Thursday, November 4, 2010

Work: Flight Plans

The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.

Mark Twain said this.  I was introduced to it on an MCAS practice test that I gave my students in my first year of teaching in an urban high school.  I stood in my windowless classroom full of teens, some struggling with poverty others with adjusting to the climate and language of a new country, trying to convince them of the relevance of not only Twain's aphorism but also of this test that would decide their academic fate. I wondered where this experience fell on the range of vacations.  Was this Hawaii or was I in Beirut?

 I alternately, and at times simultaneously, loved and hated what I was doing that year, but I always knew that it was no vacation.  Ten years later, work is no longer the wild ride that it once was.  I have grown more comfortable with my abilities and sharpened my instincts in the classroom.  I had children of my own and recalibrated my priorities.  My students have rewarded me much more often than they've punished me  And still, it is a vocation and never a vacation.

There are things that I love about my job: the students, the chance to read The Catcher in the Rye  on endless loop, the fact that it helps to pay the mortgage.  There are other things that I don't like as much.  The mounds of grading come to mind, along with the general lack of official recognition of my efforts, which when coupled with my duties at home sometimes feel Herculean.  There is also the fact that I am an introvert who cringes at conflict, and I am working in a position that calls daily for hundreds of personal interactions, each fraught with potential for discord and misunderstanding.  I sometimes feel rubbed raw.

Maybe nothing can be a vacation once it is tied to a paycheck.  When I read The Catcher in the Rye, I tell my students to pretend that I am not giving it to them, that they just pulled it off the shelf on their own.  I know that obligation saps enjoyment.

And yet, especially lately, I believe there's more. I just don't know what it is. So I sit here in the terminal, hands folded in my lap, patiently awaiting my vacation flight.  Unfortunately, I am forgetting that I am not only tour director but the pilot, as well.   If I don't get out of my seat, the plane will never pull up to the gate.

I am thinking about drafting some flight plans.

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