Sunday, April 14, 2013

Moments of Being

I confess that Virginia Woolf is a writer whose work I struggle to actually read. She is, however, a writer I respect; and the concept of "moments of being" (highly academic source link!) is something that has resonated with me for several years.

Lately, I've found it easy to become swept up in all of the business and the tasks that seem to stretch out in front of me like an assembly line cranked up to full speed. I'm making conscious efforts to stop and breathe, to assess where I am in the moment and to take in the little details and moments of happiness that I might easily overlook in my haste to deal with all the tasks and obstacles that need surmounting. Luckily, many of the biggest stressors that have occupied the majority of my time and attention over the past weeks have successfully passed. The musical production I've been assisting with is over, I've sorted out the bulk of the work left by the two teachers -- both of whom left abruptly and with some degree of chaos -- I've been covering at work (and yes, this includes actual work-to-be-graded, but also missing work, "unfairly graded" work, and the work of placating understandably angry and confused parents and students about the sudden lineup changes in the classroom), I've wrapped up one marking period and transitioned into the next, and Jeff has received a definite job offer from the company where he really wants to work. This final note creates, of course, a new source of anxiety; but now that the offer is definitely on the table we have more concrete options to discuss, rather than just "what-if"s. Throughout this time, I'm trying to focus myself on striking a balance between dealing with the work that needs to be done in my professional and personal lives while taking time to be mindful of and to enjoy the fun and peaceful moments that intersperse my hectic schedule. Here are some "moments of being" that have given me happiness and peace in the past week or so.

{So excited for my first Pit performance in about six years.}

{My sweet labby Woody makes friends with Molly the Coton de Tulear puppy.}

{Strawberry-mango smoothie and pumpkin bread -- perfect recipe for a happy morning!}

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Vanishing Year

A hell of a lot has happened between November 2011 and April 2013.  In some ways, life has calmed down. I'm still ridiculously busy, but I get a lot more sleep (usually) and I now get that magical, elusive thing called a paycheck to compensate me for my hard work. I've been employed steadily -- not even a day's worth of gaps in between jobs, which I consider a real achievement and blessing! -- for the entire school year, though my job title has not always been the same (more on this later). I live with my boyfriend of over four years. After three years of almost-constant long distance, and a year of seeing each other for (nice, but exhausted and work-filled) weekends while we both worked crazy hours, we now get to see each other every single day! I have no clue what the future is going to look like for us, thanks to several turns of events that are both exciting and anxiety-inducing. This post is meant to consolidate all of these events -- to fill in the gap from that vanishing year (and then some), and to explain a little about where I am in my journey today.

I did not post at all in 2012. It wasn't so much that those twelve months weren't worth documenting, but more an issue that those twelve months were some of the busiest of my life. There was little time for self-reflection (well, truthfully -- there was much self-reflection; but lots of it was masters program-mandated and the rest of it was more reflect-and-adjust-on-your-feet than stop-and-write-and-ruminate). The precious time I did have was cradled gently in my hands and devoted to only the most important of endeavors. Also, sleep. Lots and lots and lots of sleep.

Here is a brief recap of the major events of 2012:
  • I swapped my tumultuous but wonderful high school placement for a semester-long middle school event which I completely dreaded, but which ended up being pretty great.
  • My boyfriend changed jobs, and went from living in DC to living on the road -- and out of state -- most of the work week.
  • I graduated from Johns Hopkins with my masters. I was actually kind of surprised at how good this felt! I expected to feel rewarded after such a difficult and intense year, but it was really, really nice. My whole family came!
{Sisterly love at my graduation.}
  • I decided to move home to PA instead of pursuing a career in MD's much more open job market, even despite not having PA certification. This was a move that almost cost me a job, and caused me a lot of anguish (though I thought and still think it was the best decision for me).
  • My family's home was broken into and robbed -- a low point of the summer.
  • Through luck and connections, I was able to score a last-minute interview in my preferred school district. I was hired as a long term sub for the first half of the year! A definite high point.
  • I went abroad to Paris with my family.
{Water lilies - Monet's garden at Giverny.}
  • My boyfriend and I moved in together in September. It's been pretty great.
  • I taught two blissful, productive, all-around-awesome quarters of 7th grade English. I couldn't have been happier with my students or my co-workers. Even admin rocked.
  • I visited Maine for the first time. The trip involved my first solo flight, delicious seafood, an inn by the sea, and a misty-morning kayak trip that was pretty much the best thing ever. I left with reinvigorated interest in my childhood proclamation that I would one day move to Maine (I knew nothing about the state at the time; I think my small child self probably had some sort of premonition of this future weekend in adulthood).
{Windblown smiles on the beach below the inn.}
  • I read the novel The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, in October. This might be my new favorite stand-alone novel.
  • My boyfriend got laid off a couple months before the end of my LTS placement. This was very scary. We would both be unemployed very soon, unless one of us could find another job.
  • In December, I finally got my PA certification...something I had applied for waaaay back in July. I couldn't believe it took so long, but I was so happy to have it! You basically can't get a job without it, even if you've met all of the qualifications -- especially if your teaching degree was completed out-of-state, like mine was.
2012 ended on an uneasy note, with a lot of my future uncertain. Fortunately, my school district was kind enough to find ways to keep me around. This has proved challenging and exciting, but has also made the beginning of 2013 a bit of a blur. So far this year, I have been: a 7th grade English teacher, a part-time, 6th-8th grade Title I Reading and Math specialist, a 9th grade English teacher, and a 10th grade English teacher. And it's only April! I've also been rehearsing with the high school musical, as I agreed back in February (when my work schedule was part-time and did not include any outside grading or planning) to play violin with the Pit Orchestra. Wild!

All the while, my boyfriend is still looking for a new job. He has been on some promising interviews, but the jobs are scattered all over the country. The one he's most interested in -- and the furthest along with in the interview process -- is in Southern California. This brings with it a whole host of other uncertainties, questions, challenges, and conflicts. It can be difficult, especially on more stressful days, to stay focused on the work I'm tackling at the moment rather than trying to reconcile my current actions with planning for a version of the future that may arrive suddenly, and soon -- or may not arrive at all.

{If I do move to SoCal, I fully expect Ryan Atwood to be waiting for me.}

As a naturally high-anxiety sort of girl, I am doing my best to stay flexible, positive, and calm as I navigate this change and uncertainty. I realize how much I have to be thankful for, especially as a first-year teacher, coming from out of state, during a time when the teaching market in PA is miserable for new and veteran teachers alike. It's impossible to figure out what the future will hold, so I'm eager to prove myself to my administration, co-workers, and students. I'm working hard to show them that I want, value, and deserve a career here; and I'm doing my best to repress the worry that I'm busting my butt so hard to build a career that I might have to completely abandon in a few weeks or months, depending on the outcome of several variables that I am (mostly) powerless to control. The truth is that I do want to prove myself in all of these capacities -- genuinely! -- and that I also am wary of burning bridges. I used to have a sign in one of my classrooms that said, "Attitude is Everything!" Some of my high schoolers thought it was a corny sentiment, but I still like to say it to my students and myself. Regardless of all the worries I confront and, honestly, sometimes succumb to in the privacy of my home, while I'm working I adopt the attitude of: This is my job. This will continue to be my job. I am building a career that could last a lifetime. When you're a teacher, stability and confidence mean a lot not only to yourself, but also to the students you work with each day. Even if I don't have it all figured out, I allow my students to be a motivating factor in adopting a positive attitude and keeping it all together during the hours of 7am-4pm. I am present and focused and dedicated to their learning because they need and deserve that regardless of whatever other crap I have swirling around in my life. Plus, being a teacher is really cool. My current students are pretty awesome. =)

Somehow, I've also been finding little scraps of time here and there to write again. I abandoned my first novel pretty much five minutes after my grad program began to swing into full gear, and I haven't really had the energy, the drive, or the inspiration to write much since then. Lately, that's beginning to change. I've written here and there especially in the past couple of months, even with how crazy I've been. It's a nice distraction. Plus, my resolution to read at least one book for pleasure each month (I know it sounds like nothing; but when you're constantly busy and you read a lot of required books that you have to teach at school, the reading-for-pleasure time really dwindles) has allowed me to have more creative inspiration than I've had in a while. I'm craving a time when there isn't a pile of work and other distractions to keep me from focusing my energy more directly on my writing goals, but again, I don't know if and when that will come. For now, just a little bit here and there makes me feel pretty darn good.

So -- I think that about covers it.