Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Typical Day

There are days after which I feel like things could have been better. Those are most days.

Last week, the first week of two in this kick-off session of our 2013 Summer Program, included none of those days. We had perfect weather, eager engagement from both kids and adults, and a kind of wide-eyed docility that often characterizes the beginnings of things as everyone feels things out.

Our Summer Program is more or less run by a half dozen or so key parents. All week, the gist of our "hallway" conversation was along the lines of, "This is going very well, isn't it?"

Yesterday, the temperature got turned down by 10 degrees on our all-outdoor program, we were rained upon, the kids were feeling more confident and assertive, and the mix of stations and activities felt kind of clunky. It wasn't a bad day by any means, but I was back in the game of settling disputes, reminding children of how to treat one another, and dealing with kids goofing off during circle time: a more typical day at Woodland Park.

I'm far from a perfectionist, but that doesn't mean I don't notice the flaws and hiccups, which is why the end of each day usually leaves me feeling an emotion into which a dose of dissatisfaction is mixed. I suppose that's the nature of most human activity, at least if you're engaged in something you care about. I rarely felt that way when I worked for "the man." Back then, my concerns at the end of the day were mostly about myself, what my boss thought of me, how much of my work I'd managed to divvy up to other people, and whether or not the thing that was threatening to be a failure could be made to look like an act of god, or failing that, the fault of someone else. That's no way to live, of course; it's the recipe for a bad night's sleep, a perpetually guilty conscience, and an end of the week emotion that was pretty much all dissatisfaction, with just a hint of relief over whatever it was I'd gotten away with, which is why those drinks after work on Friday were often the highlight of the week. 

My dreams, and I dreamed a lot back then, were of an impossible, perfect life in which obligations were few and choices were many.

I was lucky, I think, to have early on recognized my unfitness for the life of business, a life for which I spent too much of my educational life preparing. I then tumbled into self-employment. If I thought I'd been a bad employee when working for the man, I was a worse employee when working for myself. I went from sticking it to the man to sticking it to myself, which is really a miserable place to be, although I sometimes look back on those schedule-free days and miss them. Yes, I was living the dream of being my own boss, setting my own hours, assuming only obligations I placed upon myself, but it was also a daily battle with procrastination, distraction, and finding other things, anything, to avoid actually sitting down and doing the work. Sure my wife was thrilled at the end of each day with the tidiness of our home and garden, the quality and balance of our evening meal, and the personal grooming of her husband (and believe me, she still sometimes reflects longingly on those days), but none of it was progress, none of it was success, none of it had any meaning because at the end of the day I knew it had all been about avoidance. 

My dreams, and I dreamed a lot back then, were of an impossible, perfect life full of import and meaning.

I was lucky again, then, to wind up as a preschool teacher, and not just any preschool teacher, but one working in a cooperative preschool in Seattle, Washington. This is a job I would want to do even if I wasn't being paid. This is a job I'd do no differently if you paid me the salary of a big time CEO, because I'm already doing it as well as I'm capable, which is to say I end each day feeling good, feeling proud, feeling spent, and feeling slightly dissatisfied, knowing there is still something I want to figure out and make better. 

I'd been looking forward to our summer program as a kind of respite from the long days and weeks of the regular school year. After all, we're only meeting three mornings a week. It was going to feel luxurious, I was going to be able to set myself on cruise control, I was going to let my mind work on other things. But that's the person I used to be. I can no longer section things off into work, play, and family. Nope, I'm kind of surprised to realize this morning that it's now just one, big thing called My Life in which all the parts necessarily support one another. Being a teacher takes up just as much of myself teaching three classes a week as it does ten, and frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have dreams still, of course, but having found this place for me, this place where the obligations are not things to avoid, and where every moment is full of import and meaning, those dreams don't seem at all impossible. In fact, I expect they can all be discovered in a typical day in which things could have been better.

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1 comment:

Amy said...

Wonderful post. This is exactly how I feel in my work as full time mom and homeschool teacher. I wouldn't have it any other way. - Amy