Teaching Oneself

I’m teaching again, which feels like a surprise.

When my first child was born, it began the years of saying no. I’m a working mom who desperately wants more time with her children and more time to write fiction but also needs to earn an income. So that doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of options.

It seems like you’re always doing something you don’t want to do.

So began my years of no’s: no to speaking engagements, no to committee work, no to volunteer work, no to anything that didn’t pay. No, no, no, no.  I did my job, I cut back my hours and pared down my job to the barest minimum in both talent and payment, but got as much time as I could with my children. It still wasn’t enough. A friend told me, “The more time you get with them, the more you want.”

Which is true.

So. Now, ten years later, both boys are in school. My oldest is 11, the youngest is 8. I went back to work full-time, which I’m not thrilled about, but I bought this house and it doesn’t pay for itself, so I made my choices. Sometimes I’m okay with that, sometimes I’m not.

But now that I’m teaching, I feel like my head has opened up a little. It was like my brain was on ice. I went back on anti-depressants. Dealing with my parents in their current stage threw me into such a rage and existential despair, I felt like flinging myself out of a window.

So back on antidepressants I went. Which really dulls the need or desire to write.

But teaching, pushing myself to go the extra mile, to think critically again, to try to teach someone else how to write — it woke me up.

Like I woke up to myself. My old self. The version I forgot I liked.

The writer self. The teacher self. The person who can spend two hours poring over a published story or article, finding writing lessons, ways of putting words together that sets my brain on fire. And that is exciting.

My students are bright and funny, frustrating at times and challenging. But they’re smart. They’ve taught me things while I teach them too.

I was a teacher for five or six years, but the pay was so bad and the grading so time-consuming and abysmal, I switched to reporting. It was a lateral move, in terms of money. I thought reporting would make me a better writer, if I was writing every day. Which is true and false. Reporting is a very different kind of writing than novel writing. It crushes the creativity out of you, but it also trains you to be more accurate, more precise, and how to tell a story.

This is my first time back in the classroom in a while.

It’s been fun and exciting, demanding and provoking, good days and bad days.

I lost time with my kids and time to write because of it, which are always my top priorities.

But I gained myself. My old self, my new self, this self.