I know you have dreams. Maybe, you’re pursuing and accomplishing them. Maybe you consciously gave up on them and moved on. Or maybe your dreams have fallen by the wayside because, well, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” as John Lennon said in Beautiful Boy.
It was the early to mid-90’s, and I was in the middle of my traveling years. This was a special time for me. You might say I found myself though I never knew I was lost.
On Columbus Day weekend, a couple of friends and I decided to rent a cottage in Lake George, NY. We sat by the lake, fished, rented a canoe, and just hung out. We also partook in some substances.
The next morning when my head stopped spinning, I was sitting on the porch in my underwear. The rest of my clothes were wet. Don’t ask me how – I have no idea. One of my buddies – EI – and I were talking about our dreams, goals, and where we saw ourselves in the future. I forget EI’s response. Hey, it had been a crazy night. Yet, I remember what I said, “I want to have a piece of my writing published by the time I’m 30.”
I never submitted anything to a publisher.
A couple of years later I went to Long Island University and earned a dual Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Literature. I loved the program: I moved to New York, met new people, and wrote regularly.
I still never submitted anything to a publisher.
When I turned 30, my friends organized a surprise birthday party at a bar. Drinks, friends, and presents. I was doing little writing at the time and the dream of publication was as hazy as my mind was that morning in Lake George.
After losing two jobs in the span of 13 months during the post 9/11 recession, I got into teaching. It wasn’t completely random. I had been considering it for a while, and the time seemed right. Just following the path I felt G-d was sending me on.
From day one, I understood why I had been warned repeatedly about simply surviving that first year of teaching. The thought of how can I help the students both academically and personally was overwhelming. Some good things were happening though. I’ll never forget the principal giving me a review that said, “Has the potential to be one of the best teachers in the building.” Yet, everyday was a challenge. My confidence and emotions fluctuated more than a kid without his ADHD medicine.
At the same time, I was taking classes at night to get a Master’s degree in Secondary Education. Oh yeah, Ms. MMK and I were expecting our first child. BR was born in the Spring. It was a year I will never forget.
Writing was far from my mind.
As the years went by, I settled into teaching. There were highs – received a standing ovation – and the everyday joys of simply seeing kids learn and forming relationships that made differences in children’s lives. There was PW who I was supposed to tutor after school. We connected right away, and things were going well. Then he stopped talking. Wouldn’t say a word. After a few days of talking to him, and simply getting shakes of the head, he spoke. The words eeked out: mother, step-father, yelling, cursing, separation, not knowing where to go, confusion.
And there were lows. Classes that were nearly impossible to control, a school whose discipline wavered, parents who simply did not engage, and materials/equipment that worked only occasionally. Then there was the beating. It was first period and there was a knock on the classroom door. I opened it slightly and was brushed aside and told, “This has nothing to do with you.” A freshman was pulled out of his seat and beaten up by three juniors while I screamed for the school agents to come and break it up.
Writing was not far from my mind.
Ultimately, after flirtations with writing, I would immerse myself again in my responsibilities at school. However, the joy I had for teaching was fading. I worked hard for the students and cared greatly about their success and their future. Yet, the work and atmosphere were grating on me. I had seen bitter teachers who were always waiting for June and counting down till retirement. Not for me. I would never be such a person.
This summer I took action.
Three years ago I started my blog. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been pursuing freelance writing work. I’m enjoying writing as much as I ever have. The dream never died.
And the time has come to strive to fulfill my dream.
So, I resigned from teaching. I miss the students. I even miss the classroom – a little. But this phase of my life is not completely over. I am tutoring (know anyone who needs help?) and striving to teach part time.
However, my primary goal is to pursue my dream and that means writing. Freelance writing, blog writing, essay writing, fiction writing – that is what I’m doing.
May it be the right path!
Graphic by R. Lebowitz