Bravery vs. Stupidity: On Leaving a Secure Job

THE-MOST-DANGEROUS-RISK-OF-ALL

I saw the above meme on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.  It pops into my head multiple times per day.  Why?  Because it is the new mantra I use every time I have doubts about this new career path I’ve chosen.

Which clearly means that I have doubts multiple times per day.  Here’s why:

I have a secure job.  Well–I have a job that’s about as secure as any job is in the United States in 2013.  I’m a tenured public school teacher with a livable (if not grand) salary, benefits, and a pension plan.  I own a home less than half a mile from the school in which I work.  It is a great school, filled with amazing teachers who care about children.  And the children are pretty awesome, too.

And I’m quitting that job to work as a consultant (and a freelance writer and an adjunct professor–but more on that later).  I will not have benefits, I will not have job security, I will not have a retirement plan.  I won’t even be guaranteed regular work.  I will be cobbling together a living out of the scraps of that-which-I-love-to-do.

I am going from ‘pension at age 55’ to ‘using the word cobbling to describe my income-stream plans’.  You can see from where the doubts originate.

But I’m still leaving.  I’m still taking this risk.  I’m doing it for many practical reasons (which I’m sure I’ll share in future posts), but I’m doing it for one huge (impractical?) reason–because I refuse to make decisions out of fear.  And not taking this opportunity would be to cower in my complacency.

I refuse to cower.

I believe that if I’m willing to take this risk, I’ll be willing to take another when/if the need arises.  I believe that by wanting more, I’m not dooming myself to a life of less.  I believe that I can create a life for myself that suits my needs and desires–even if that life looks a little less-than-normal.

Since I’m obviously on a using-cheesy-quotes roll, I’ll throw out another one:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

-The internet credits a variety of people for this quote, but I’m choosing to go with Nelson Mandela because, well, I’d prefer to think I’m quoting him than, say, Meg Cabot.  Sorry–I’m sure The Princess Diaries was a great book, but revolutionary it was not.

So what do you think?  Am I brave?  Or am I really, really stupid?  Pleas share your thoughts in the comments below.

Note:  The quote on the photo above was taken from the book The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.  Perhaps I should read that book?

From Career Break to Career Change: My Big Fat Job Announcement

Last year, I switched back and forth between the terms ‘career break’ and ‘career change’ as though they were synonyms.  I did so for one simple reason: I wasn’t sure what I was doing.  And while I’m pretty confident that I’ll never actually know what I’m doing–at least in the broad sense–I can now confidently say that I will be making a career change.  And I can tell you that the career break I took helped make this career change possible.  Just not in the way I expected.

My original plan was to take a year off and actively pursue other career paths while also pursuing ‘that which I loved’–travel and writing.  So that’s what I did.  I wrote.  I traveled.  I applied for jobs.  I made a bit of money doing freelance work.  I built up my travel blog.  I heard back from exactly two of the jobs for which I applied–both in form-letter no-thank-you format.  And then I went back to my original position, discouraged.

But life didn’t stop just because I went back into the classroom.  And so it came to pass that I was offered an opportunity to try for what I’d describe as darn-near my dream job–traveling to schools all over the country (representing a large, rather well-known educational media company) facilitating professional development for teachers.

Had I been given this opportunity last year, it would have been easy to take it without thinking.  This year, with a more-than-full work schedule, the decision was not as easy.  It required leaving for a week-long training (with very little notice).  It required a rather bold meeting with my boss–to ask him how to arrange a week off of work to interview for another job (and then a subsequent meeting to tell him that I got the job and that I’m taking it). It required figuring out how to most-responsibly transition between the two jobs–and figuring out how this new position fits in with my other professional projects (I’m still working on that last part).

Basically, acquiring and accepting this job took a lot of courage.  Courage I would not have had pre-career-break.

While yes, I have held my fist skyward and shaking, muttering ‘why couldn’t this have come along last year‘, I’m glad I wasn’t able to take this job ‘without thinking’.  And believe me, I thought about it a lot.  I thought about it before attending the week-long training which was also a week-long interview.  I thought about it during the week-long training-slash-interview.  I thought about it on the plane home and I thought about it during the days that followed–before I knew if I’d been hired.  I even thought about it in the days after I was congratulated on getting the position.  And I’m confident.  After a year of figuring out who I am and what I want–this is who I am, and this is what I want.

I can’t wait to get started.

I will be writing more about this new job–and the new lifestyle it will necessitate–in posts-to-come.  Which means I have yet another thing to announce–Existential Midlife Twitch is back!   Stay tuned! 

Career Break Dangers: Why I Never Finished Writing My Book

This January has been tough.  Though to be fair, most Januarys are difficult for me–and not just because of the struggle to zip my jeans post-holiday-feasting.  January means a new calendar year.  For me, it also means another year of life.  There were thirty-three candles on my birthday cake this past Monday–or there would have been if I’d had a birthday cake.  It’s cold, it’s damp, and it gets dark at 4:00 in the afternoon.  And on top of all of this, it is suddenly halfway through the school year.  You’d think this would be something to celebrate.  But you’d be wrong.  It is shocking how quickly the time goes, whether you are having fun or not.

I did something today I’d not done in 362 days–I looked at the first draft of the book I started during my year off.  In fact, for the very first time, I printed the entire thing out (one of the few benefits of having a day job is access to a semi-functional printer-for-which-you-do-not-buy-the-ink).  I know that I’d not looked at it in 362 days because Google Docs tells me that the last time I updated my most recent chapter was January 19th, 2012.

I haven’t looked at my book–the book that I was so passionate about for months and months–for almost an entire year.

Even now, it is difficult to face.  It’s sitting there in a folder, chapters dutifully stapled together (not using a work-issued stapler, because public school office supplies really, really suck), being most-of-a-first-draft.  I have no idea if the editor who was interested in in over a year ago is still interested; hell, I have no idea if that editor is even still alive.  But I printed it out today.  And that, at least, is something.

In my constant quest to share my lessons–and mistakes–with the world so that others may learn from them, I thought I’d address the real reason I gave up working on it.  I’ve given many reasons (er, excuses) over the past year.  These reasons were, at best, examples of extremely-stretched truth.  Some of these reasons included:

-I decided to focus on my blog, thus building a better author platform (excuse).

-I spent all of my time looking for a job and didn’t have time to work on it (outright lie).

-I was afraid to fail (excuse).

-I fell out of love with it (lie).

-I decided to travel and have fun during my year off, because I knew I’d be returning to work (excuse and lie).

None of those reasons are the real reason why my poor little book–so lovingly and obsessively researched and outlined–may never see the light of day.  The real reason isn’t something I’ve ever admitted to anyone, but it’s an important lesson, so I’m going to share it with the world right now.

The reason I did not finish my book is because I allowed myself to be brought down by an extremely toxic person.

You’ll note that I’m not blaming this person.  The grammar of that-which-I-just-admitted places the blame solely on me.  The key term is ‘I allowed myself to’.  Totally my fault.  And totally something that can be avoided.

When I started ‘liking’ things like this on Facebook, I knew I had a problem.

Back when I announced that I was taking a year off, I met a lot of doubtful people.  You’ll recall me talking about the ‘good luck’ wishes dripping with sarcasm.  This was–and is–to be expected.  Any time anyone does anything remotely out-of-the-ordinary, it scares many people who are perfectly happy with being ordinary.  But I anticipated this, so it didn’t phase me.

What I did not anticipate was the slow erosion of self-confidence that occurs with prolonged exposure to a toxic person.  And it’s really frighteningly easy to fall in with a toxic person–or group of toxic people (I’ve found they tend to travel in herds) during a career break.  Think about it–you just left a job you (most likely) didn’t love.  You are suddenly free to do whatever you want whenever you want.  You lost all of the structure in your life.  If, like me, most of your friends were colleagues, you also lost most of them, too.  You’ve created a void in your life, and it is extremely important to only fill that void with positive, supportive people.

I did the opposite.

In a perfect world, a wise career breaker would make sure they have a support group in place even before their last day of work–kind of like loading up on vitamin C before flu season.  I’m not sure how to do this, but I’m confident it is possible.  And I’m even more confident that it is necessary.

So here I sit, 362 days later, staring at my book-in-a-folder.  I’ve long since removed the negative person from my life, but the negativity remains.  It’s like…radiation.  Or dog hair.  Yes.  It is exactly like dog hair.

I guess I just need to find an emotional-lint-brush somewhere and get the hell back to work.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho: When Your Career Break Ends

Teacher-me looks very different from career-break slash traveler slash writer me. Don’t you think?

It’s the end of the first quarter here in my new-old world of teaching middle school.  And while my year off flew by with frightening speed, so did the beginning of this school year.  I’m still in the ‘I can’t believe I’m back to work already’ mindset–and suddenly I’m through 25% of the school year (thank the gods!)

Truth be told, being back at work isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it would be.  But that doesn’t mean that the transition isn’t completely without its challenges.  So far, the biggest ones have been…

Motivation Inertia.  When you have all day, every day to do exactly what you want to do–well, that’s pretty motivational.  A few months into my career break I felt as though someone opened up the top of my head and allowed ideas to flow effortlessly into my brain.  But here’s the thing–that motivation doesn’t just turn off as soon as you go back to work.  I’ve been back in the classroom for over two months now, and the ideas have not stopped flowing; if anything, returning to work has increased my creativity.  And while this sounds like a good thing (because it is), it can actually be a bit of a problem, due to my next point…

Daylight Savings.  There are only so many hours in the day, and suddenly I’m back to spending more than half of my waking hours on things I have to do rather than things I want to do.  Thus, everything else in my life gets kind of squished.  For the past two months, I’ve been attempting to fit two full days into each single 24-hour period; I live my work life from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then rush home to work in my home office until it is time to sleep.

Even keeping up an exercise routine has once again become difficult; I began running during my career break, and it’s become something I truly love to do.  But I’m struggling with how, exactly, I’m supposed to run when my hours of available exercise time have been suddenly restricted to the dark, cold early morning or late evening hours (which, since the time change last weekend, are also cold and dark).  I fear that soon I will fit into my old teacher clothes–and trust me, that’s not a good thing.

-Wardrobe Malfunction.  I now have a perfect travel wardrobe.  Assuming I’ve recently done laundry, I can pack for a trip to almost anywhere in under fifteen minutes.  I also have running gear for all climates.  But do you know what I no longer have?  Work-appropriate clothing for any season.  My summer clothing is too revealing for a teacher and my winter clothing is too dependent upon knee high boots and jeans.  Lately, as the temperature drops, I’ve been putting together some rather…unique…layered outfits.  I do not look good.

And speaking of not looking good, it is rather shocking to see how much I’ve changed since late August.  Long before I took this year off, I stopped getting monthly haircuts (to save money); my hair grew long and uneven.  I swore up and down I’d not cut my hair off upon returning to work.  Yeah–that lasted two weeks.  And don’t even get me started on makeup.  I went 14 months without a speck of makeup, and now look at me.  I’m wearing eyeliner.  Eyeliner!  And foundation.  For the past year, my only makeup was my suntan.  Do you know what doesn’t give you a suntan?  The florescent lights in my classroom.  Which also explains the need for the eyeliner and lipstick; no one looks good clean-faced under florescent bulbs.

-Blog Stagnation.  I read somewhere that most travel blogs are abandoned at the end of a blogger’s career break.  I can completely understand that; after all, when was the last time I posted on here?  It was almost three months ago.   Of course I always planned to write a ‘transitioning back into the working life’ post upon returning to the classroom; it took me an entire marking period to do it.  So I can see how just-started-travel-blogs die a swift and almost unnoticed death as soon as a career breaker returns to work.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

Fortunately for me, I began my actual blog–The Suitcase Scholar–almost four years ago, so I’m accustomed to posting while working.  I’m proud to say that I’ve written and published twenty posts over on The Suitcase Scholar since returning to the classroom.  But it wasn’t easy.  Gone are the days where I could spend an entire morning and afternoon drafting and scheduling posts; no longer is my editorial calendar filled weeks in advance.  It’s still my favorite hobby and I’m not about to stop, but it has once again become just that–a hobby.  Not ‘the thing which I love that fills all of my days’.  And I have to say–I truly miss filling my days with only ‘that which I love’.

-Travel Withdrawal.  Speaking of things I love–it has been over three months since my last ‘real’ trip anywhere.  This makes me very, very sad.  Words cannot express how sad, so I won’t blather on about it.  I’d likely only sound whiny and spoiled, anyway (like ‘Poor me.  I haven’t been anywhere in three months.  Boo hoo.)  But still–know that I miss traveling every single day.  Which brings me to my next point…

-Twitter Envy.  If you are anything like me, your social media habits flow and change with your current lifestyle.  Did you just start writing a book?  I bet you are following lots of other writers, editors, and writing organizations on Twitter.  Just have a baby?  There are tons of mommy-bloggers and mommy-tweeters out there to chat with between feedings and diaper changes.  After last year, my Twitter feed is filled with travel bloggers and career breakers.  While I’m grateful that I have inspirational stories and posts to read to carry me through to my next career break (and there will be a next career break) it is sometimes difficult to bear–sitting in my desk chair during my free period, reading about other people’s adventures, knowing that mine are over.  For now.

I truly believe there should be a blog entirely devoted to the reentry process.  That way, people like me could follow that person on Twitter; we could commiserate in comments.  Of course, that blog will never exist–because no one returning from a career break has time to write it.  Including me!

Have you taken a career break?  How did you manage the transition back into the working world?  Did you return to your old job or start a new career?  And, most importantly, do you have any tips on how to maintain a laid-back, career break attitude even amidst the stresses and hurry of work?  Please share in the comments below!

Want to know more about some of the things I did on my career break?  Feel free to peruse this site (the older posts are much better than the more recent ones) or, better yet, stop on by The Suitcase Scholar to read about my travels.

An Open Letter to Those Considering a Midlife Crisis

Dear Sir or Madam:

So you’re thinking about having a midlife crisis.  Maybe you’ve even taken the first steps toward your goal–you bought a ridiculous, impractical car or had something pierced or tattooed.  It is possible that you, like me, have also considered some sort of career change or break.  If you’re really going all out, you might be surfing the web looking for prospective candidates for a quick affair–though that is far more statistically likely if you are a man than a woman (and I think that mostly women read this blog, so that might not be a consideration for most of you).  But before you commit to this crisis, there are a few things you need to know, all stemming from the same central truth:

Regardless of what you may think right now, regaining your youth is not something you want.  You may think that it is, but that just means that you’ve forgotten what youth is like.  Please allow me to remind you.

I have succeeded in recapturing the ‘old me’.  To be fair, it wasn’t even that difficult–the old me wasn’t buried as far down as I thought she was.  But since I’ve become reacquainted with ‘old me’, I’ve been forced to remember everything she was, including:

-insecure

-unhappy

-extremely scattered

-irresponsible

-wracked with body-image issues

-inconsiderate

and, finally but not surprisingly…

-utterly, entirely broke

So before you go wishing for years gone by, try to remember–really remember–what those years were like.  It’s easy to look back and think everything was all sunshine and roses.  But I’m betting that there were also rain clouds more often than you recall.  Is your regaining your youth worth enduring the rain?

Sincerely,

Tracy Arnold Antonioli

Lessons from TV: Sometimes Your Dream Sucks

For the past two weeks, I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent.  It actually hurts me to type that for a number of reasons, and not entirely because I hate the awkward grammar of the title.  But leave it to me to find a lesson among jugglers and ventriloquists, Howard Stern and Sharon Osborn.

Last night, as I watched the creepy puppet guy attempt to win his way to Vegas with a stuffed teddy bear on his shoulder, I realized–just because you really want to do something and you really believe in your ability to to it does not mean that anyone else in the world will ever give a shit. How’s that for a motivational mantra?  Pessimistic as it is, it’s clearly true.  Just ask the puppet guy.  He was voted off in less than a minute.

Some dreams suck.  And some dreams will forever remain just that–a dream.  Sure, you can want to be a ballerina with all of your heart, but if you are six five and two hundred and fifty pounds–like the person pictured left– it’s probably not going to happen.  So you should just take off that tutu because really, you look ridiculous.  No amount of positive thinking is ever going to change that.

And so, I put my book away.  I haven’t worked on it in months.  Because suddenly, one cold winter day, I looked down and realized that I was an obese ballerina.  So I put away my pointe shoes and never thought about them again.  Well–almost never.

But there is a silver lining, if you really want to see it.  Sure, maybe your dream–like mine–is never going to come true.  But that’s ok.  Because at least we are not alone in our failure.  And in knowing that, there is some comfort.

I Need a Sick Day: Why Working is Easier

When I was working, I would often come home and make bread and watch Little House on the Prairie.  People think that making bread is so time consuming–it’s really not.  You just mix some flour and yeast together, knead for ten minutes or so, and then wait.  During that wait time, I’d watch an entire episode of Little House on the Prairie.  Or Friends.  Or Roseanne.  I loved those shows, even though they were all reruns I’d seen a million times.

I haven’t watched an entire TV show from start to finish in months.  I refuse to even turn the television on, lest someone somewhere realize that I’m–gasp–not being productive during my year-of-productivity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a lot of fun.  I just got back from an amazing solo trip to California, and I had a wonderful time.  But none of that time was down time.  And very little of it was devoted to, well, eating or sleeping.  I’m exhausted.  And I’m starving.  And I won’t let myself stop doing things to eat or to rest, because I feel I don’t deserve to–because I’m not working.

So for those of you who are watching and judging–I imagine there are many of you–here’s what my days look like:

I get out of bed and find something to cover my nakedness; a robe or a dress I’ve already worn.  I walk five feet into the office, where I sit down.  I spend the next seven or so hours in that office, writing blog posts, applying for jobs, editing photos, and occasionally chatting with people on Facebook (seriously–there’s a reason why new moms show up on Facebook more often than normal–people need adult human contact).  I leave the office maybe three times to pee, and if I’m feeling really wild, once to make a cup of tea.  On alternating days I do take an hour long break to run, which is the single thing in my life that I still love and enjoy.

I leave the house around 3:00 every day to walk the dog.  Sometimes I make dinner.  I rarely eat it.

After paying attention to whomever needs paying attention to–my husband, my friends, my mother–I return to my office in the evening and continue doing whatever I was doing earlier.  It’s 11:42 pm and I’ve had a total of four ounces of salmon and three ounces of ice cream to eat in the last 36 hours.  I’m tired, I’m cranky, and I’m hungry.  I’m still on Pacific time after my trip–from which I just returned yesterday and need to write 16 blog posts about and edit 2,578 photos from. I need a sick day.  But I can’t take one because I don’t have a job.

Which really, really sucks.

I can not wait to go back to work so I can have some time to myself.  Seriously.

Career Break Swan Song: How I Failed

I’ve been using the terms career break and career change interchangeably for the past ten months for one simple reason–I wasn’t sure if this year would be a break or the beginning of a change.  By now I’m sure you are all well aware that I was planning and hoping for it to be a change.  Well, as of about ten minutes ago, the verdict is in:  it was a break.

The Human Resources office at my district sent me a letter about a week ago, asking me for a decision as to whether I was coming back or not.  They needed to know by May 1st–four days from now.  Understandably, I was putting the decision off.  And so, also understandably, they called me to request a decision more assertively.  And there was literally nothing else I could say other than yes, I will be back.

And then I cried.

I feel it is appropriate, given that I live my whole life publicly via my several blogs, that I openly and honestly address why I am so upset about this. First I’ll deal with what’s not bothering me.

I’m not sitting here upset because I have to go back to a job that I feel is so, so awful.  To all of my teacher friends–I’m not that terrible of a person and I don’t hate teaching that much.  Yes, I’ve become frustrated with the teaching profession for many of the same reasons most of you are frustrated.  And yes, this is possibly the worst time in the history of our nation to be a public school teacher.  Strike that–it is the worst time.  But I did love my job–once.  So I imagine that it is possible that I will love it again.

I’m also not upset because I’m once again picturing my life stretching out before me, unchanged and unexciting–which is how I felt midway through last school year.  I took this year off, and I will do it again.  Next time I won’t be coming back–but for now, I have to.  For at least one more year. And the fact that my time as a teacher does have a time limit makes me feel a little better.

Finally, I’m not sad that I have to go back to work–to any work.  I’m sick of being at home.  I miss having coworkers, I miss having a reason to get dressed in the morning, and I miss having a reason to look forward to the weekend.

I am sad because I failed.  Plain and simple.  I completely, totally failed.  I gave myself the gift of an entire year of existance to make a better life for myself, and I could not do it.  I did not find a way to combine what I love to do with making money–hell, I didn’t even manage to combine what I sort of like doing with making money.    I did not find another job.  I tried–believe me, I tried–I’ve probably applied for three dozen jobs in the past few months, and I’ve heard back from exactly two.  And both of them said thanks but no thanks.  Via form email.

Worse, I did not finish my book.  It’s almost done. But I fell out of love with it and haven’t worked on it in months–possibly because I’ve been spending so much time looking for another job.  But to be honest, it would take me one week–one five day work week–to totally finish drafting it.  But I just don’t do it.  I apply for jobs, I take trips, I go for runs–but I don’t work on my book.  It’s like I can’t for some reason that I don’t understand.  I’d even go so far to say I’ve completely given up on it.  Which makes me almost more sad than anything. Almost.

But more than sad, more than frustrated, I am ashamed.  So very, very ashamed.  I have failed.  And I imagine myself walking back into school in September and having people look at me and whisper mean things.  Guess her book was a failure, huh?  Guess she didn’t find anything better.  Guess she isn’t as great as she thought she was.

And those whispers will be completely accurate.  So feel free to whisper them.  But know that I agree with you.  That doesn’t make it better–but I just wanted everyone to know that yes, I’m as ashamed as I should be.

Of course, this is not to say that I regret having taken this year off.  It was a freaking fabulous year, and it will continue to be fabulous for the next three and a half months.  Hell–I’m going to California for a week and a half in four days.  That’s pretty exciting–and I refuse to let this cast a shadow over all that I have yet to do.  And I promise at some point I will write a post about how many great things I got to do because of this year, and all the ways that it changed me for the better.  Because it did.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not still ashamed.  I am, and I will be likely forever.  I just thought you, dear reader, should know that.

Please note:  Despite the fact that I’m writing this on a Friday afternoon–the time when, once upon a time, was happy hour in my world–this post was written without the aid of any alcohol.  Trust me–if I’d had a few glasses of wine before writing it, it would be even more depressing.  

I’d Like to Work Here

I’ve been living my life like any normal person–doing things like going to the dentist, picking up a salad at Wegmans, waiting in line at the dry cleaners.  But lately, every time I’m anywhere I think–now this would be a nice place to work.  Take, for example, the lab I visited today to have my blood drawn.

When I entered the lab, there was no one there.  The front desk was empty, and so I sort of stood around for a while.  Eventually someone noticed me–mainly because I slowly inched back towards where it sounded like there were people chatting and the lovely receptionist lady saw me out of the corner of her eye.  She checked me in and then handed me off to the blood-drawing lady; blood-drawing lady took a vial of blood and I was on my way.  At no point did anyone else enter the facility, and as I left I heard the employees resume their chuckle-filled conversation.

And I thought–I’d like to work here.  It’s so…quiet.

I’ve been thinking that a lot lately.

I realize that many of my still-teacher friends read this.  But I’m going to say it–I don’t want to be a middle school teacher again.  In fact, I’ll not just say it, I’ll put it in italics AND bold.  I realize that I probably have to be a middle school teacher again, as I can’t even seem to secure a nine-dollar-per-hour job with my Master’s degree, eight years of teaching experience, extreme online presence, writing ability, or website design skills.  But I really don’t want to be a middle school teacher again.  Not even a little.

Isn’t there any job out there for a hopefully-ex-teacher that does not involve telling thirty five thirteen-year-olds to be quiet and get back to work every forty-five seconds?  I’m confident that I could learn to draw blood–or, even better, to not sit at a receptionist desk and not welcome people into my blood-drawing facility.  I could definitely do that.

Running Revelations: A New Kind of Clock

Tags

, , ,

My neighborhood is interesting.  Some homes are owned by older couples or single retired people, others by small families, yet more by young, childless professionals.  And this time of year, our differences are expressed in our yard work habits–or lack thereof.  On my run this morning, I passed yards freshly shorn and gardens recently mulched. I passed overgrown gardens, under-pruned gardens, and several front lawns practically overrun with dandelions.  Much to my horror, I also witnessed several homes that had ‘planted’ fake plastic flowers in pots about their yard in some clearly misguided attempt to celebrate the spring holidays (when really, I can’t think of any worse way to celebrate the resurrection of one’s savior than by adoring anything with dusty, petroleum based ‘tulips’).

But whether well-tended or sorely neglected, all of the homes and gardens in my part of Pennsylvania are saying the same thing–spring is well under way.  And, as I’m sure you all know by now, that completely freaks me out.

But that freak out is not my point.  You see, as I ran, freaking out about the daffodils and dandelions as I was, I realized something–I’ve finally started measuring time like a normal person.  I can see that the days, weeks, and months are passing because the seasons are changing.  That’s normal.  That’s what I wanted, way back when I started thinking about taking some time away from teaching.  And it happened–but it took me until now to notice.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that it took a while to adjust my concept of time.  After all, I did spend eighteen years as a student and eight years as a teacher measuring time by class periods, quarters, and semesters.  I broke my days up into 44 minute chunks and only looked forward to the next chunk (or, more accurately, to the end of that next chunk).  I knew that if there was this fund raiser going on, it must be fall; if it was time for the yearly musical, it must be spring.  September meant stress, December a flurry of chaos followed by a week of peace. The winter thaw was less about a groundhog seeing his shadow and more about a marathon of state testing.

But not this year.  Not for me.  This year spring means budding trees, baseball, and the yard work that I should be doing.  What a strange but wonderful way to tell time.