In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am excited to introduce you to my new blogging buddy Meredith! You can find her at her heartwarming new blog Very Revealing. Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it’s like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G
“What exactly are your career goals then, Ms. Bazzoli?” the man on the phone interview questioned why I was taking giant steps backward; why I applied for a position I am overqualified for. This curiosity lingered at the back of many of his other inquiries, but this time he shot directly.
As I fumbled for interview buzzwords, my mind fixated on the image of a beggar I sometimes see on the corner of Taylor and Union Streeet. You have to strain to read his sign because he’s consumed every square inch with his story.
At the top, his sign reads: OUT OF WORK PAINTER. Based on the sketches of cars and other drawings I can’t quite make out on his sign, I know he means that he’s an artist, a painter like Van Gogh or Davinci, not one that rolls taupe and salmon tones onto bathroom walls and dining rooms.
I guffawed the first time Drew and I spotted it, “If all artists expected their work to sustain them financially, we’d all be out of work actors, dancers, writers, sculptors, and fill in the blanks!”
The second time I saw him, I envied him.
He claimed painting as his life’s work, not just a hobby, but a career. He showed no fear in saying what he was going for in life, but wore a sign announcing it to each car that passed by, asking for the support from the man in the Honda Civic with the bashed in right taillight and the girl texting in her Ford Focus.
People struggle to find the fit reaction when I tell them I am quitting my job as a special education teacher. Congratulating me feels like betraying kids with disabilities or belittling the teaching profession.
When they hear I work for Chicago Public Schools, they say they don’t blame me. Some shake their head at the inner city district that wore me out before my time. They may roll their eyes, blaming a politician I haven’t heard of or citing the lack of support from parents. Some propose I try to teach in a more promising district in the suburbs.
Certainly, my days as a teacher in CPS left me exhausted. Some days I tried with a full heart, with pizza parties, skip-counting raps, and poems I wrote using only words I knew my students could read. I spent myself.
Other days I used prep-periods to lay my head on the desk while I fell further and further behind on my paperwork, overwhelmed by tracking whether Student A could identify circles and Student B could read consonant-vowel-consonant words with 80% accuracy.
And on both types of days, and all the ones in between, I came home with enough energy to slink out of my car, trudge up my apartment stairs, and flop onto my couch.
Yet, it would be dishonest to say I am leaving teaching for any of these reasons. It would be dishonest to say I make the change because of teaching at all.
While fulfilling my role as a public servant, I met the respectability quota of my peers. I spent my days in the “inner city,” considered by all who heard what I did as “patient,“ the term most commonly ascribed to us special education teachers.
Trust me, I wish I could stay. Something deep inside me longs to stay put in life, to plant myself in whatever field I land in and to send my roots deep for safety.
A friend told me once she hated things staying the same. Not me, I am Lot’s wife, looking back and being turned into a column of dinner seasoning before I get the picture.
The lesson planning, the IEP’s, the testing pressure. These things make teaching hard to enjoy, but the reason I am jumping off the career path is more moving-towards than moving-away. I am not quitting, but starting.
I am an out of work writer and comedian.
I am holding up my sign and standing on the corner and saying, “this is my life’s work.” Before you panic, I lined up a day job (everyone breathes a sigh of relief), but it is not one that spills into every available space the way teaching did.
With the interviewing man, I discarded the answers I grab for by instinct to protect myself and make sure people think I’m a good, responsible girl they could let water their plants while they’re on vacation.
I didn’t blame my depression and anxiety, I didn’t cite my move to the suburbs, I didn’t mention my mom’s cancer, I didn’t talk about the hostile work environment or explain how the teacher’s lounge feels like a continual set for the movie Mean Girls. I didn’t make up a respectable career path. All these things factored into the pro and con list that brought me to the phone call with the uncomfortable question, but none sufficed as an answer.
I held up my sign, squished to the edges with my story, and said, “Well, my comedy and writing have been picking up, and right now there is no room in my life for them to grow. They’re more than hobbies to me, I plan to pursue them, and I’m pursuing jobs in environments I care about, but don’t take as much of me as a full-time teaching job. I also hope to adopt and foster kids someday and I want to have time and energy to dedicate to my kids.”
I wanted to keep going to tell him about incubator troupes, Harold Teams, Coaching opportunities, blog, publications I want to submit to, and pieces I am working through, but remembering the man on the other line was an HR rep and not my therapist, I refrained from telling him about my secret dream to publish a children’s book.
Walking off the career path, I leave a lot of things behind. But today, I’m choosing to focus on the moving-towards over moving-away. I am moving forward with faith, dragging my feet, but believing I can cover some distance.
I am, Meredith Bazzoli, 25, out of work artist, plummeting life trajectory, feeling wonderfully afraid and terribly excited.
And don’t forget, I do have a day job.
To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.
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