Today, on my way back from buying leopard print shoes at Target, I considered giving somebody a handmade essay about my old dog as a gift. One of these decisions is the worst, the other has already been paid for, and both make me sound like somebody so socially inept that they don’t even know when to stop putting in the effort. This blog post is the first anything I have written since May. I left Missouri on my birthday for Nashville to begin a teaching program that will hopefully have me certified by the time I turn 23 in 2013. I work now teaching English I to freshmen who can guess what annotation means because it’s a lot like a Spanish word they already know, who draw gang symbols on their desks, but sometimes just write “I’m so bored,” who give me cupcakes on their birthdays, ask me at least once a week how old I am and/or if I have ever smoked anything, and who once called me “the cutest white person in this hallway.”
The shoes and an inclination to write not only for the hell of it, but also with the intention of forcing it on to an audience as a gift are representative of my confusion with this title, young professional. I hate it because I don’t feel like either. Pretend professionally, I’m suddenly interested in the chore of writing and have more ideas today than I did in four years as an undergrad. None of these essay ideas are related to teaching and most are better concepts than writing about “my old dog.” During Fall Break, I was able to go to a Missouri Review reading, drink wine, and speak like an adult who has read books. I miss sitting here like this, wandering off, then sitting back down to delete, then wandering off again, then sitting down and writing a little more.
My professional reality is that I am a first-year teacher who wakes up before the stoplights turn on. Small talk with other teachers and administrators still makes me feel like I’m talking to someone else’s parents. I spend all of my daylight hours giving 80-minute presentations on Odysseus to different audiences, all of which need to be reminded to sit down. I allow myself an hour of Hulu and dinner standing up before I work and fall asleep by nine. In my hiatus or whatever, I’m trying desperately to not lose the writing confidence I need to one day, when I have time, write that essay about the Christmas my dad took our family to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We didn’t like it and no one can believe it, but that show is really awful.
This professional piece I haven’t figured out because I haven’t come to any real conclusion about teaching other than that it is exhausting, difficult, and sometimes not that bad. This also seems like the exact same conclusion I had about writing by the time I had graduated, which leads me to the leopard shoes and the former half of that term, young professional. Leopard print is the notorious go-to print for clinging to youth. My only true fear graduating from college was that there would never be a time in my life where I would never not be busy. In school, writing papers, going to class, and logging TMR submissions 20 hours a week (with snacks available) seemed tiring. I’m sure I knew then that the free time available to me was a luxury. I said things like, “who doesn’t have time to brush their hair in the morning?” and skipped class to lay belly up on the porch of my best friend. Now I have to go to work every day. Then I’ll probably have to maintain a marriage and adult friendships. Then I’ll probably have to commit to an organization or a committee or a club about politics or the neighborhood or cooking. Then I’ll probably have a baby who will just expect me to brush their hair in the morning. This fear snowballs into a familiar doomsday scenario where I finally have the freedom to be young and instead I’m old and nobody even wants to go out.
I don’t feel relatable or cool like a young person. I don’t feel like I’m on a fast track, a path, or a road to anywhere just because I have an English degree and a job post graduation. I feel tired and I’m less funny than I have ever been. This is how I feel anyway. Teaching has taken over my identity, which I think means I’m doing it pretty well. I also like my identity, especially being cool, and I think that the reemergence of writing as a true desire and not a chore is an attempt to hang on to a voice that I honed and liked before the confusion of being a young professional came about.
The advice I have received over and over this year has been to make time for myself, to spend a day without doing anything school related. I guess I’ve written this now so that’s something. I’ll write another one in two weeks, probably about the hour of television I allow myself. Here is a blog post I wrote about not liking, but liking writing. Here is a blog post I wrote about not wanting to, but wanting to teach. I’ll archive this one with those under Being Twenty-Two.
*Special thanks to the most youthful person I know (besides most babies!), Hannah Baxter, for first pulling off leopard shoes.