You’re free to hum the title either to Aerosmith, or Willy Nelson, whatever makes you happier. Or neither, as the case may be.
So… the last six months have been strange, to say the least. In June of 2012 (dear god, was it really that long ago?) I quit my teaching job of the last six years. More than that, I quit teaching altogether, which was a rash and some might say, stupid, decision. But here’s the thing: I’d spent the last six years at a place where I wasn’t very happy, because on some levels, I was pretty happy. I know, that makes no sense, but that’s how it was. My students loved me, the parents liked me, my coworkers at least tolerated me, but my bosses… well, they used me. There’s no other way to put it, now that I’m free from that place. I was being used.
I am very good at teaching. It’s what I was born to do. Yet they made me feel, from day one, that I was always on the border of being fired. Not today, mind you, but at some indeterminate point in the near future.
First off, I was “insubordinate.” Well, I wasn’t actually insubordinate, but I seemed like I was going to be insubordinate. Soon. Probably. My boss actually referred to me at one point as “a loose cannon.” Yeah, me and Mel Gibson.
In fact, while I may be prone to a certain “fight the man” dislike of authority, I’m pretty tame as rebels go. I’m a bit of a prissy nerd about rules, actually. My moments of fight-the-power generally happen in my mind, not in reality. I don’t like bullshit, it’s true, and I have a tendency to call it when I see it, but that isn’t the same as being “a loose cannon.”
My attitude, apparently:
So when that didn’t work, I was told that I was “unprofessional.” What this meant, exactly, I was unable to determine. I had no complaints against me, by anyone. Called to task in my bosses’s office, I was informed that the comments I had volunteered at our last staff meeting were totally offensive to “someone.” “Who,” I would inquire, “and what offended them?” My goal being, of course, to immediately apologize. “We can’t tell you that,” they would say. “Confidentiality.” After several meetings where I actually fell for this nonsense, I finally demanded that they tell me exactly what I’d said and who I’d offended. A name was reluctantly offered. Needless to say, when I went to this person to offer my apology, she had no idea what the hell I was talking about. My bosses, in other words, were making up the complaints. Why? Oh who knows. I suppose it preserved a certain element of control.
Then there were the comments about how I “might not be suited to this profession” or “happier somewhere else.” And always delivered in the guise of caring about me and my well-being.
Finally, the last straw came: I had to turn in one of my coworkers for genuine misconduct. Someone who had been a friend, about whom I cared deeply. I agonized over my decision for days, but as usual, things didn’t turn out as I would have expected. Much to my surprise, nothing substantial actually happened to the person in question. After all those years of being accused of “unprofessional” behavior when I’d done nothing, I discovered that when someone actually did behave unprofessionally, the result was exactly… nada.
So I was done. I turned in my resignation, which was greeted with a certain cool pleasure. I suppose we were mutually freed, at last. My students cried, I cried, I mourned… and I started my own business. Hopefully, you’ll all sign up for biking trips this summer. But even if no one does, I desperately needed to leave my old job, and am not sorry that I did.
For the first few months, I was busy traveling. But then fall came, and the trips slowed down to a crawl and then to a wintery halt and I was just sort of left sitting there, doing nothing. I don’t do nothing very well. With no momentum, I took to watching too much BBC and eating too much popcorn. I stopped cycling, stopped working, stopped everything.
I had to go back to work. I started doing some tutoring, then some more, and about a month ago, I signed up with one of those after-school tutoring industry places. And here’s the irony, where karma has come back to bite me in my slightly-overweight ass…
They love me. They think I’m the greatest teacher EVER. I am the wisest, most experienced, most knowledgeable, most capable teacher ever to roam the face of the earth. I must, therefore, work six nights a week, and over 40 hours a month. This, plus my private tutoring commitments made before the new job have reduced my free time to nothing. Between parenting, working and more working, I’m left with just a few hours a day to myself, and most of those are after midnight and at the expense of sleep.
So when to ride my bikes?
Well, today one of my private clients cancelled her lessons. The sun was shining, and I was already up. I took advantage of the sudden windfall of time and headed out the door to the Cedar River Trail. I had just 45 minutes to ride, so it was a quick ten-miler on The Raleigh.
It was glorious. The bland gray landscape of winter seemed novel, after months inside.
The thin sunlight was so refreshing, I might as well have stepped into the middle of the Riviera. I was basking.
The trail, of course, presented few surprises, but that was okay. The bike felt unfamiliar at first. I actually wobbled as I took off. But then I was riding along as comfortably as ever, putting the Sturmey Archer through its limited paces. I wasn’t racing, but I wasn’t sluggish either. Everything just felt good.
I stopped to take a few “artsy” photos under the bridge, and felt great affection when I turned back to see The Raleigh waiting patiently for me (as opposed to all those impatient bikes I anthropomorphized in the past…).
Though I’m overworked, and overtired, and still unsure how to view the last half-year, I had fun in the moment of free time available. And in the end, that’s what matters, isn’t it?
And the “additions” to this sign made me laugh out loud like a maniac.