for some idealized job.
This summer when I began working part time at the public library, I surveyed the territory and thought, I could do this every day. I don’t have an MLIS degree nor the desire to attain a third Master’s degree with its concomitant load of debt. Thankfully, there are positions in my library system that don’t require the degree. At that time, I longed for the obligatory 6 month probationary period to elapse so that I could apply for a full time position. In the interim, I began a robust job searching campaign. I soon found that good paying non-MLIS library positions were rare.
I decided to dip my toe back into education by getting on the substitute teacher list. In what seemed like seconds, I accepted a position as a stellar substitute at an elementary school in my previous public school district. In this position, I am a substitute at one school every day. I soon found myself with two jobs. I wasn’t willing to give up the library job as I was still hoping for a chance to apply for a full time position. I began straddling two jobs. After the initial excitement wore off–the thrill of the interview and offer–I became a little weary.
I am pretty much expert at being a new face. It can be a drag, though. Not knowing anyone. Trying to find your comfortable nook. This was particularly difficult for me in my position which was nomadic by its very nature. As the one substituting for others, I don’t have a home. I’m like a turtle, most days carrying everything on my back. Soon the students made me feel at home by greeting me in the halls enthusiastically all day, everyday. Upon hearing that I would be their sub, they would cheer. “You have to love that greeting,” one teacher remarked. As a previous full-time teacher, I was somewhat jaded and not as wowed by that response–at least inwardly. And then there was the bone tiredness that came with working for 8 hours at school and then another 4 or 2 hours at the library 3 days a week and a full day on the weekend. My tired was tired. I began to question how long I was going to last. I was here a couple of weeks ago.
Slowly (for me but not really that slowly), I didn’t feel so new at school. It was announced that the library was putting new hiring on hold. While I’m positioned to apply for/accept a permanent teaching position or a non-MLIS library position, I shrug my shoulders, unswayed by on or the other. Right now I am both, and that is okay. Standing still is moving forward.
So I’ve found a sweet spot. My palms are open, not looking for some new opportunity, save the opportunity to serve.