acceptance · adulthood · commitment · discovery · finances · growth · maturity · TEACHING · time · work

Sucker

Dear Folks,
My new “normal people” hours are conflicting with my ability
to write this with coherence, and eat, shower, become fully conscious. So,
forgive its in/coherency, if it is so.
I had two phone calls yesterday that sort of count as
informational interviews. One was with my darling Aunt Roberta (technically my
mom’s cousin, but all those cousins are sort of like aunts and uncles – that’s
how it was when you played stickball in the streets of Brooklyn in the ’50s).
She has been a professor of English since the sun was born,
and had some great information and tips for me. She sent me her teaching resume
to take a look at, as I’m beginning to apply for teaching jobs – something I’ve
viciously avoided for so long, I almost
forget why. … but I do remember.
For as long as I can
remember, what with my interest in literature, and writing, and reading,
well-meaning folks have said the following to me:
Well, you could always teach English.
Somehow this phrase has turned into an anathema for me. Is this the only
thing that I can do?? It begins to sound like a default, like welp, you could
always settle. It has calcified into a job title that brings to mind aging high
school professors, eking out their little lives in some underappreciated,
underpaid job. My vision of “teacher” has come to also mean “sedentary,” as
once you get a job teaching, all I hear is “tenure” and that’s all people are
working toward – all they want is to stay as absolutely still as possible. No
room for exploration, movement, change. You got it, you keep it, you pipe down,
and suck it up.
Obviously, many of these ideas are unrealistic and quite
ridiculous, but that hasn’t kept them from keeping me away from the whole idea
of teaching – teaching English, teaching high school, teaching college – as if
I’ve ever thought that I could.
But…
The reality.
Firstly, as Roberta was quick to assure me, teaching does not mean wasting away in some small town or inner city
for eternity – it doesn’t have to mean that, and particularly in the beginning,
it doesn’t mean that – as chances are, as a beginning teacher, you’ll have to
sort of go where the job is.
Secondly, … and here’s the hilarious irony … I like teaching.
Sure, it’s hard work – I’ve done it before, but never
considered what I’ve done as “real” teaching. I had a job at a Sunday School last year, once a
week (and had lots of lesson planning experience to really really learn that lesson planning.is.not.paid.). I also
taught ESL in South Korea for almost two years, but I don’t “count” that either,
as I was hung-over most of the time, and worked out my lesson about 10 minutes
before class, if that.
However, I do like being in a classroom. I also think I have
a lot to offer – I, if I may be so unhumble, think I’m pretty cool. I’m funny,
performative, creative, a good listener, and a very good judge of classroom
dynamics and social cues (i.e. they’re not listening – change it up, or so and so is
interested in so and so, so I better move them). I also have a lot of outside
interests, which makes for a well-rounded incorporation of things into the
lesson plan.
Thirdly, I’m technically qualified to do it now, with my degree and all. 
So, I could do it.
And as I’ve reminded myself a lot over the last year, “Can I
do it?” is a different than “Do I want to do it?”
But here’s the change occurring. My wonderful sunshine ball,
Maila, came over for tea last night. Here’s what she said:
“If it wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t have to pay us.”
BAH! Oh, right. It’s work. The ideal is that work include some play or interest, or a lack of
soul-crushing mindlessness that leaves
zero energy available for outside pursuits. And the thing
is, I want and would love to pursue a LOT of outside pursuits.
As she was leaving, I thought of something else which has
probably helped to keep me at arms-length from a “real” job. I’m reminded of my
life several years ago, which I know is similar to a lot of folks I hang out
with.
In the cheepy-birdie hours of the morning, in the hours when
the sky is beginning to lighten, and the new day is dawning, I and we, were
usually heading home. Weaving and wending our way to some pass-outable
location, or so red-eyed and clench-jawed that the chirping birds were a
mockery of all that is holy (Shut the fuck UP! Don’t remind me it’s a new day,
I’m still … still … STILL up!).
And as we were wending home, or at least one well-worn path
I remember particularly, as I was wending my way home in my second tour of
teacher duty in South Korea, I would pass by a church on Sunday morning. There,
people, humans, were walking to church. And I would sneer, Suckers.
These people, in their pressed, clean clothes, with a full
night’s sleep, and a full refrigerator. With brushed teeth, and combed hair,
and a place to get to at 8 or 9am. Who paid rent, and taxes, and didn’t have
their utilities turned off monthly. Whose teeth were not ground down with
clenching, or livers distended with liquor, or clothing bathed in a cheap bath
of smoke. These people, with real jobs, real lives, real responsibilities, were
Suckers. They knew nothing of the way things ought to be, the nocturnal,
hedonistic, nihilistic counter-culture. They were suckers.
And as I begin to accept that it’s time for me to take on
those same responsibilities, there’s a part of me that calls myself a Sucker.
But, I’m not a hedonist anymore. I don’t reek, or steal, or
slink anymore. If a balanced check-book, paid rent, cat and people food, and
some bass lessons are what I want, then I have to do what they do. I have to be
a Sucker,
which I guess is another word for Adult. 

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