There's this commercial with Diane Von Furstenberg, where she says something along the lines of "I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become."
I always did know what I wanted to be: a teacher and a writer. Well, once I got over wanting to be a cowboy, that is. It's just, I grew up and suddenly there were all of these options and they all seemed so intriguing and to pick just one and really pursue it meant giving up on everything else. So I picked none of them, really.
I fell into my first teaching job when I got to DC and wasn't getting a job on Capitol Hill like I thought I wanted. I got into reading remediation because I had a friend who worked summers teaching reading and I had to have a summer job while we were off from teaching civics. The two-year college in New York was desperate when I applied; the semester had already started and I was hired after the most cursory of interviews, to start class the next morning. After I was laid off in DC, my sister knew someone here who needed someone with my particular reading teaching skills, so I moved here and did that. That led to a job doing similar work in Madison, which I found by googling the name of the reading program I'd used and then cold calling the place I found that said they offered it. We talked reading for a while while I sat in my cubicle at my temp job in Austin, and before I got off the phone, I was hired.
I guess the point of all of that is to say that I see myself having repeatedly fallen into this work rather than having ever made a conscious decision that I wanted to do it. Doing the teacher certification amounted to taking that intentional step. I will be a teacher. That will be my career.
It seems odd that it should be such a big deal since it's what I'd been doing anyway and is by now so tied up with my identity. Here on this blog, in introducing myself I tell you my first name, followed by "I write. I teach." These are clearly a big part of who I consider myself to be.
But there is the sense that by choosing this deliberately, I am giving up those other phantom possibilities. Still, when I watch a really well-written speech, I think I could do that. I should go back to DC and do whatever it is that I need to do to make that my job. It's a similar thought I have when I watch something like the Daily Show. Why am I not there, writing that? Why didn't I ever try? Is it too late?
If I am honest with myself, I know that given the choice what I'd want to do is write full-time and volunteer teach. When I came to do this, I told myself that I wasn't giving up. I would teach full-time and volunteer write. Hey, at least this way I don't have an editor telling me what to write and how to write it. No matter how much some of you may wish there was such a person around here sometimes.
This post has gotten away from me. It started out to be about the question of the woman I want to become and has instead become about what I want to do. Maybe that's my problem. Maybe I've been going about it all wrong and ignoring the second question entirely.
Or maybe I know the woman I want to become. Maybe I am just too afraid that I don't have the talent or courage to become her. Maybe I have set the bar unreasonably high, but what should I do? Expect less of myself? That hardly seems like the answer.
There is more to say about this. At least the notes I have here that I've entirely ignored would seem to indicate so. Maybe they will become another post, later.
For now, I'm afraid I don't have much of a conclusion for you. Or for me. But I'm working on it.