Actually, all the time. But it's the Holidailies season, so I'm back! I am very excited, even though I totally missed the first day of the month because my NaNo hangover took me out.
It is what it is. I'm over it. It even fits with my theme today, which is hope.
I'm going to start out and say that it's been a bit of a roller coaster of a year. There's not a hugely detailed record of my brain-space last year around this time, because I was so crazy overwhelmed that I think I managed maybe one or two posts before dropping this project in favor of all the work I had to do at that point. [Edit: I looked, and I was wrong, I got zero actually posted, but I do have one draft that shows the intention was briefly there.]
If you've been wondering what's been up with me, here's the Cliff Notes version:
- January 2017 - Got my teaching credential finally!
- June 2017 - Signed a teaching contract with a conservative Christian private school to be their 9th Grade English Teacher.
- July 2017 - Got assigned a senior girl's Bible class as my non-subject matter specific course.
- August 2017 - Found out that the Bible class was also more or less a Home Ec/How to Be a Good Housewife class. Laughed at the thought of me, Lifelong Defier of Gender Roles, trying to teach a group of girls how to be more traditionally feminine. Decided to go with more of the worldview, critical thinking, and Bible focus.
- Fall Semester 2017 - Struggled a good bit with the Freshman English, but in ways that are fairly typical for a first-year teacher (I thought). The senior girls turned out to be a tougher nut. Besides knowing more than me about most of the "practical skills" I tried to teach them about things like cooking and entertaining, they could not decide whether I was teaching too much Bible or not enough Bible. And either way, I definitely wasn't teaching the Bible they were used to. The death knell was when I shared this brilliant article about Advent being a Feminist Expression of God to the world. The most conservative of the group did not appreciate that it, 1) Used the "F" word, 2) Was written by a woman *gasp*, and 3) Doubly terrible, written by a woman who claimed to be a preacher AND queer. So...
- January 2018 - Got told within two weeks of the start of Spring semester that I was no longer teaching the Bible class. Took it as an opportunity to focus more on my English classes, and get to know more of the students because I was assigned lunch yard duty in place of my teaching time.
- Spring Semester 2018 - Did my best to address my struggles in the English classes, asked for help consistently, searched out resources and advice from multiple sources, and was still struggling to keep my head above water. Couldn't figure out why. Asked for more help from the administration...
- March 29, 2018 - The administration's response to my requests was less of a, "we'll help you get through the rest of the year" and more of a "Nope, not worth it, see ya!"
- April-August 2018 - I'm pretty sure these months existed. I may have even done something in them. I know that my brother got married, and I spent a couple of weeks at camp. Past that, it's all a bit of a blur. Except for one thing. I did start hanging out a lot more with friends, in particular, one writing friend, who I taught how to drive stick in July and August so she could borrow my car to get to class when her Fall semester started up.
- August 29, 2018 - Finally fought through my haze enough to see that I was actually extremely attracted to said friend, and officially asked Marie to be slightly more than that.
- September 2018-Current - Finding my feet again, career-wise, and with my mental health. Made much easier by the fact that I have an amazing girlfriend by my side, and she has helped me reconnect with some of the things that bring me joy, like being in a choir and leaving the house to do things on occasion.
First, I have a lot of feelings about the mess with the school I was working for. Many of them involve words that are less than kind, but I'm hoping I got most of those out of my system in the nine months since the shit hit the fan. I will say that upon lots of reflection, both on my own time and with trained counselors, I acknowledged the parts of the experience that were undoubtedly my fault or a result of my choices. One choice that doomed me was going cold turkey on meds for my depression instead of getting the prescription switched over to my new insurance. Not a great plan. Also, the school was true to their stated identity and purpose, and I mistakenly thought I could manage to fit in well enough despite some fundamental theological differences.
For instance, I knew that I was bi a full two years before I was hired at the school. I had made my peace with it, but had not - at that point - taken any steps to be in any relationship, let alone one that the school definitely wouldn't approve of. I thought it would be fine because I had not technically stepped over the line.
It was not.
It is very emotionally exhausting to be in a place and culture where you know that a good portion of the people who currently find you a fairly decent human being would turn on you in a second because they believe God has told them to. Also, there's nothing like being tossed into a community almost exactly like the one you grew up in to show you how much you've grown and moved away from some of their beliefs since high school. Knowing the language isn't enough when you use the words to mean very different things.
Which brings me to hope.
There were a lot of moments in the last year and a half that I felt totally hopeless. More hopeless than I'd felt in years. And yeah, teaching is stressful, but I loved the things about teaching that I always love about it; connecting with students, being a listening ear for them, having my classroom be a safe space for students to be themselves, and teaching them how to communicate more effectively through English. Throughout the year, my classroom became a hangout spot for a number of students, and I welcomed it. It was the bright spot that often gave me hope when nothing else seemed to be going right.
What caused me hopelessness was, in hindsight, feeling like I didn't fit in. I had a cordial relationship with most of the staff and an "actual conversations that cover deeper topics" relationship with a few. But I never felt fully comfortable unless it was just me in the classroom because I had to be guarded about so much. Can't let them know that I'm a left-leaning moderate (and leaning farther with every passing month), that I support and consider myself part of the LBTQ+ community, that I hang out with pagans and atheists on the regular and don't go out of my way to evangelize to them, that I think that Evangelicals are generally good people but a lot of their theology rubs me the wrong way, or even that I am pretty charismatic and radical in my expression of my belief.
Tl;dr, no part of me fit in, except things that I'd left in the past. Not my theology, not my political beliefs, not my strongly held convictions, and definitely not my own identity. And that disconnect was always going to manifest itself in a more difficult time in the classroom.
It took me a while to understand this, to be fair. I was shaken to the core when they asked me to leave at spring break. I missed the kids the rest of the year, even though I made an effort to make it out to sporting events and the school play until the end of the school year. It really wasn't until August that I really appreciated the freedom from the theological boundaries. It meant that I could do something when I looked at this beautiful woman I'd been hanging out with for like, 8 hours at a time some days, and thought, "huh, maybe I always want to spend time with her because I am falling in love with her... OHHHHHHHHH!"
And while I'm sure there will be a more in-depth post about Marie in the future, the main thing the start of our relationship signaled to me was hope that things could actually work out. Up until we started dating, I was almost thinking about leaving teaching for good, going to something else like social work or being a school counselor, where I could still work with kids, just outside of a classroom. I had no idea what goal I should be reaching for or where my future was leading.
With Marie, I have some more confidence that I know what at least part of my future will hold. It helped me have a little more security to look at the experience with my previous job and have some hope that I will find a way to work as a teacher, in a school that I love, and do what I feel I was meant to do.
Hope is beautiful that way. It can take something you thought was totally dead and breathe life back into it. It can refresh you, even when you feel like life has taken every single thing you hold dear away from you. There's a reason it lives with Faith and Love in Paul's list of things that will sustain you through life's greatest trials. And I am thankful for Hope showing up in my life, even when I stopped looking for it.