Sunday, March 26, 2006

laugh me to the end of time

Finding myself with a couple of hours to kill, a sunny afternoon, and nothing else to do, I can no longer avoid the conflict that rests at the core of this blog and my quarter-life crisis crusade: the stigma that dogs my current profession of choice, the time-tested chide that "those who can do and those who can't teach."

I'm of two minds on this: officially, intellectually, I know this is untrue. Teaching is a profession, a skill, an ability in itself. Still, in the darkness I fear it's true, if only for me. That teaching is a default choice - a more preferable, safer option to another occupation that I'd rather do, but can't.

Not quite wise, but growing wizened in my quarter-age, I know that the resolution to these conflicting perspectives will be frustratingly inconclusive and unsatisfying, as they usually are to all the "big" questions, like a tie in hockey or the inevitable answer to "was it good for you?"

I'm sure that both responses can contain some truth - that I'm genuinely satisfied by teaching yet simultaneously unfulfilled. However, there are some underlying attitudes that make the "can do/can't teach" expression more interesting and more complex. First of all, it assumes that "can do-ing" in whatever occupation is a vaguely better option than teaching. There have got to be at least a couple of high school math teachers out there on this sunny Sunday afternoon with their kids and their dog, happy that they're not cozying up to a quadratic equation.
The second implicit assumption is that the failure of "can't do-ing" lasts painfully forever. I'd love more than anything to dispatch this belief as well, but I think it warrants a closer look.

Maybe I'm alone, but I only think of this aphorism as it pertains to actors and artists, musicians and writers, all of a breed that couldn't cut it in the wild. The weak zebra, though trailing the herd and soon to be tracked down by a lion, still noble and majestic in its tragedy. Are there accountants who say of Bob, "he couldn't make it as an accountant," to explain his sudden switch from business school to teacher's college?

I think I make this assumption because the permanence of the saying implies that the person who "can't do" is aspiring to some kind of greatness. The person's relative "fall" to teaching looks tragicically facile and mundane in comparison. Maybe it's just that we don't know many truly great accountants, or we merely forget about them until tax-time. (I imagine Bob must have found the insincerity particularly hurtful.)

Let's for a moment suppose that as a teacher I'm one of those "can't do-ers", and the something else that I aspire to "can do" is something creative: writing, filmmaking, advertising etc. As a teacher, I can feel comfortable about the constant potential of my unsowed creative oats because I tell myself that teaching is a "good for right now" option. That I like it and I'm good at it, and it pays the bills, and I'd be happy to work at that and write or do whatever in my spare time, off time, and free time.

Except that I don't really write or do any of that stuff now. I have enough free time that I could be more creative if I wanted do, but for whatever reason, I don't...

I think I've got to try to understand the reasons why I don't, or I will continue on my current path dreading a future non-writing teacher me who will be spending all his pension money on either a therapist, a divorce or a sports car. Accounting, though, for the possibility that in the future, we'll all be alien-colonized slave labour, or that depressed middle-aged philandering will become socially acceptable, or following the over-use of fossil-fuels, hemp powered tricycle's will no longer carry the same kind of mid-life crisis cache.

The place I will have to look is, of course, the possiblity that I don't actually want to be a writer or a filmmaker. That I like reading and I like films, and my mistaken aspiration is more accurately located in a desire to be great at something, anything. Moreover, to be widely regarded as being great at this whatever. Now, I don't know how many times you've seen "Mr. Holland's Opus," but unless I learn to sing 'Beautiful Boy' in sign language, I don't think i'm going to find that kind of greatness there. Not the kind that movies and television have taught me to expect and respect.

Teachers are real people. Movies and television only taught me to be a person two-hours at a time. Maybe that's where the expression "everyday people" comes from - people who live every day, as opposed to 30 minutes a day, once a week, September through May not counting re-runs. They only show shows of the stars. How am I going to truly accept real life as one of many chucklers on a laugh track (however entertaining and distinctive my Whitzman laugh may be).

If i don't know this by now, will I never, never, never know this at all? How the hell am I going to get this monkey off my back? I'm starting to understand that nobody ever knows where they're going to be in five, ten, twenty years, and that you've "found" as much of yourself at forty-five as you do at twenty-five. Still, there is something that feels particularly committed and lacklustre about "high-school teacher."

Of course, this fret-fest may be completely academic in a couple of weeks if I fail to gain admission to teacher's college. (it just sounds wimpy: "teacher's college." grad school may lead to crippling debt, but at least it has a more emphatic syllable structure.)

In the meantime, I'm going to start developing other career options that will serve a similar purpose - that is, provide a capable alibi to distract me from pursuing something that I actually want to do. So with that said, I'm sure I could continue to convince myself that i will soon, tomorrow, five more minutes ma, pretty please right after this next commericial, sincerely try hard to pursue/avoid all my creative aspirations if I'm doing some other noble job in the meantime. In preparation of not getting into teacher's college, I will begin in earnest a list of alternate career moves for my next post.


Blogger Josh Budd said...

Where's the update? Huge career change, and not so much as a mention? Flux in habitat, but no words? Best playoffs since our birth, but no musings?

Tickle me malnourished...or malnourwhitzed? (sue me)

12:21 PM


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