Huh? What? It’s Monday? (Leaps out of bed, rubbing eyes, mumbles incoherently) For blasted sakes, why didn’t that alarm go off? Stupid tryptopan coma.
Okay, I admit. I knew it was Monday, but I forgot about the Monday blog. Throw in waking up 3 kids who’ve had five glorious days of sleeping in, one visiting mother-in-law, pet sitting a 106 lb. German shepherd, and a tennis match one state over, and I hope you’ll all forgive me for my tardiness. My Thanksgiving was very pleasant, thank you for asking. Naturally I ate too much and we still have leftovers lingering around here. It doesn’t help that there’s a pecan pie beckoning to me either and this morning’s tennis match didn’t last long enough for me to burn enough calories to cancel out pie. (By the way, we lost. 😦 )
Anyhow, this week’s topic is about the strangest experience we’ve had at a stopped traffic light. Well, if any of you ever take a ride with me, you’ll discover real quickly my dislike of traffic lights. Or at least the red version. Unless I’m desperate to put some mascara on. And inevitably I’ll get green all the way in that case. I don’t think I have a strange traffic light experience, though I will say mine was life changing.
Picture this…Sicily 1938…ooops, I mean Jacksonville 2005. (Sorry, I watched way too much of “The Golden Girls” back in the eighties and my inner Sophia was coming out.) Okay, Jacksonville 2005, possibly 7 years to the day as it was post-Thanksgiving and it was indeed a Monday, and I was still teaching high school math. I promised myself that morning that I was going to go to the gym after work. All I had to do is leave the school by 4:00. My gym bag was already in the van. Had been there for two weeks, in fact. The school day was pretty typical, not bad but not great, however there was a stack of papers I really needed to grade and one planning period wasn’t enough. So I didn’t leave the school until 5:00 and I still had to stop at the grocery store for diapers for my youngest. So much for going to the gym. And it was while I was stuck at a traffic light on Atlantic Boulevard(because in Jacksonville, you’re always stuck at some light if you’re on Atlantic Boulevard) that I began mulling over my day while staring at a scrap piece of paper.
It may have been a receipt, perhaps the grocery list with diapers on it. All I know is I took one look at it and drew a line down the center writing “Pros” and “Cons” at the top open space. The second my pen hit the paper, I should have known it was a done deal, especially when the “Cons” were coming so much easier to me. Half my pay went to day care. I couldn’t keep up with the ever increasing paperwork. It wasn’t enough to make lesson plans anymore. It was that I spent much of my lesson plan time writing the same plan at least three times for various levels of documentation. I don’t remember the rest of the reasons, but while I was still stuck at the light, I called my husband who was stationed in Virginia at the time, to say I was thinking about quitting teaching. Being the super supportive husband he always has been, his only question was when. Tomorrow? At Christmas break? I said I’d stick it out until the end of the school year. I loved my students, but they weren’t getting the best of me any more than my own children or husband. Too many irons in the fire and I was getting burned out. I told him I’d think about it for a few weeks and decide at Christmas break, but that thinking it out turned out to only last a few more lights, one grocery store stop, and a daycare pick-up.
While I miss teaching and the student interaction, I don’t miss the bureaucracy and how politicians seem to think they know what’s best for education. (They don’t.) I have never regretted my decision and found that unlike my first experience doing the “Stay-At-Home-Mom” gig, I rather enjoy it now. It’s not so much the “free time” (HA!) rather than being able to give the kids opportunities for extracurricular activities that “Teacher Mom” was way too exhausted to deal with. I can go on field trips with my munchkins and have time to help with homework because I’m not making up tests, grading tests, or doing lesson plans.
So I suppose I ought to be thankful to that traffic light at Atlantic and Southside Boulevard for allowing my epiphany to take place, but if you found me at that intersection in the future, I’m more likely to be saying, “Light’s green! Go, cars, go. What are you waiting for?” That epiphany? Mine, all mine. Those other cars can find their own life crossroad.