I told myself I wouldn’t go over to Kelle Hampton’s blog to see pictures of her rapturously happy and carefully posed family Thanksgiving, nor read any platitudes and sonnets written about the joys of togetherness. I’m already so nauseated all the time I can barely get through the day. And while I’m sure that many families look forward to the time they spend together over this gluttonous, exploitative American holiday, I think that a great many more of us dread those stuffy rooms full of the smell of stuffing and bird carcasses, ignoring elephants lurking about.
Now, I know my sisters read this blog from time to time, so let me just say, not you. You all are COOL.
I look forward to the holidays every year for the same reason all teachers do. Vacation. Many years ago, my school district had the wisdom to give us the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off in addition to the Friday after. So many teachers and students’ families took that day off anyway to travel, nothing productive was going on. As a result, I now get a five-day break at Thanksgiving, so that has turned this once loathed holiday into a favorite. Unfortunately, this year my daughter came down with two ear infections, a matching one for each side, on Tuesday night, so our whole vacation has been spent comforting and caring for a very sick and exceedingly needy nineteen month-old. It’s still better than work. Most of the time.
Last week, an old high school classmate of mine whom I allowed to friend me on Facebook sent me a private message criticizing some funny (to me) comment my best buddy had made about looking forward to a week off from her students. It said something about their dead fish eyes. My old classmate wrote me that she was quite offended and hoped that this TEACHER didn’t really feel that way about her students and if she did, then said teacher should just QUIT! I told her nicely that teaching high school students is a rough gig. And telling someone in this economy that if they don’t like their job, they should just quit is pretty trite and unrealistic, not to mention unhelpful. I mean, sure, in a “leap and the net will appear” kind of world, those of us who hate our jobs should absolutely quit and follow our bliss. I would love to follow my bliss. As soon as I can get a job watching television while eating cheese and writing about it for other people (and this job will need to pay at least 60,000 a year) I will hitch my cart to that bliss and follow its ass anywhere.
But back to Miss Oversensitive ex-classmate Facebook friend. We teachers say some pretty harsh things about our workday trials. It’s called blowing off steam. My students get to write “Fuck Mrs. Odee” on their desks, and since I am not allowed to write “Fuck you, too, and try spelling my name right” back, I have to settle for some other outlets. My best buddy is a wonderful and beloved teacher who feels intellectually stunted at times by the repetition of her work (how many times could you teach “To Kill a Mockingbird” and still approach it with verve and vigor? Oh, you loved that book? Can you teach it every year for fifteen years, five times a day to 170 teenagers who hate every word of it?). For me, my husband, and numerous other people in my profession, one of the hardest things about teaching high school is how it is compulsory for the students, so you spend all day talking about something you love (English language in my case, literature in my friend’s, math in my husband’s), something you think is beautiful and worthwhile to people who not only hate it, they hate you for loving it and they think you are a loser because you do it. And they are happy to write that on the desks, the walls, and in your books.
I’m not usually so down on my job. Before I went on maternity leave for the 2009-10 school year, I taught AP English and College Prep ESL. I loved those classes. I loved most of the students. Two years ago, at the end of the year, I tearfully told my students that I’d been considering a career change, but that they had been such a wonderful group, I changed my mind. There was nary a dry eye in the place. It is hard that I had to sacrifice my career in order to stay home with my child for a year. I came back to the position I’d moved beyond about five years ago. I’m hoping that in a few years, when my babies (oh my God, I still can’t get used to the plural) are older, I’ll go after my old job again.
“Most people hate their jobs,” my dad told me recently. I think he’s so supremely grateful that I’m employed and have health insurance and he doesn’t have to worry about me, he’s terrified that I’d walk away from steady employment for some silly pipe dream like writing (which happens to be his chosen career). If most people hate their jobs, I’m sad for them. For us. I guess these are the lives of quiet desperation Emerson spoke of. Easy for him to criticize. He had a pretty cushy set-up, that guy.
So, I had a few days off from my job that were overshadowed by family obligations and illness. I mean, it sounds harsh, and I don’t entirely mean it, but just like God makes me nervous when you get him indoors, my family overwhelms me when they’re all in one place at the same time. I think many of you probably know what I mean. I’ve actually found myself looking forward to going back to work and having my daughter go back to school. How’s that for something to be thankful for?