For the next few minutes, try to imagine that I am not horribly angry at the weather. I mean, I am, but other things have taken priority in my thoughts, scaring away my desire to impale someone on my frost-stiffened fleece.
Today, I told my students that I would be leaving my teaching position at the end of the year. To those of you who actually know me, this is either a: not news or b: not shocking news or c: a total mind-blower. The rest of you are probably interested, but not overwhelmed. Folks change jobs relatively frequently nowadays, like a seven year-old and his underwear. Especially teachers. Our culture chews them up and spits them out, and I’m going to stop the underwear analogy right there, though this sentence is dying for me to complete it.
But that’s not the whole picture. You see, I love teaching, and I’m really, really good at it. It’s not like I’m that guy from Stand and Deliver or anything. I haven’t shepherded hundreds of kids from the crushing poverty of the ghetto into a lifelong love affair with dusty British literature and all the economic success guaranteed therein. No, I just enjoy what I do and I adore my students. But being a teacher is more than being good at talking literary smack to rowdy, hormone-crazed teens, unfortunately. It’s about working within a system, and that’s not something I’m all that great at.
Systems, as I realized long ago when my son was chronically ill with an undiagnosed problem and I had to navigate through the health care maze, exist to perpetuate themselves. That’s what all systems inherently do. And I, for all my vintage-bike-loving-retro-camera-stylin’-I-JUST-discovered-Angry-Birds-this-week-ness, like to shake things up when they move too slowly or don’t seem (to me, anyway, as the foremost expert in Most Things) to work properly. I don’t like committees, or debates, or consensuses (consensusi?). Years ago I took a Myers-Briggs-type test of some sort which used military terminology to create personality analogies. I got “Field Commander.” Like General Patton. Or Napoleon.
Of course, this is a great quality in a teacher: I like to draft curricular orders, marshal my eager troops, and send kids out to do battle with books, armed with charged background knowledge and the occasional fixed bayonette of pointed criticism. And I enjoy extended, twisty analogies based in internet personality tests that, while not exactly complimentary in their assessments, confirm the outsize personality disorder I’ve long known I have and my weird desire to ride around on a horse with one hand in the air and a lemon between my teeth, like Stonewall Jackson.
Having this sort of large and bossy personality is good for other things, of course. I know this. But teaching has been my life for more than ten years, and on some level, it’s what I do best. It took many years of systemic head-butting to feel ready to admit that I cannot, in fact, figuratively lock my classroom door and operate on my own. I can’t even literally lock it, because we have these weird emergency key boxes that the keys get stuck in, because that’s what you want in an emergency, you know? Stuck keys. See what I mean? I don’t even like the key box system. I want Control of the Keys!
So I’ve wanted a Change. You know, not a change, but a Change. A systemless world, controlled by me, the Field Commander of Life. Somewhere I could boss folks around like a wee sheep-pig (I love you, Babe! Wilber was such a downer, but YOU… that’ll do!): loving, but firmly in control.
Then it hit me one day, while I was out on a long bike ride. You knew this was going somewhere with bikes, right? Yes, inspiration hit while I was on The Raleigh, clearing my mind with repetitive physical actions like a steel-steeded yogi: I could lead trips! I’ve been leading trips for my school (see Ireland up there in the menu) for six years. And as a Field Commander, you better bet that I can plan like nobody’s business. So in less than a month, I had created and executed pretty much everything necessary to start my own business. I got a small business coach, a small business lawyer, a small business bank account, a small business accountant and a small business… uh… new computer and iPhone (totally about the business. Angry Birds was just a byproduct, I swear. And man, those pigs are so hard to slaughter! What’s up with that?). And then today, I told my kids.
They cried. Some aren’t speaking to me.
Will my trips run? I don’t know. I debated going “public” here, and revealing my super alter ego to the rideblog universe in order to get more business, but then I figured most of you people ride vintage bikes, which means you’re probably just as cheap as I am, so there wasn’t much point. No, actually, I just like a level of anonymity in teh interwebs (see, I am so hip to the kid lingo). But I am going to lead trips, starting in June, to places around the world. Assuming people sign up for them, which I think they will. This will be a good thing.
Right now, though, I’m feeling both terror and grief. Like any good Commander before the battle of their career, right? Now let’s all think Eisenhower at D-Day, not MacArthur in Korea (did I mention I’m not a historian?).
And I did ride this weekend, and will write about it shortly. I promise.