Monday, November 22, 2010
What do you wanna be when you grow up?
So I was a little shocked when she confessed her dream of being an astronomer. An astronomer, really?
Periodically, my husband and I discuss what we want to be when we grow up. He's still deciding, torn between several important but not all that lucrative passions. I have a lot of careers I dreamed of pursuing when I was younger...actor, fine artist, graphic artist (did that, sort of, and...it was stressful!), heavy metal guitarist (shut up), geologist, a professional book reader (except I was scared of New York City), a Spanish translator, and the ever-present dream of being a writer (except I'm pretty sure I always thought I would primarily write poetry).
I still can't quite pinpoint the moment I decided to be an English teacher, to be honest. Like...I know I went into college a declared major, so it was before that. And I can remember conversations with my mother about "back-up plans" and...you know. Loan repayment. So I think it was sort of a practical girl's English major--the practical girl who paid for her own schooling and knew she needed to have a real job like five seconds after graduating. I think my plan at the time was to keep on going to school until I would be able to be a professor. Academia seemed like the place for me.
Reading books, facilitating enlightening discussions, researching my passions, writing and publishing...things (this was about where my imagination failed me), and...
Wait. Why didn't I get my doctorate? Oh yeah. School. That I was paying for. With borrowed money. That I needed a real job to pay back.
So I started teaching high school, and every so often, it was actually like that. I mean, not the writing and publishing things part, but the reading books and sometimes even having enlightening discussions. But it was so difficult, all the time. And I was only twenty-three. And I was teaching in the same little town I grew up in. And my boyfriend wanted to take off and explore the country. And I saw--with not a little fear--my life stretching out in front of me in one small town, alone in front of a never-ending pile of ungraded papers (which were a lot less brilliant than the ones from my imagination).
So I took off with him, and after several months of hiking and camping and wandering around enjoying the view, I found what I hoped would be a shit job at a printing company. Basically my job was to develop large sheets of film, place a mylar strip on them (part of my job title was "stripper"--so fun to tell my mom on the phone from across the country!), put the film on top of a plate, burn the plate, process the plate, and run it down to the printing press. Mostly brainless, which was the way I wanted it. I could read my book or write in my journal in ten second bursts as I moved the plates and labeled them and taped them together neatly.
In the meantime, I referred to myself as a "Recovering English Teacher" and purchased my first computer so I could write and get published, which I had decided should be my "real" job.
And it's funny, because after about a year of this, someone realized that I was not utilizing all the brain power I could be, and they started having me do other prepress work--typesetting and page layout and simple design and then more complicated design until...TA-DA! My brainless shit job was now a stressful and complicated job. And I admit, there were occasionally some pretty cool intellectual discussions, but more often then not, there was simply a lot of cursing at computers and a pretty serious case of font-resentment.
Where is this post going? Ah, yes. So. I ended up back in teaching...I'm a little ashamed to admit it was not because I couldn't stay away but because there wasn't enough prepress work to keep me busy in the cruddy economy, and I wasn't really qualified to do anything else anyway. I interviewed for my current job over the phone WHILE CLEANING OUT MY FRIDGE because I was so nervous I had to do something with my hands, and by some miracle I was hired, sight unseen.
And then I found out that--although we're more likely to have lengthy discussions about the merits of keeping one's rude and disrespectful opinions inside one's head than about the literary merits of several challenging poems--for me, middle school is where it's at.
At least...it felt right today. (Which is saying a lot since it was Monday.)
Unless. I still really wanna be a geologist...