Exhausted, and just a little depressed to think it was only Tuesday, I sat at my desk eating my Chobani Flip and trying desperately to find the motivation to do something, anything, productive. I looked at the clock and sighed. 4:25. I really needed to get a move on. There were piles crying out to be tackled and bulletin boards several months behind the times waiting dejectedly for my attention. Suddenly, a thought exploded through my lethargy. Today was the first day of track practice for my younger son, Jack, and I needed to pick him up at 5:00. How could I have forgotten?
Quickly I finished my yogurt, gathered up my belongings, and headed toward the door. Knowing it would be a good hour before I arrived home, I decided it would be in my best interest to make a pit stop at the restroom before starting my drive across town. Turning away from the bathroom door after double-checking that it was indeed locked, I caught a glimpse of the thought bubble someone had attached to the mirror. (A basket of various sayings had appeared in both restrooms months before. No idea why.) Today's thought: What's stopping you?
Hmm, good question. What is stopping me? Stopping me from quitting, that is.
It makes me sad to admit that it is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. As I drove through the streets of town to pick up my son, I began to compose a list of what does stop me from walking out the door never to return.
The first thing that came to mind was the fear of the unknown. I suppose this is what stops me from doing most things. If I quit, then what? I have no plans and really, no marketable skills. (I'm not sure how the equivalent of herding 25 cats all day translates in the world outside education. Unless there really is such thing as a cat wrangler.) The last twenty-five years have been devoted to teaching. It's all I know, all I'm really trained to do. To jump ship now and change course seems downright crazy. Courageous, too, perhaps, but undeniably crazy.
Another important consideration at this point in my life is the effect it would have on my retirement. I've spent enough time on the online retirement calculators to realize if I have any hope of receiving a decent pension, I need to stick it out for another 10 years. TEN. Some days I'm really not sure that I can last that long while maintaining my physical and mental health. But if I don't, I stand to lose out on thousands of dollars a month. Having seen how much money my mother had to spend in her final years of life, I know there's no way I could survive without that full pension. So, let's add fear of poverty to the list.
Then, there's the fact that I would be sacrificing having eight weeks off in summer. Again, I've been teaching for twenty-five years, and let's be honest, it's pretty nice having those weeks to unwind and rejoin the world of the sane. While I realize that 40 50-hour work weeks equal 50 40-hour work weeks, I think I'd miss those extra days of being able to skip the whole get dressed, put on make-up, and drive to work routine.
Sitting in my car, waiting for my son to appear after practice, one final answer shyly nudged its way into my conscious thought. Quite possibly, the thing that really keeps me holding on is the slightest glimmer of hope. Hope that behavior and standards and curriculum and district expectations and support will get better. Hope that I will find the joy and passion that I began my career with. Hope that I will find the energy I need to not simply get through the day but to embrace and enjoy every minute. Hope that I can be the surrogate parent to the kids whose real parents are just too busy to give them the attention they need. Hope that I can figure out how to satisfy the multitude of needs, both academic and social-emotional, that arrive in my classroom every day.
Fear may have the ability to stop us dead in our tracks, but hope is what keeps driving us on.