Explaining my Absence and Teaching

My first year of teaching, I remember talking with a veteran teacher.

He taught French, and had done so for about 12 years.

I was fresh out of my education program and in my third month of teaching Spanish.

He recalled how he LOVED art, but that he had given it up so that he could be a better teacher.

I didn’t say anything at the time, feeling rather incredulous that he could do such a thing, but though it wise to keep my opinions to myself. ‘You need a hobby’ was my first thought. My second thought was, ‘I can’t imagine my life without painting and being creative.’

And over the next six years, I constantly painted and indulged my creative fantasies. In 2009 I even got an art studio in downtown Marshall, NC. (Don’t get too excited there: Marshall is a town of, like, 700 people.)

Slowly, I pieced together art shows and exhibitions.

At one point I thought, “my teaching is interfering with my life.”

I started looking for ways to do anything BUT teach: more painting, more crafting, more drawing. And in 2011, I added writing to my repertoire of creative things to do and, by default, photography.

Eventually, I would leave the classroom so that I could pursue my creative dreams and fantasies. Money be damned. Reason be damned. I had a passion and a vision, dammit.

But…something happened.

Something that I never anticipated.

I guess you have to experience life – it’s ups, it’s downs – to learn to understand yourself and learn to understand what it is about YOU that makes it worthwhile to get up in the mornings.

a farm in Kansas
A black and white photo of a farm in Kansas. The focus is on the fence…and a very fitting, symbolic image that I snapped a few weeks ago….

When I was working for myself: blogging and writing and painting and – gasp – photographing, it was like I was flittering from one creative thing to the next. I wasn’t interacting with people, other than my online friends (who are VERY real and VERY awesome)…but my point is that I wasn’t interacting in my community and forging human relationships that involved conversations over stale beer and greasy french fries.

No, I was climbing the four walls of my house in a desperate attempt to define my life and come to terms with who I thought I was and who I wanted to be.

And, I had to jump off a cliff to find out, you know?

Many of you know this journey: me leaving the classroom and eventually finding my way back.

When I found my way back: part time, teaching Spanish again, it was like I was finally putting pieces to a 1,000-piece puzzle together. I was still missing a few of those elusive pieces, though. Like they had fallen under the table and rolled underneath the nearest couch.

Which brings me to why I haven’t written. Ironic, no? Puzzles…couches…why I’m not writing….

I’m coming to terms with the fact that I had to “try it all” to figure out I can’t do it all. I can’t write and photograph and paint and still be present to my life’s calling: to help people via teaching.

I had to learn that the hard way. I had to go through a labyrinth of doing this and that and having NO focus to finally, finally grabbing my magnifying glass and while looking through, using the light to focus.

It was like my heart KNEW the whole time what it wanted to do. With every blog post I wrote, with every painting I stroked, with every snap of my trusty camera, my heart was, as yet, incomplete.

But it had been burned so badly before. The one-size-fits all of working in a public school, for the state, for the country…a labor of love that grabbed my heart and squeezed until it could bleed no more….

That was before I found the ideal situation, you know? I’m not a “big, public school” kind of person. It came down to finding an atmosphere that was small, liberating, intimate…and giving me the ability to fly.

I still denied it, though. I was mad that I was back in the classroom. I wanted art and writing and insert-creative-endeavor-X here to work. TO REALLY WORK.

All the while, I enrolled in a Master’s program for Spanish. Yet, I was still scheduled for an art show a month later.

I talked to my husband about tutoring and volunteering in my local Latino community to help moms and dads navigate the school system, the medical system, the whatever system that didn’t speak any Spanish and I could translate and feel the joy in opening someone’s world to help them become contributing citizens who could know if they were ever being exploited for their work and lack of English…I kept idealizing these things and had yet to acknowledge that IĀ neededĀ to do them.

To be sure, this blog isn’t going anywhere. I will always need a creative outlet. It’s just that so much of my life is focused on the acknowledgement that, perhaps, a life of teaching chose me (and my heart knew it all along) and I’m trying to answer that call.

I’m doing a lot more tutoring now and still teaching while I finish my graduate work.

Eight years in the classroom and counting….

So, dear readers, if you don’t see me as much, it’s not because I don’t care about the amazing friendships I forged during my tenure as a full-time blogger, writer…creative.

It’s because I have little kids who deserve a teacher that is present to them. It’s because I have a need to be out in my community, interacting and spreading love and cultural understanding.

It’s because I’m over at my Spanish website updating from time to time.

And when I need my creative outlet? I’ll be here. Just not like I had been. I’ll check my friends’ blogs from time to time and though I might not always comment or even interact, I’m proud of all my friends who continue to write and inspire. And some people are TRULY called to write and inspire: they’d do the world a disservice by NOT doing that. So it is with my teaching and tutoring: I must acknowledge that I have to focus on what I’m doing and be present to it.

Perhaps there will come a day when I will spend more time on my Pictimilitude site here…but for the next little while, dear readers, I can’t be here quite as much.

I’m sending everyone *massive hugs* as Lizzi likes to say. White light. Love. Peace. Joy. Health. Happiness. And a true abundance.

And may you come across your own magnifying glass that allows you to focus all the energies, all your talents and tenacity to answering the call for who YOU are supposed to be for and in the world. Because it DOES take all kinds.