Milestones & Success

Yesterday was my birthday, and naturally, I am in a reflective mood.

I’ve learned so much through The Boy about milestones and success, and how the social constructs that make us believe we aren’t quite achieving as much as we should (there’s that awful word) are a figment of our own imaginations.  And yet…

I have to confess that as I step firmly into my 40s, I wonder what I have to show for myself.  Not in terms of what I’ve accomplished, but where I am currently.  Let me make perfectly clear that I am happy.  I made a conscious decision to leave teaching to be with loved ones and for my own mental health. I made another conscious decision to leave my decent-paying job, again for my own mental health. But I can’t honestly say that working for minimum wage has done much for my own sense of self-worth.

I am very happy and grateful to be employed, don’t get me wrong.  And my current position is just what I needed, really. The complete lack of stress, the laid back coworkers, the peace of mind are so valuable to me, I can’t really put it into words. But peace of mind doesn’t pay the bills, and I am not old enough to retire. In other words, I still have so much to give, so much to offer.  But the job market here just won’t bear it.

On the continuum of employment, from stressful to no-stress, from meaningful to not-in-the-least-important-to-society, from almost $100K to minimum wage, I am still searching for that middle ground, and it is elusive. And work is important to me.

The Man and I have long considered creating our own business plan, not only for ourselves, but also to ensure that The Boy has meaningful employment, as well (I mean, if I can’t find employment, imagine how difficult it will be for a young man on the spectrum).  If necessity is the mother of invention, we may be giving birth to our own opportunities very soon.

I just have to remind myself (continously) that if I start to walk down the path of “shoulds” (ie I should be making this much, I should be doing xyz), I will be in the weeds.  That path was never right for The Boy, and can do nothing but harm to me. We will just need to blaze our own path to find that balance and meaning, and have faith that we will find our way.

finding our own path

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Am I Less for Leaving?

Many of my old teacher friends are scared and weary.  They see what is happening to teaching and education and they don’t like it, but they are trapped.  They have mortgages to pay and resumes that will not allow them to do anything else.  They post links to blog posts and articles on facebook about how education has changed, how people don’t want to become teachers anymore, and how teachers don’t want to even remain teachers anymore.

Yesterday, one posted a link to an article on Monster – “5 Most Regretted Jobs,” and you guessed it – teaching was on the list.  The article ended the lament about teaching with the quip, “It takes a remarkable human being to become a teacher but it takes a golden human being to stay one.”

Which leaves me to ask, “Am I less for leaving?”

Honoring_the_Teachers_of_America_3_cent_stampAm I somehow not “golden” because I had an opportunity to leave that many others do not?  Am I somehow selfish for taking the opportunity that many, many of my old friends would have taken in a heartbeat?  Am I unremarkable because I took a stand and left a profession that I daresay would have killed me for all of the lying, cheating, disrespect, and injustice I endured and watched others endure, and if it had not killed me, would have most definitely killed my soul?  Am I tarnished for taking a chance at a less stressful existence that would ultimately benefit my family?

I think you see where I’m headed with this.  Teachers are phenomenal people, especially those who don’t get the monetary compensation necessary to support their own families.  But no one has the right to look down on a person leaving teaching in these days and times.  Many of us have left because we are taking a stand against the very dark underbelly of the system, and refuse to be the face of it, refuse to be a part of the machine, refuse to actually do harm to children by proxy.

I think all of my old teacher friends, both those who feel trapped and those who continue to fight the good fight (even if they’re not sure from day to day what that even means) are golden.  I think those that have left the profession with souls beaten and bruised are no less golden.  In a system that creates too many victims (if you think my word-choice is histrionic, you should hear some of my “war” stories), teachers and former teachers may indeed be the only people of value left.