The doctor’s office estimated nine weeks, but I knew I was in my seventh. I’d done my research, and had well charted out and planned this pregnancy. So when, at the first ultrasound, my husband and I were told that the quick, cursor-like flashing could not be absolutely confirmed as a heartbeat, I was on guard, but hadn’t lost all hope. It was still early.\r\n\r\nThe day before my second ultrasound, I was given a call. My pregnancy hormones were rising; this was a good sign. I let out the breath I had been holding for a week and instinctively rested my hand on the location of our child. (Lower left side of my abdomen.) You’re going to be all right, little buddy.\r\n\r\nOn the wall, a big screen TV displayed the ultrasound image as the measurements were taken: 7 weeks 3 days, 7 weeks 2 days. I knew it. The tech performed her trade wordlessly. Mouse clicks and the gentle, vibrating hum of the mini printer capturing each image of our baby contested the heavy silence of the room. As my husband and I were escorted to the front of the office to await the doctor, I swallowed the lump in my throat.\r\n\r\nThe ultrasound confirmed a missed miscarriage. Our fetus had died, but my body was still holding onto it. No explanation was given for how they knew our child was dead. Instead, we were immediately directed into a discussion of options for how to get rid of it. Being a Friday afternoon, the D&C procedure was scheduled for Monday morning.\r\n\r\nMy eyelids stung, raw and red, when I awoke with the sun on Saturday morning. The two of us slipped quietly out of bed and into the room that would now remain an office for a bit longer than anticipated. Silent tears trickled down my face as I revisited the texts and messages of encouragement from friends and family. I could stay strong with such a great support system.\r\n\r\nThe nurses at the hospital were exceptional. After my experience with my OBGYN, I wasn’t expecting much compassion on the day of my procedure, but my expectations couldn’t have been further from reality, and for that, I am grateful. Their empathy and tenderness made that dreadful morning much more bearable.\r\n\r\nIn the days following, there were occasional sharp, blueberry-sized stabs of pain in the lower left side of my abdomen. A physical reminder of where our child was pulled from my body. Each jab left me longing to rewrite the past, but I knew I needed to keep looking forward. Just as the bodily pain fades, so will the grief.\r\n\r\nI miss you little buddy.\r\n\r\n
Going on two years of unemployment had me looking for an alternate job opportunity while I waited out this rut in education. I’d been scraping by with a little freelance proofreading and private tutoring, but I needed something a bit more stable so that I could reclaim my self-worth, as well as bring home some decent money to contribute to the life I’m building with Greg. I was beginning to seek out hourly filing jobs in our nearby hospital, when I was called to substitute for a week as a teacher in a child development center (CDC) summer program. One week turned into five weeks, and those weeks turned into landing me an interview for a permanent teaching position within the CDC during the school year. I aced the interview and was offered the position. While it’s only part-time, I figure, it’s better than no-time, and it has a high possibility of becoming a stepping stone to landing a full-time teaching position next Fall. Plus, I’m meant to work with kids; not standing in a back room filing charts.\r\n\r\nThe moment I knew I had to give up looking into menial part-time jobs and continue to pursue my quest to work in the education field, happened a week ago while subbing at the CDC. Working at a school located a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, we would frequently walk the kids to the beach for a free field trip. I was doing caboose duty on one of the walks back from the beach. This happens to be one of the most tiring positions, as you have to continually encourage the tired, slower children to “use their quick feet” and “take big, dinosaur steps” in order to keep up with the rest of the group.\r\n\r\nWhen we were within sight of the school, I heard a soft shuffling behind me. I didn’t think much of it until I heard it again. The thought of a person walking right behind us sent chills up and down my back, so I quickly turned around to face the perpetrator and dare him/her to try and steal one of our children. ‘Cause that’s totally what any person walking in a public neighborhood is planning to do. In any case, when I turned around, no one was there. Instead, I noticed the sound came from dry leaves sliding across the sidewalk due to the gentle ocean breeze.\r\n\r\nThis caused my mind to rationally think, “What would I do if zombies were behind us?” The thought made me physically scared, and as I glanced behind me one more time to make sure there really weren’t zombies, I initially decided that I’d push past the kids and get to the safety of the school. I was at the end of the line with the most fatigued kids, so the zombies would be content with them, giving the larger group, and myself, a chance to get inside the school and set up a barricade.\r\n\r\nHowever, as I calmed down, I realized I couldn’t do that. I took a good look at the tired kiddos around me, and just knew that I couldn’t let them die. I imagined myself grabbing the tiny 2nd grader, who was dragging his feet next to me, like a sack of potatoes and running him to safety, all the while shuffling the other kids along. I recognized that I would rather sacrifice myself than let them get eaten.\r\n\r\nI’m not saying all this for praises, or to brag that I’m a saint. I’m not. It’s just that this was a moment of clarity for me. I realized how sincerely I actually care for kids that are of no relation to myself. I love those innocent, albeit sometimes tiresome, little humans. Zombies scare the living crap out of me, and if I would allow myself to get caught by a zombie hoard just to save their little lives, then I need to be working with kids. If I were to be answering phones in an air-conditioned cubicle, who would save the children?
I’ve been feeling in a rut over my chosen profession. Two school years have gone by, and I have yet to be employed as a full-time teacher; not for lack of trying. At each summer’s end, I’ve gone to at least two interviews. It’s always the same scenario: 30+ candidates vying for that one open position. When I began this process, I was exuding self-confidence, sure that I would be among the top candidates. However, as each subsequent apologetic denial came, my confidence weaned exponentially. Maybe my reserved, awkward demeanor overpowered my smiling kindness and turned the hiring committees off to me? Or maybe I wasn’t as great a teacher as I thought?\r\n\r\nAnd that, my friends, is where my mind has been for the last year. I’ve been subbing sporadically, and whenever I get handed a troublesome classroom, my confidence in teaching wanes a little bit more. I pride myself on my classroom management skills in my own class, but taking on another teacher’s group is a whole other beast. Not being familiar with their routines, and not developing the respect and rapport that comes with having a group of children from Day 1, brings upon a challenge that I don’t particularly care for. At the end of the day, I usually end up feeling defeated and sure that I’m losing my skills as a teacher. Stung with the hurt of denial, and yearning for steady financial independence, I’ve begun searching out alternative, rewarding careers for my skill-set. I’ve got nothing, so if you’ve got some ideas, shoot ’em over!\r\n\r\n The nice thing about not being employed full-time is my freedom of making plans at any time, on any day. So last Friday, I drove two hours to Adelanto to watch the 8th grade promotion ceremony at my last school of employment. When I left Bradach School, I had just finished a year of teaching a 5th/6th grade combo class. I also taught Writing to the other full 6th grade class every morning, so I was able to develop a relationship with all 55 6th graders in our little Middle School Academy. The students and parents had my personal cell phone number for school-related questions, and while it was rarely used during the school year, I was surprised with texts from two of my former girls at the start of their new 7th grade year. They wanted to share with me their progress and worries, and I kept in appropriate touch with them; always allowing them to text me first, and replying fittingly.\r\n\r\nWhen they began 8th grade, they immediately asked me to attend their graduation at the end of the year, and checked in with me periodically throughout the year to make sure I wouldn’t revoke my promise. So last week, I made the trek out to see them graduate.\r\n\r\nInterestingly enough, my best friend from college, Chris, worked at Bradach for the end of this school year, so I was able to travel up with him and establish a “home base” in his classroom during my visit there. Seeing all my old students so grown up and ready to embark on a new adventure struck an emotional chord in me, and made me tear up upon sight of them. I basically lost all my composure when my ex-principal invited me to come up to be a part of the receiving line as the students received their diplomas. It was an incredibly special moment for me to be a part of their final minutes at Bradach. Their graduation seemed to serve as the end to a chapter in my life as well.\r\n\r\nThat said; it was so great being back! All my old colleagues warmly welcomed me, and throughout the day, they continued to speak highly of me; expressing how much they missed me, and what a shame it was that today’s kids were missing out on such a great teacher. I left Adelanto with a renewed sense of self-worth. I no longer feel as though I don’t deserve to be in the classroom. It’s where I belong, and I know that once this economy gets back on its feet, some school is going to be lucky to have me! Take that, depression!\r\n\r\n
There’s a blog relay going on during this Olympic season started by Melanie Crutchfield where she began blogging about hope, and passed the torch to other bloggers who then continued passing that torch of hope, and so on. She will even be conducting a “closing ceremony” with excerpts from this relay. The torch of hope has been dangling in front of me from many fellow bloggers, and I desperately wanted to write on it, but inspiration was failing me. That is, until today.\r\n\r\nThis morning, I woke up from a bad dream. It consisted of me being upset with some sort of thing Greg did or said, but whenever the action was completed, and I began to reason and argue with him, he morphed into my ex, and my past feelings of entrapment and desolation crumpled in around me.\r\n\r\nFor those of you new to my blog, or unfamiliar with the details of my past, I was in a detrimental relationship for 6 years that I finally found the strength to get out of during the early summer of 2009. I told myself that I never wanted to blog in any great detail about my ex, and that he didn’t deserve any mention or acknowledgement, since I’m still recovering from the scars he left. However, with the way he haunts my dreams, I know I will feel better writing not about him, but about my struggles with him, the hope that was lost while with him, and the stronger person I’ve become without him.\r\n\r\nIt’s still too shameful to admit to myself, let alone the public, everything I endured while in that relationship, but suffice it to say that I was verbally and mentally abused, as well as threatened, frightened, and physically harmed. It wouldn’t be fair of me to call him a “beater,” though I bore many a bruise due to his anger and myself being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At one point, I think I was crying out for help by wearing shorts while visiting my family after receiving a softball size bruise on my upper thigh, but when my dad inquired about it, instead of telling him the truth of my ex’s anger, I told him it was just that: a softball getting batted into my leg. For some reason, I kept getting sucked back into that relationship despite my wanting to get out. I knew it wasn’t a good relationship, but I didn’t know how to get out of it, and thus, lost hope that I’d ever truly be happy, and resigned myself to the fate of dealing with him and living unhappily for the rest of my life.\r\n\r\nI sunk into a depression that swallowed me and pulled me into myself. I rarely left the house except for work, and turned down outings with my friends and family. Much of that was due to the dark funk I was in, but just as much of it was out of my distrust of him. Though I never had solid proof of his cheating, I did have proof of his flirting through texts and social networking, and even proof of a dinner date he took with another woman. (He was good at manipulation and lying, but horrible at covering his tracks.) I thought that if I was always home, he wouldn’t be able to follow through on his plans with other women. Constantly being around him, drowning in his negativity, and my creeping depression was slowly killing my spirit, and I was stuck in a vicious cycle where I saw no way out.\r\n\r\nIt wasn’t until our final days, that I overheard him making plans to get away for a weekend with another female. For some reason, even this wasn’t enough to make me want to immediately break up with him. It was when I heard him confidently tell this woman while chuckling, “Don’t even think about telling my girlfriend about our this. Alex(andra) tried that years ago, and it didn’t work.” Which was true, and hurtful to hear out of his own mouth.\r\n\r\nIt’s probably hard to understand my rationale without knowing all of my heartbreaking background, but his evil laugh, and his cocky demeanor, as well as finally getting my solid proof of him sleeping with Alex was the final straw. I had finally found my courage and built up enough anger to exit that relationship. When it was done, there were no more tears. I had never felt so free in my entire life, and as surprising as it was to not cry, it also made sense. For the first time in years, I was truly, and utterly, happy. All at once, my black cloud of depression lifted, and I started to recover my old self.\r\n\r\nI suffered a great deal, but came out stronger. I never understood why women stayed in abusive relationships until I experienced it myself. In hindsight, it’s easy to realize how dumb I was, and tell myself how easy it could have been to get out, but at the time, it was the hardest thing in the world. My hope is that other women (or men) feeling trapped in their abusive relationships will find their strength sooner than later, and that they can find support from others to assist them. For me, it took the love and encouragement from two very special cousins and one irreplaceable best friend. I don’t know that I could have done it alone, and I am eternally grateful to them for not putting me down, but constantly lifting me up and accepting my decisions no matter how harmful they might have been to me.\r\n\r\nIf you are in a relationship that is ultimately damaging your happiness and ruining the person you used to be, my hope is that you look to others to help you find your inner strength. Surround yourself with love, and don’t lose sight of your self-worth. And those of you watching a loved one suffer; I hope that you will be the non-judging stronghold that they will need to pull themselves out.\r\n\r\nAnd now I pass the torch. What is your hope? It can be a hope for you, a hope for a friend, or a hope for humanity. It can be anything you dare to hope for, so hope away!
When my school district first laid me off, my initial thought was that a Director of Education position at Sylvan would be a suitable alternative, so you can imagine my excitement, last week, upon finding a similar opening at a center nearby. The day before I left for camp, I sent them my resume, and on Monday, I had a phone interview with the Sylvan franchise owner that went extremely well. I was told that the next step would be another Sylvan employee contacting me within 24 hours to schedule a one-on-one meeting/interview. I was never contacted. After the first day passed without a call, I initially felt myself sinking into my worthless funk, but now that a few days have passed, I’m actually starting to feel relieved.\r\n\r\nI understand that if I really want the job, I should call the franchise owner again to follow up, but honestly, I’m not sure that I want to. While that job will bring me around $100 less per month than my unemployment gives me, it comes with benefits and the potential to turn into a salaried position as the economy improves. And yet, I don’t feel the need to fight for this job. This could be due to my passive nature, but I really feel that it is due to the fact that I want to teach. Period.\r\n\r\nI’m fairly certain I could excel at Sylvan; even with the managerial demands the position entails. I might even find some happiness working there; especially once the afternoon hits and the kids arrive. But ultimately, I know my heart will be longing for that teaching void that this job would not fill.\r\n\r\nAnd honestly? Besides the waves of worthlessness that wash over me every now and again, I’m actually kind of enjoying my unemployment. Due to all this free time, I was able to start this blog last June. For as long as I can remember, writing has been gratifying to me. I have volumes upon volumes of journals that span from 5th grade to my college years. I used to write 13 page letters to my best friend on a regular basis before snail mail became outdated. Writing calms me, and fills me with a sense of accomplishment. If I hadn’t lost my job, I don’t think I would have found the time to start this blog, and I think that’s what worries me. I don’t mind putting my writing on a backburner for teaching. Working with children is my number one passion, and I look forward to the time when I can be back in the classroom. But to give up my love of writing, for a job that is not where I ultimately want to end up in life, does not sound like an enjoyable alternative.\r\n\r\nMany may look at this decision as selfish, or even idiotic. Believe me, I wrestle with feelings of guilt and laziness over being unemployed on a daily basis, and not aggressively going after this Sylvan job is taking it’s toll on me (the chewed, pink, raw skin around my thumbs are physical proof of that). And while my intentions do have a dash of selfishness thrown in, I know I have to make happiness my number one priority. If I start working a job that ultimately, does not leave me happy, and prevents me from continuing to write, I think I will only live to regret it.\r\n\r\nI’ve always strived to look for the positive in things, and I truly feel that my unemployment was a blessing. Besides the fact that it gave me the opportunity to write and express myself, it allowed me to move in with Greg, and realize that, despite always being around each other, we still have the most amazing, rock-solid relationship. It is a love and respect that I’ve never experienced before, and I’m so grateful to live with him and experience what a loving relationship is supposed to feel like. Moving back to my hometown after twelve years away also strengthened and renewed my relationships with my immediate and extended family. I’ve always been close with my family, but this proximity has been pleasant and uplifting for me. I’m thankful for the chance to pop in and visit my grandma in the early afternoon hours, or to meet up on Saturdays at the park for a game of Ultimate Frisbee with my siblings, cousins, and friends. If I were still teaching in Adelanto, none of this would be possible.\r\n\r\nJudge my decisions if you want, but until I’m teaching again, I’m going to make the most of my unemployment and push my guilty feelings aside.