What prompts a teenager to take a bite out of a Kleenex box and toss it on the floor? I have no idea, but a few weeks ago I found evidence that this is a thing that happens. Welcome to the life of a high school teacher.
As I stood there, exhausted from a day spent babysitting kids in non-testing rooms during the STAAR (standardized state test in Texas, don’t get me started), drained from an hour and a half of corralling a rather tough class who swept through my room like a hormonal tornado, and dreading the evening of paperwork that awaited me, one resounding thought chimed through my head: “I could write a book about this.”
Truth be told, I could probably write several books, even a whole series, about my first year of teaching—and it’s not even over for another two months. Most of it has been very good, and from what other first year teachers are saying, I definitely lucked out. However, there are the mauled-Kleenex moments that make me want to laugh, cry, and curl up in a fetal position all at the same time. I have plenty of material for a best-selling series that could bridge multiple genres: action, thriller, satire, humor, horror…the list could go on.
“But,” I thought, “That’s not going to happen.”
When I landed my big-girl job, I knew my countless hours haunting cafes would be drastically cut. I knew it would take twice as long to finish drafts and world-build. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t write anything. At all.
Sure I’ve managed a few snippets here and there—some half-baked paragraphs, maybe a character sketch or two, but nothing worthwhile has come out of my fingers since August.
What a depressing thought, right? As I picked up the Kleenex box, and the abandoned bags of baby carrots, and the random sunflower seeds, I felt a crippling sense of resignation. This was my career. This, and only this. And so it would be, forever.
Nothing wrong with being a teacher. Obviously I enjoy it enough to where I’m going back next school year (as well as starting on my Master’s this summer so that I can move on to teaching college). But I always wanted to be a writer. Ask my little kid self what she wanted most in the world and she would have said, “I want to be an author and spend all day writing books!” That was the dream until life got in the way.
I told myself—while I scrubbed a Pikachu sketch off a desk with a wet wipe—that, unfortunately, my dream had been too unrealistic. It just wasn’t meant to be. I would have to be content with a destiny of teaching and encouraging others who probably wouldn’t get to be writers either, because that’s simply the way our world works.
Except, it isn’t.
The world can be cruel, but it tends to give you exactly what you put into it. That phrase, “It just wasn’t meant to be” had been an excuse. A nasty one, too, because it absolved me of blame and made it all the more easy not to try.
By saying “meh” to anything, you give up not only your right to complain about it, but also the ability to even make the excuse that this is just “how things are,” because in fact you made them that way by saying that they had to be and refusing to do anything to change the situation.
Obviously it is important to be realistic. My days don’t come with a lot of spare time. My weekends are usually spent catching up on work. My summer will involve planning for next year, completing graduate work, and getting settled in a new apartment. But there will be minutes, there will be hours, there might even be entire days when I can afford to slip in some writing, agent-hunting, or querying publishers. I just have to actually do it and not sit there dreading all of the work for my “real job” and telling myself I can’t do anything else.
“Meh” is a four letter word, despite it being three and not actually being a proper word. I’ve made a pledge to myself never to say “meh” again, except to say that I don’t say it. And, after all, in explaining why I won’t ever say “meh,” I’ve managed to do more writing than I have in a long time.
Maybe this is just meant to be.