Everyone is asleep but me.
I don’t know how much time I have before Pringles nuzzles up to Viva, realizes she’s not me and raises the alarm of protest. I’ll work with what I have.
I finished On Writing by Stephen King. When I was nursing Pringles just now, I read his advice about some technical aspects (submissions, agents) that gave me heart palpitations. Am I too old to make money as a writer? Will I sell anything? Do I have what it takes? King recounts the story of his famous accident at the end of the book and the narrative is riveting. Sure, the most famous writer in the world hit by a van and nearly killed may be an inherently interesting tale, but I know people who are such terrible storytellers, there is no event they can recount without making me want to shake them by the shoulders screaming “STOP TALKING!”
I have told people I’m working on a book. The words “my novel” make me cringe. It sounds so pretentious. The only thing that would sound worse is “my screenplay,” given that I live in Los Angeles County where everyone’s “got a script.”
When Hilary Swank won her Best Actress Oscar, she gave interviews recounting a childhood of poverty wherein her mother believed in her career so much, they lived in a car while she went on auditions. Or maybe her mother just believed so little in working that there was nothing she wouldn’t do to help her daughter support them. How much is this “living in our car” story embellished? Her Wikipedia page says she dropped out of South Pasadena High School. Either her mom parked the car in a great neighborhood, or their financial situation wasn’t that dire. South Pasadena is literally one of the most expensive cities in an already absurdly expensive state. She could scarcely have chosen a nicer high school to drop out of.
The reason I bring up this swanky detail is because some people who become artists talk of childhoods where they got nothing but encouragement and I did not have one of those. Reading this, my parents would both likely protest vehemently, but it’s how I feel. They absolutely supported my writing in that they told me I was good. But they both made it clear they felt I would never be a writer. My father is too practical. There’s no money in it. Everyone in the world wants to be a writer. Find something that everyone doesn’t want to do. My mom wasn’t unsupportive, she was just busy. Busy remarrying, fighting with her stepdaughter, making remarks about my dad’s girlfriends, getting another divorce, dating, making remarks about my dad’s wife, getting sick. She’s supportive in her way. For example, when I complain about work, she’ll say “You should be a writer! You were always such a good writer!” Then she tells the story of how my fifth grade teacher made me write a book and she had it typed up, illustrated and placed in the school library.
The funny thing about my dad’s attitude is that he is a writer, and a very successful one. He’s always said the right things to me. It’s even possible that this “lack of support” is projection on my part. He’s very vocal about his pride in my career as a teacher. It’s a great career. Imagine that your children are grown and you’re chatting with someone at a party. “Oh, you have a grown daughter? What does she do?” “She’s a high school English teacher.” It sounds good, doesn’t it? What’s the other person going to say? “Oh, wow! A teacher! What a noble profession. Good for her.”
One of my readers commented on “Viva la Viva” that she loved and hated me. The love part is obvious, but the hate stems from the fact that she dreams of teaching and I don’t make it appealing. Let me go ahead and make it appealing, since I have to go back to it in a few days.
I love my job. It’s different every day. I don’t have to sit at a desk staring at a computer or sit in boring meetings. Some teachers think the meetings are boring, but at my workplace, we don’t have “meetings” very often. We have weekly collaboration time and I get energized by interacting with other teachers. And when there’s conflict and bitchiness, I enjoy that too because I love gossip. Some teachers don’t merely want to disagree with the policies or opinions of others. They want to stand up in front of 75 people, announce and flounce.
“Well I believe in our students right to their own personal head space, so I for one will not be complying with the policy,” hair flip, sit down, receive literal pat on back from coworker sitting nearby. I love peeking at this one guy during our meetings to see how long into the meeting he falls asleep. The chin hits the chest and out he goes. It’s hard to appreciate comments about my “professionalism” where the bar is set so low.
“You’re such a great teacher, Mrs. Odie. You’re never openly insubordinate and you stay conscious during staff meetings.”
I’m feeling guilty and indignant about my summer vacation. I didn’t accomplish anything I planned. I relaxed. I recharged. It was, well, a vacation.