Today is not a bad day.
I am going into my second school year of being an unemployed teacher. It is a sobering thought and one I try not to dwell on too much. This time last year was incredibly painful for me, having just been laid off from a position I was so incredibly passionate about, thinking of my fellow teachers fixing up their classrooms, the kids that would be starting the new year, the interesting things there were to teach, the exciting nature of learning and teaching that always gets me going… Mid year last year, I was hired for a temporary position in a school quite a distance from my home and in an entirely different socioeconomic area.
I went from teaching in the largest (most overcrowded) high school in my state, with the highest levels of poverty and immigration to an affluent suburban school with so little diversity I had trouble telling the white kids apart at first — and with so much privilege and entitlement that I wasn’t at first very good at processing my surroundings. One thing that made it really emotionally difficult for me long after I’d gotten to know my students individually and really enjoyed being with them (kids are kids and all have the same potential for nobility, as all teachers know and experience), was knowing that only 20 minutes drive north of this suburban school were kids whose only square meal a day was lunch at school, and who had no idea if they’d eat again until they came back the next day. That our communities can be so stratified in such a small area of space is disturbing at a truly deep level. This subject is one I return to time and again in my thoughts on justice and society.
But back to the topic at hand… it was a temporary position and ended at the conclusion of the school year. Like so many unemployed professionals in this country, the supply of permanent positions is very far between and the longer I remain unemployed, the more unemployable I am. So I am substituting to try to stay in the game and keep my teaching creds. It’s hard – like many like me, I think (without overdone ego, I believe) I’m pretty damn good at what I do. I certainly loved doing it. It’s hard to think about not doing it. Or possibly never doing it again (yikes–too much). Long term unemployment is one of those things that can whittle away at your psyche and peel away those things that make you feel sure of yourself.
Like today. Today THIS went on the market:
THIS is the new Universal Remote Sonic Screwdriver. The little bit of electronic bliss has been promised to the general geek public for months now. For fans of the Doctor, it is sort of like bringing the Who Universe right into your very own existence. It can be programmed to operate your television, your game platforms, your music, your lights, pretty much anything in your vicinity with a signal. SQUEEEEE!
But what does this amazing and wonderful device have to do with unemployment? Well, before, when I was gainfully employed, could provide a home and food and living for myself and my son, this would easily have been one of those little luxury items I would have purchased for The Kid for Christmas and we would have delighted in figuring out how to program it and use it all around the house. But there aren’t luxury items in our lives anymore. In fact, there isn’t a home in our lives — there is a house we live in – someone else’s house, thank goodness for the generosity of family, but not our own home. And yet we are so much more lucky than so many families that have found themselves on the streets, in tents, without knowledge of their next meal’s origins. This country is falling apart at its seams and as one of my friends said the other day, a “jobless recovery” is no recovery at all. The vicious cycle of unemployment = less income tax paid = less revenue for the state = lay offs for teachers and other state workers = more unemployment = lesser income taxes paid… well, you get it… can start to feel really hopeless. There is no political will at the national leadership levels of our country to change this in any meaningful way, and the more millions of us fall into this cycle’s gap, the fewer there are who will be able to muster the psychic energy needed to vote for those leaders who offer no solid promise of solutions. So at the mega and the meta levels, unemployment becomes one of those monsters you wish the Doctor could just come give a talking to and chase it off across time and the universe.
And yet, I am thankful today. I can’t buy my son a sonic screwdriver universal remote, but he is safe and not hungry and loved. I exist in that suspended animation of indefinite unemployment and while I can’t program my surroundings to be turned off and on by a sonic screwdriver, I can sit with The Kid on the couch and we can watch Doctor Who together on the computer I bought back when I was flush. And we can have wild and brave discussions about whether we would ever be tempted to treat the Ood as servants or whether there could possibly be any excuse for the Sontorans. Some kids don’t even have a couch, much less a computer on which to share time with the Doctor. So I am thankful. I don’t know how much longer it will be until I can provide for myself and my son again, and that does worry me on bad days, but I do know that we can survive without losing our imaginations or our hopes. So today is not a bad day.