Friday, October 4, 2013

Where I Am In The Game

My daughter is me.

I watch my oldest daughter play soccer and I can see everything that I wish she would do. Be aggressive, go for the ball, get up the field to receive the pass, get back on defense, and so on. I'm working hard not to call these things out on the field as she plays, but I'm having only limited success with that. I find it pretty tough to contain myself during the games. I just want her to do great things out there. That and in her every moment of indecision, with each time that she lets someone else get to the ball, and every time that she fails to get up the field as fast she needs to, I'm seeing myself failing to do the things I need to do.

For those of you who don't know me very well, haven't been reading these essays, or don't follow me on social media, I'm horribly dissatisfied with my job. I'm a high school English teacher working with at-risk kids, doing the work that I'm pretty sure I was meant to do. Yet because of the changes in education across the country and especially in New York State, and because my school system is run in ways that baffle and upset me, I am desperate to get out of the teaching gig I'm in and ready to ditch teaching altogether.

But I don't know what else to do.

This panics me. I should be calling for the ball, kicking the living shit out of it, running up and down the field, and scoring three and four times a game, but instead I'm going to work at a job I no longer enjoy and failing to find a good way out. My anxiety about all this is through the roof. Yesterday after a session with my therapist I was lost to the anxiety and could do little more than stare at the computer screen wishing for good things to happen. I ended up re-watching most of _The Hunt For Red October_ on Netflix because Tom Clancy has died and I couldn't do anything productive or be around anyone. Last night, I fell asleep with one hand on my wife because I felt as though I might be spun off the planet otherwise and lost in space.

I woke this morning feeling better, but then, at work, in the school I'm being shuttled to in order to "teach" math, I found myself sitting in a chair during the class whispering to myself, "I hate this job, I hate this job, I hate this job." I pulled myself together to teach the three kids (of six) who were willing to learn anything at all, and then when they left for the day I sank again into the chair and spiraled down.

I wondered, what progress am I making? Am I doing anything to get myself out of this job, to get myself moving forward? I have trouble seeing the small steps, the little gains that I can make in one day because I keep waiting for the magic leap to happen. It turns out that magic is not something that happens often in the real world. Or, more accurately, magic happens but only over long periods after I have made many very small steps.

My daughter is learning the game. She played youth soccer for five years but now she's at the next level and I have to remember that she does this sort of thing: she takes a while to acclimate and find her way forward. I'm like that too. Perhaps I'm acclimating to the idea that I have to get out of the job I'm in. Before I just felt like it would be better for me to move on, but now I know that it's a necessity. I have to do something because I can't go another 160 days waking up each morning to the this thought: "I don't want to go work."

I used to wake up excited about work. That changed over time. I can't say when it happened that work dried up for me, but that doesn't matter. Thinking about that might be the thing I need to remember because I can't point to the moment when I started to get out of the job I'm in. Has that moment passed or is it up ahead? I don't know. There's no way for me to know. I just have to accept that I'm here now, that I'm playing the game as best I can, going for the ball, running the field, and trying to kick it hard as I can at some goal that will win the game. Just like my daughter is trying to do. It just takes time for both of us to get a feel for the game and know that we can play. Her job is to keep kicking. Mine is to write on.