My Lost Identity

The writers’ foundation I belong to had a table at the arts council fair this last weekend and, since I am a board member now, I spent a few hours of my Sunday handing out brochures and answering questions there. Mostly though I chatted with the foundation’s new president because writing is not a visual art and we sort of got lost amid the quilts. sculptures, painters and cloggers.

Leah is a teacher at the French immersion school in a nearby town. Single mom with a young teen, her life is familiarly hectic. I lived it once for a time in between husbands, but before marriage and children were even a remote possibility, I was the epitome of the single working girl. My life revolved around my career and my hobbies and interests. I was independent and self-sufficient in every way. In truth, more of my adult life has been spent with me as the sole breadwinner than not and even after I married for the first time, I was still the chief hunter-gatherer.

As we talked, Leah became aware of the dilemma I continue to have where it comes to work. My husband, Rob, has a job that allows me to stay home with our six year old and for the first time in my life concentrate on my writing. But writing and teaching are competing passions and coupled with the unease I feel about not dragging home pig meat for the family larder, I go back and forth about returning to teaching.

“I hate to tell you this,” she said, “because you really are a great writer, but teaching is your passion.”

And unfortunately, she is right. I wish she wasn’t because I am so fundamentally at odds with where education is and where it is heading right now that I cannot be happy as a teacher.

I do not believe we should be preparing our children for the university and the workforce. Well-educated kids will naturally do well in both places but our aim should be life-long learners. And the people who should be directing the system are those who are qualified to do so – educators – not politicians or parents whose only background in teaching is that they once went to school and were taught.

But let’s step away from my pet-peeve digression and get back to me and my lost identities. Because I have lost much in the transitions of the last half-decade.

I am no longer a working teacher. Both of these things were huge parts of who I was. Note the “was”. Despite my passion for waxing philosophically or nostalgically about my days in the classroom, I can’t teach anymore. I would go insane dealing with the idiocy that passes as administration and the gobbledy-gook that filters down through federal and state/provincial legislatures. I am like the retired athlete. The game still lights me up but I am aware that I am past it and there is no going back.

The bread-winning thing is harder to deal with and I do know that I am an equal contributor in the household. We couldn’t afford to pay someone to do the things that I do. The day to day would become a misery if I went back to paid employment outside the home even if it were part time. And I realize that I am really a writer despite not having found that publisher or a paid gig yet. But I am a product of my upbringing and my culture and a lifetime of indoctrination is not easily brushed aside.

So my new friend is digging through her numerous education contacts to find me an opportunity for teaching sectional courses at the university in the city and she has convinced other members of our foundation to let me start a literary anthology via our new website. Stop gaps only, but part of the learning process that is life because I was taught to be a life long learner and not simply a cog in the machine.

This was an original 50-something Moms blog post.

One thought on “My Lost Identity

  1. there might be a hybrid solution – part time, teaching-related work? finding a position where you can influence policies AWAY from the ‘vocational meatgrinder’ that north american education has become…

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